Rents, service charges and benefits
It’s important that you keep up-to-date with your payments. If you’re struggling, let us know as soon as you can so we can work with you to find a solution. Whether it’s paying your rent, querying service charges or finding out more about housing benefit, we’re here to help.
For other queries please see frequently asked questions below
- How do I pay with benefits?
You can get help with your housing costs, depending on where you live, through either housing benefit or universal credit. Housing benefit is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit. See our Welfare reform and benefits page for more information.
How much you get will depend on:
- where you live
- what savings you have
- how many people live with you
- your income.
Claiming for benefits is your responsibility and you must do this as soon as possible. You must tell your local council’s housing benefit office of any personal changes immediately. If you don’t, you might have to pay back any overpayment or you might receive less than usual for a short time to make up the difference. If you’re unsure if you can claim, visit entitled to
If you live in a home that’s bigger than you need, you’ll have to pay the Government’s bedroom under-occupancy charge (bedroom tax). If you can’t afford to do this you might want to think about moving to a smaller home. You can look at your options on the HomeSwapper website. You might also be entitled to discretionary housing payments to cover the increase. You can find out if you can claim these by speaking to your local housing benefit office. Any benefit will be paid for a limited time only.
This payment will include an amount to go towards your rent. You need to make sure you pay your rent yourself. If Universal Credit doesn’t cover the full amount you will need to make arrangements to pay the difference. For more information on Universal Credit, go to the Government’s information pages
DWP have produced an 8 minute video demonstrating the new Universal Credit Full Service online claim and account. You may find it useful to watch the video, that is available on you tube, to familiarise yourself with the new Universal Credit claim process. The video is available following this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy06rAVZuss
Your local council can pay this directly to us, but you have to tell the benefit office to do this. If housing benefit doesn’t cover all of your rent you’ll have to make up the difference. If your rent goes up you need to tell the housing benefit office (we’ll also inform the office of any rent changes).
For more information on housing benefit, go to the Government’s information pages.
If you’re struggling to pay your rent, or if your housing benefit stops for any reason, please contact your Orbit accounts officer as soon as possible. We can help and advise.
If you would like support to make a benefits claim please contact the Advice Services Team.
- When should I pay?
You should pay your rent:
- every Monday in advance – if you’ve chosen to pay your rent weekly
- every month in advance – if you’ve chosen to pay monthly.
If you claim any benefits to help you to pay your rent, it’s your responsibility to make sure they’re paid. If you can’t pay your rent, contact us.
Our team is here to help. If you need information, support or advice about managing your money visit the Advice Services section.
- How do I know what I’m paying?
The total rent charge shown on your tenancy agreement or rent increase letter covers different elements. These include:
The rent element covers the cost to us of providing, managing and maintaining your home. This can be paid by housing benefit.
This charge covers the cost of providing and maintaining our services like communal gardening and cleaning. Most costs included in it are eligible for a housing benefit payment. This charge is paid at the same time as your rent. Your tenancy agreement provides details of what it includes.
We collect water rates for the local water authority at a small number of our homes. Water rates can’t be paid by housing benefit.
We supply heating to a small number of homes and communal areas. There’s a charge for this service. Heating charges can’t be paid by housing benefit.
We provide furniture for some homes through an extra charge on top of the rent payment.
These can include rent for garages or a parking space, or payments towards the Orbit Group home contents insurance scheme. These charges might not be eligible to be paid by housing benefit.
This covers specific services provided to more vulnerable customers to help them to live independently. Examples include having access to our response unit or being provided with a sheltered housing scheme manager. These services can’t be paid by housing benefit.
If you receive housing benefit you might be able to get a supporting people grant. This depends on where you live, as the money is provided by the local council that administers the scheme.
If you don’t get housing benefit, you’ll have to pay your support charge. If the responsible council has a fairer charging policy, you can ask the authority to decide if you should have to pay. If you have any questions, please contact us.
- What is a service charge?
What is a service charge?
You’ll have to pay a service charge if you live in a flat, or a home with communal areas. This charge covers the cost of providing communal services such as cleaning hallways, communal gardening and the cost of managing those services.
It also covers the cost of communal lights, door entry systems and lift maintenance. You may also be charged a contribution to a renewals fund to pay for larger work, such as renewing the door entry system.
You will pay a weekly charge based on an estimated annual cost. These estimated costs are reviewed every two years for secure tenancy customers and every year for an assured tenancy customers. They are also reviewed if costs or services change significantly during the year.
