Coronavirus Housing Advice
Due to the current heightened severity of the Coronavirus pandemic, Swale Heating are working to maintain the service provided with a reduced workforce. This is causing delays to heating and hot water repair appointments and as such repairs are being prioritised.
This will be for the foreseeable future until the spread of the virus reduces. We apologise for any inconveniences caused and appreciate your continued patience during these difficult times.
Paying your rent
We are sensitive to the real financial hardship that this current situation is likely to create for some people, and we are here to help and offer what advice we can. However, if you can pay your rent, or even part of your rent, you should continue to do so. If you do not pay your rent now then you will fall into arrears and you may be creating a problem for yourself in the future when you are asked to pay the arrears off.
Please see below information depending on the type of property you are renting.
A letter from the government to all social housing residents in England
Information specific to our Council Housing tenants
If your income has been affected as a direct result of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and you are struggling to pay your rent please contact us. The sooner you let us know the sooner we can try and help you, and we may have more options to offer you in the short term. If you live in one of our properties and are in financial hardship please contact your area manager.
However, as stated above, it is really important that you continue to pay all – or even part of – your rent, if you can afford to do so.
Information for private sector tenants
If you are renting a home in the private sector and your income has been affected as a direct result of Coronavirus and you are struggling to pay your rent you should contact your landlord as soon as possible. You should continue to pay your rent if you can. If you need any help or assistance from Ashford Borough Council please email firstname.lastname@example.org relaying your situation and a member of the housing team will speak to you.
Please note that your landlord will have already been contacted with advice about how to help tenants in the current situation.
Further help and support
You may wish to read the following online resources for further help and support:
- Our welfare reform advice
- Our Coronavirus benefits advice
- Money Advice Service website
- Step Change website
- Ending your tenancy: You can complete an online form to end your tenancy if you are vacating the property in which you reside. You can also request to take your name off of a joint tenancy online. The online forms can be found on our moving out. For any other queries regarding ending a tenancy please contact the relevant Neighbourhood Housing Officer.
- Mutual exchanges: Mutual exchanges are still able to take place currently. All applications are now made online and the process is explained on our mutual exchange page.
- Our Neighbourhood Housing Officers are now working from home and have full access to emails to liaise with residents.
- We are conducting virtual viewings and tenants will be sent a link to view the property virtually if they are successful. The sign up process is now digital, limiting contact with staff. Tenants will be asked to download the YOTI app via an Apple or Android device in order to digitally sign the tenancy agreement.
- Our scheme managers are working from home but visiting the schemes three times a week for a catch up with residents.
- Fire Alarm testing is still being covered at our schemes.
- We are liaising with Age UK who are able to offer prescription and shopping deliveries to older vulnerable residents.
- Specific advice re the virus has been issued for those in temporary accommodation or at threat of homelessness
- Ashford Borough Council is continuing to support landlords during this current situation. For landlords with mortgages, there may be additional concerns if you are worrying that tenants may not be able to work and perhaps may find it more difficult to pay their rent and sustain their tenancy. These landlords have been contacted directly
During the current pandemic, we intend to continue the provision of our housing repairs services as follows:
- Emergency repairs (typically within two hours or same day);
- Essential property repairs (urgent works typically within five working days);
- External property repairs and maintenance;
- Empty property works to facilitate re-letting.
Where you are happy to permit access, and staff and materials remain available, other routine works may also be delivered against our usual priority timescales.
Our contractors will always undertake a suitable risk assessment, display ID, wear suitable PPE, and observe recommended social distancing and safe working practice at all times. Your co-operation with any suggested measures will help to ensure everyone’s continued safety.
In the event that our contractors have to visit a household that has symptoms or has tested positive, then a specialist deep clean will take place before any repairs are carried out. Operatives will enter your property with appropriate PPE.
Emergency repairs (general); call: 01233 330366
- Total loss of electrical power to property
- Unsafe power socket, lighting socket or electrical fitting
- No power to kitchen or bathroom
- Total loss of water supply (phone water supplier first or check with neighbours)
- Blocked or leaking foul drain, soil stack or toilet pan (where there is no other working toilet within dwelling)
- Toilet not flushing (where there is no other working toilet within dwelling)
- Leaking from water pipes, water tank, toilet cistern or plumbing installation which can’t be contained
- Insecure external window, door or lock
Emergency repairs (heating and hot water); call: 0800 206 1371
- Total or partial loss of gas supply (check meter first if prepaid)
- Total loss of heating or hot water
- Blocked flue to boiler
- Leaking from heating pipes or boiler or pressure in system is in red zone
- Leaks to oil tanks or supply pipes
Urgent repairs (general); call: 01233 330366
You can also report the following types of repairs online or you can email the housing repairs team. Please include your name and address, a valid contact number and a full description of the issue and its location.
- Partial loss of electrical power excluding kitchen or bathroom
- Partial loss of water supply
- Blocked sink, bath or basin
- Taps which leak or are inoperative
- Leaking roof
- Loose or detached bannister or handrail
- Rotten timber flooring or stair tread
Urgent repairs (heating and hot water); call: 0800 206 1371
- Partial loss of heating
- Loss of pressure in heating system and falling, below normal but not in red.
- Problems with heating controls
Other property repair issues should be reported online, where possible, or you can email the housing repairs team. Please include your name and address, a valid contact number and a full description of the issue and its location.
Disabled facilities grants
Disabled facilities grants continue to be provided within the borough. Any required visits will be dependent on the client agreeing to a visit and subject to social distancing guidelines. Works are continuing at present to undertake adaptations, but would be subject to the agreement with the client and the builders following social distancing guidelines. This is constantly being reviewed.
The Planned Maintenance programme has been reviewed since the initial lockdown and re-started but now does not include works where a contractor would need to spend typically more than three consecutive days inside a property. This means, for example, that all kitchen and bathroom refurbishment programmes are suspended until April 2021 when it will be reviewed again. Contractors and the council are working in accordance with latest Government guidance and to risk assessments and COVID safe methods of working approved by the council. The most effective and safe method of working is maintaining ‘space’ and so residents are asked to keep themselves isolated and away from the contractor as best they can. Contractor operatives and council surveyors will wear face masks as a minimum when entering people’s homes and work areas affected will be cleaned at the end of each day.
The council appreciates residents’ concerns about visitors into their homes and the risk of Coronavirus infection. If you are contacted about works to be done inside your home and you are concerned, especially if you are clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable please let us know and we will discuss the matter with you. The council does not want anyone to be uncomfortable or anxious about works being undertaken.
As we face further lockdown restrictions across the borough, we are working closely with our tenants to ensure we keep them safe at this time. Our Independent Living Officers will be visiting our schemes at reduced hours and continuing to provide a service from home the rest of the working week. We will continue enhanced cleans throughout the schemes.
Right to Buy
Part of the Right to Buy process often requires an external survey and in some cases, an internal survey of the property. Currently, internal surveys are being undertaken in line with Covid-19 health and safety measures, which are in place to keep both tenants and council staff safe. These visits will be conducted in line with pre-visit checks, Covid-19 safe processes and PPE. Your co-operation regarding these conditions is required in order to prevent delays to your Right to Buy application.
Currently Private Sector Housing is undertaking visits where necessary to identify and deal with disrepair issues within the private rented sector, including Houses in Multiple Occupation. All visits will be based on an assessment of risk and in accordance with our own health and safety policies and procedures.