Beware of scams
Be vigilant against coronavirus scams – staff working for the council do not visit people at home and ask for council tax and/or housing rent to be paid by cash.
If anyone visits you at home and asks for your council tax and/or rent to be paid in cash, then this is a scam.
From June 2020, staff working for the housing rent team are visiting residents at home. Staff working for the council tax team are not currently completing home visits.
For further government advice about scams, please visit its webpages. If you have any concerns please contact us on (0118) 974 6000.
We know this is an extremely difficult time for people and are seeking to provide relief and support wherever necessary.
The Government has confirmed a £500 million hardship fund will provide Council Tax relief for vulnerable people and households to help those affected most by coronavirus.
Working age residents supported through our Council Tax Reduction Scheme will receive up to an additional £150 reduction to their bill. These changes will be automatically applied – you do not need to do anything further.
If you are finding it difficult to meet your instalments please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org we can work with you on a more manageable repayment plan.
Housing, revenue and benefits front desk
The Housing, Revenue and Benefits counter service at our Shute End offices is closed until further notice.
Residents needing to get in touch can phone 0118 974 6000 or use our contact us form online. If you can use our online services, please do to keep the phone lines open for those most in need.
Some of our housing services have changed due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. Please see guidance below for the different areas.
Repairs - housing
Please continue to report all repairs as follows:
- To report a repair, please call 0800 515 287
- To report any heating or gas servicing issue, please call 0800 389 8789
Due to the coronavirus pandemic we are however, only undertaking repairs that are assessed as essential in accordance with government guidelines. These will include health and safety and urgent repairs. You will be notified if a repair is assessed as essential at the point that you report it.
- If the repair is assessed as essential, you will be asked a standard series of questions concerning the health and vulnerabilities of yourself and any family you have living with you.
- In order to comply with the social distancing guidelines, you may be asked to move to another room or remain at least 2m from the operative or surveyor.
Gas servicing - housing
Gas servicing will continue as usual. Robert Heath Heating will contact tenants when their annual gas service is due. This is a legal requirement and must be completed.
- Engineers will use the correct personal protective equipment when completing the service however we ask that residents move to an unoccupied room during the service.
- If you have any question regarding the gas service then please call Robert Heath Heating directly on 0800 389 8789
Paying your rent for council owned homes
The council have put a hold (from 27 March 2020) on applying to the County Court for Possession Orders and in applying for a bailiff. Any existing possession hearings and bailiff warrants have been suspended that will expire after 23 August 2020.
If you're in a situation where you're worried about paying your rent, please get in touch with us immediately. We understand this is a difficult time for you. You’re thinking about your health and your family.
On top of this, you may be worrying about money and paying the bills. We’re here to help you. Our rental income team can talk through your rent account, and payment options, so please speak to them if you need to.
- The rental income team are continuing with their customer focused collection and support service which recognises rent is a priority payment over other debts. This includes visiting residents at home.
- This includes offering early tenancy sustainment support from both the rent officers and specialist tenancy sustainment officers.
- In March 2020, we have contacted all residents who are receiving support from the specialist tenancy sustainment officers to check on their welfare, and to identify if further support is required.
- We are providing a Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm telephone only service with our contact details shown below. Please check the top left of the letter about your rent changes sent in late February 2020 to see who your rent officer is.
- Please contact rent officers Ade Okeowo (07595 057512) or Beverley Patrice-Farrell (07885 983791). All other enquiries can be by phone on (0118) 974 6238, then select option 4, or email email@example.com– we read all emails every working day.
The team are continuing to encourage and support residents of working age to apply for Housing Costs to be paid through a Universal Credit application, and residents of pensionable age to apply for Housing Benefit. This includes providing residents with advice and support in managing their online Universal Credit account called their ‘journal’.
- If you are a resident who is struggling, then the service will continue with our ongoing approach of rent being a priority payment and seeking to negotiate a sustainable repayment.
- If you want support from a specialist tenancy sustainment officer contact us on (0118) 974 6238 – option 4.
- If you have been asked to stay at home for twelve weeks and pay your rent by cash (and can’t pay by another payment method, and there are no family members or friends to provide support for making payments), please speak to your Rent Officer who is there to help.
If you need more information read our Housing Coronavirus FAQ (PDF document).
Paying your rent for residents living in the private rented sector
The government have instructed private landlords to put a hold (from 27 March 2020) in applying to the County Court for a Possession Order, and for applying for a bailiff. Any existing possession hearings and bailiff warrants have been suspended that will expire after 23 August 2020. For more information, visit the UK Government website.
The government also announced in March 2020 that your landlord now needs to adhere to the pre-action protocol for possession claims by social landlords.
For example, this means your landlord should offer to assist in any claim that you have made for housing benefit, discretionary housing payments or universal credit (housing element).
- Bearing in mind that rent arrears may be part of a general debt problem (that could be made worse by the impact of coronavirus), the landlord should advise you to seek assistance from citizen’s advice, debt advice agencies or other appropriate agencies as soon as possible.
- Where you are having difficulties with your rent, contact your landlord to discuss and use advice services, such as Citizens Advice for help and support.
- Up until 23 August 2020, residents renting privately shouldn’t be at risk of homelessness, but if any advice is needed in communicating with landlords, you can contact the homeless service in the usual way for advice.
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0118 974 6756 or 0118 974 6752 during office hours or 01344 786 543 outside of office hours in an emergency.
Vulnerable tenants - housing
We have completed 245 resident assessments within our eight sheltered schemes. The assessments are to ensure we fully understand a tenant's personal situation.
We continue to maintain a daily staff presence on the schemes, to ensure that those who are most vulnerable are contacted. We are also:
- Undertaking calls to our tenants who are over the age of 70 (585 people in total). These calls are to ensure that they are ok and are aware of the voluntary sector support available.
- Where we would normally have open community facilities, such as community houses to offer face to face support, the contact details are available for all members of the community engagement team on the outside of the buildings as well as details of the voluntary sector support available.
- Where we would normally have the Residents Resource Centre in Winnersh available to offer face to face support, the contact details for the tenancy involvement team and how to access other housing and Wokingham Borough Council services are also on the outside of the buildings.
- In March 2020, our tenancy sustainment officers contacted all residents they are helping, to check on their welfare, and to identify if further support is required.
- Your welfare and safeguarding remains our first concern, should you have any concerns please let us know.
Planned visits - housing
Housing officer planned visits have been reduced to urgent only, but we are offering the housing management service over the telephone where needed.
- If a planned visit is essential then they will go ahead, however before visiting we will contact the person to check if they are self-isolating and they have any symptoms.
- If the visit does go ahead, then we will also check before starting the visit if anyone in the household has any symptoms. If the visit takes place, then social distancing will be maintained.
- We will continue to undertake gas boiler servicing. As with repairs, prior to the gas engineer attending you will be asked a series of questions concerning the health and vulnerability of the homeowner. In addition, to conform with the social distancing requirements the engineer may ask you to go into another room or keep 2m away.
- We will keep our other planned programmes such as window and door replacements and external decorations under review. Currently we are planning to continue with this work but be aware that the pandemic might force us to postpone the programme.
The Rental Income Team are providing a Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, telephone service. The team are currently following government guidance and, in the future, will provide face-to-face meetings at the Shute End office and home visits.
Leaseholders and Shared Owners - housing
Insurance for Leaseholders of ‘Right to Buy’ Flats and Shared Ownership Properties, from 1 April 2020 the insurance of your property has been moved to Avid Insurance Services.
- If you need to make a claim please phone the claims administrator, Questgates Limited, on 01204 860427.
- The policy number is 2020CP000177.