Name: COVID-19 Information specific to Council Housing Tenants
Description: COVID-19 Information specific to Council Housing Tenants

COVID-19 Information specific to Council Housing Tenants

As all Covid 19 restrictions have now ceased we are continuing to provide our services whilst keeping staff and customers safe, as we have been since the first lockdown in March 2020. During the pandemic, there has been minimal disruption to services, and tenants and residents have always had the ability to contact us. We are continuing to limit the number of staff working within the Civic Centre, as staff are now able to work from home on a part-time basis.

The Civic Centre is now re-opened for visitors, please view our Contact Us page for up to date information.


Rent payments

It remains vital that tenants continue to pay their rent although we acknowledge the continuing impact on tenant’s income and the risk to longer term job security despite the lifting of restrictions.

Courts have now re-opened and the suspension on evictions been lifted. From August 1 where there are arrears of less than 4 months the notice period has reduced to 2 months, it continues to be 4 weeks for those owing over this amount. The Councils rent arrears policy provides further details and can be found on our website: Housing Rent Arrears Policy

If your income has been affected as a direct result of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and you are struggling to pay your rent, or have health problems please continue to contact us for advice and assistance by calling the Rents Team on 01322 343134 or contact Rents via our online form to discuss how we may be able to help with short term solutions.
Our priorities will continue to be:

*Contacting tenants in arrears to agree suitable affordable repayment plans
*Signpost to the benefits available and guidance about how to claim
*Help with budgeting advice and offer access to income and expenditure reviews
*Supporting tenants with any difficulties around their Universal Credit / Housing benefit claims
*Agreeing for the housing cost part of your Universal Credit to be paid directly to us (if appropriate)
*Signpost to partner organisations for specialist assistance and advice if required


Debt and financial assistance

The Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction Homepage provides details on housing benefit, and discretionary payments you may be entitled to as well as a link to details about Universal Credit:

https://www.dartford.gov.uk/by-category/advice-and-benefits2/landing3

If you need advice on money, benefit or debt problems citizens’ advice services are continuing to run by telephone or online.
CAB Dartford 0808 278 7810 or on line advice@nwkent.cab.ork.uk

For urgent debt advice contact the CAB debt line 0800 240 4420.

The Government has also put in place the Debt Respite Scheme. The following link provides more details about it and how it may be accessed via a debt advice provider:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/debt-respite-scheme-breathing-space-guidance/debt-respite-scheme-breathing-space-guidance-for-creditors


If I get sick due to coronavirus, will you still come out to do repairs at my home?

If a doctor or other medical professional has advised you to stay at home and isolate yourself because of coronavirus concerns, you must let us or our Contractor know if you are reporting a repair via repairs@dartford.gov.uk or 01322 343434 or other home visit, or have one already arranged. In normal circumstances (ie: routine repairs) we will look to rearrange the appointment for a time when you are well again and no longer infectious.


Repairs and safety of our homes

All emergency, routine and planned works are currently being completed where access is safe for our contractors and residents.  Our contractors have been issued with PPE, including gloves and masks, to protect both themselves and residents and whilst wearing these may no longer be mandatory we encourage all visiting staff to wear.

All health and safety checks including fire risk assessments, water safety, electrical checks, and asbestos management are being undertaken as normal and we will continue to complete all associated remedial actions. Where residents have been unable to make the appointment due to self-isolating we will reschedule the appointment to a time that it’s possible to complete the works.
We have also continued with our annual gas safety check programme throughout and will continue to contact you for access to complete this important work to ensure that your home is safe for you.


What about visits and appointments for non-repairs issues?

We are not undertaking any home visits until further notice to avoid personal contact during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you have an emergency situation that you need to discuss with us please contact Housing Services via our online form or call the Housing team on 01322 343434.


Housing Schemes

We have continued to work closely with our partners throughout the pandemic to ensure that all residents in the Council’s Housing Schemes were kept safe.

Our physical availability at the Housing Schemes is now back to normal and our daily calls and weekly visits have resumed.  Our Housing Scheme Officers will continue to adhere to social distancing requirements in accordance with the revised guidelines and will also continue to use their PPE while working in the communal areas of the scheme or visiting tenants.

Our internal communal areas such as lounges and kitchens have been reopened now it is safe for tenants to resume their social activities, although our expectation is that residents continue to abide by the social distancing guidelines.