Both customers on assured and secure tenancies are entitled to appeal against the charges. However, if you have a query over your service charges you should contact the Service Charge Team first.
If you are in receipt of housing benefit or Universal Credit, your service charge may be funded in full or in part depending on your circumstances and the services Orbit are delivering. We will inform you of any payments that you are responsible for.
For details of how to pay your charges see ‘How to pay’.
You appeal in the same way as for rents. You can find out how by clicking the ‘What happens if my rent increases?’ question below.
If you’re paying a variable service charge, you can refer it to a Residential Property 1st Tier Tribunal service.
For advice about the tribunal process or about services charges contact the Leasehold Advisory Service. This is an independent agency funded by the Government that offers initial advice and provides guidance on applying for a tribunal.
We will send you information on the actual costs you’ve incurred at the end of the financial year. You will also be given a summary of the services you receive along with a notice setting out your rights and responsibilities.
You can get more information on your service charges from the Service Charge Team.
- How can I check my rent account?
The best way for you to view your rent account is to login on the my account section of this website. If you need any help please speak to an advisor using the live chat feature in the bottom right hand corner of your screen.
You can also look at your most recent rent statements which should have been sent to you . Or you can contact us
- How is my rent set?
How your rent is set will depend on whether you have a secure or an assured tenancy. If you’re not sure, check your tenancy agreement or ask us to confirm this for you. You’ll be given at least 28 days’ notice in writing before any rent increase.
We’ll set your rent in line with Government guidelines. These ask housing providers to use a single method. This aims to create a fairer system so customers renting similar homes in the same area will pay a similar rent, whether they rent from a housing association or council.
Rents are linked to:
- property values (which are set by an independent valuation)
- number of bedrooms
- average household incomes for the county.
This might mean rents in some areas are reduced, while others will need to be increased. Any changes will be applied gradually.
To protect you, the Government has set a maximum amount of increase for any single year.
We’ll review rents every April and give you 28 days’ notice in writing before making any changes.
If your rent is charged over 48 weeks, it is calculated by using the cost for the whole year’s rent and dividing it by 48 instead of 52.
The independent Rent Officer Service sets a “fair rent” based on the size, age and location of your home. This rent is also based on the availability of similar homes in your area. The service reviews this every two years. The rent officer will not take into account your personal circumstances. To protect you from large increases, the Government has set a maximum amount of increase for any single year.
We’ll review your rent after a year if your rent increase is limited in this way. If this happens your rights are still protected so your rent will never be more than the registered rent.
- What happens if my rent changes?
We’ll notify you in writing beforehand if your rent is to increase. You can appeal against this increase if you are a secure or assured tenant.
You have 28 days from the date of the rent being decided by our rent officer to put your case. The rent officer will note your comments before deciding the final rent.
If you think that this final rent is still too high, you can appeal to the Residential Property 1st Tier Tribunal. This independent service will consider your rent. The rent fixed by the tribunal may be higher, lower or the same as the rent originally set by our rent officer.
Some assured tenants can appeal to the Residential Property 1st Tier Tribunal. The tribunal compares your rent to rents charged for similar properties in the area, as well as the market rate. We’ll tell you how you can appeal when we write to you about your rent changes.
For more information please visit the Government’s Housing tribunals section.
- General information on rent changes
- Understanding your quarterly account statement
- What is Pay to Stay and how will it affect me?
Pay to stay is a Government policy where social landlords can charge tenants with an income of over £30,000 (£40,000 in Greater London) market or near market rents. Market rents are the average rent for all similar properties in the area, not just discounted housing association and Council rents. Housing associations have discretion over whether or not to implement higher rents for tenants with these income levels.
We are not yet able to make a firm decision on whether or not we will implement the new initiative as Government has not yet released the regulations which will detail exactly how this will work.
Until the draft regulations are released, we do not yet know which elements of the scheme may be discretionary – for example will we have the ability to vary the income levels and what arrangements will there be for us to access customer income information?
We would not rule out implementation, as we invest our income into our existing homes, but also rely on our rental income to build more desperately needed affordable homes. In reaching our decision, we will consider the cost to us to implement the scheme, the possible additional income, the affordability of our properties and the potential impact on our customers.
Please be assured if we do decide to implement Pay to Stay we will provide customers who are potentially affected with as much notice as we are able to, which will be much more than a month.
What we do know is that the scheme cannot start until April 2017 at the earliest, so there is no need to be concerned of an imminent notification letter. It may be that the regulations themselves stipulate the minimum notice period. You can find more information on Pay to Stay on the Parliament website at http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN06804