Right to Buy

The right to buy service has now resumed its normal processes following a restricted telephone and electronic service during the lockdown period.  Face to face meetings and appointments are therefore available and physical valuations have resumed in accordance with Government guidelines and RICS advice.


Leaseholders

We have worked closely with our leaseholders throughout the pandemic and have continued to provide a full service.  Although in accordance with Government legislation no arrears recovery action has taken place during lockdown, this work is now resuming. We are concerned at the potential impact our leaseholders face in terms of their security of income and potential risk to job security and we continue to provide information and guidance via our website in respect of support for those who are in financial difficulties.

If leaseholders are worried about paying their service charges, please talk to us. Service Charges will still be charged, but we will try to help leaseholders to manage by offering income and expenditure reviews and agreeing mutually acceptable and appropriate payment plans.


Information specific to Homeless Team clients

We understand it is a very difficult time to be exploring your housing options.
Whilst we will continue to offer a service to assist you as much as we can our response may not be as fast as under normal circumstance. You are still able to contact us for advice and support via 01322 343434 and online contact the Triage team via our online form


Rough Sleeping

Our Housing Solutions team is providing support to rough sleepers. Anyone who is rough sleeping and needs to self-isolate either because they have symptoms or because they are in a vulnerable group is being provided with somewhere to stay. The recent Government funding announced specifically to support rough sleepers will help with this


Looking For Accommodation

For those that are looking for alternative accommodation, please be advised that some agents are now limiting viewings during the pandemic but your housing officer will continue to contact you with any properties that may become available.


Maintaining your current tenancy

During this period of uncertainty, please continue to pay your current rent where possible. Should you fall into financial hardship you will need to contact Universal Credit who can explore options with you.

The Entitled To website https://www.entitledto.co.uk/ is available to use and may be able to assist you with budgeting and assessing what benefits you may be entitled to.
Please contact your agent or landlord if you have any issues making your monthly rent payments due to any loss of income/work. It is important to be open and honest with them to prevent falling into unmanageable debt once the pandemic has passed.


Existing open homelessness cases


We understand it is an anxious time for everyone. If required, we will automatically extend your prevention duty by 3 months to continue to work with you. In the meantime, please be patient with your housing caseworker who are doing everything what they can to continue to deliver our service and supply you with information as and when it is available.


New Council housing development

As you may be aware, Covid-19 prevented work on development sites across the country in 2020.  In Dartford, building work started on three of our four new development sites in partnership with our building contractor, TSG Building Services.  The three sites situated at Milton Road, Keary Road, and Mead Crescent will provide much needed council rented housing for local people on the housing register. The fourth site at Gilbert Close is likely to commence this year. All the planning applications can be viewed on the Council’s website at: https://publicaccess.dartford.gov.uk/online-applications/search.do

Milton Road, Keary Road and Mead Crescent will all complete this year providing a total of 16 homes. The Gilbert Close development is likely to complete in 2023, providing a further 16 new homes.


Housing Policies

We have developed or revised a number of policies in the last year including:

  • An Anti-Social Behaviour Policy
  • A Property Conversion policy
  • A Rent Arrears Policy
  • A Private Sector Housing Licensing and Enforcement Policy
  • A Private Sector Housing Discretionary Assistance Policy
  • A Policy on the Fit and Proper Person test for caravan site owners
  • A Fees Policy for the Fit and Proper Person test

All our Housing strategies and policies can be viewed on our Housing Strategy and Policy page


Anti-social behaviour

There was a significant rise in the number of ASB complaints we have received during the Covid – 19 pandemic.

With the lifting of restrictions the need for people to remain in their homes has now changed, but we would ask you to continue to show consideration for those around you as life returns to normal.

Our priorities continue to be investigate ASB complaints where there are safeguarding issues, criminal damage, where people are feeling unsafe or there is a danger to life.

If you wish to report ASB contact our Anti-Social behaviour team via our online form or call 01322 343133.


Resident involvement

We have continued to keep in contact with the local Dartford Council Tenants’ and Leaseholders’ Forum during the lockdown period and they have maintained oversight during this difficult period. The Dartford Borough Residents’ Forum are currently making preparations for their next Open Public Meeting where they can update everyone on the work they have been doing during lockdown and their plans for the future. If you would like to become a member please get in touch via our online form.


Guidance for private landlords and tenants

The government has issued guidance to private landlords and tenants during the COVID-19 situation.

It covers:

  1. Measures relating to notices seeking possession as amended by the Coronavirus Act 2020
  2. Court action on possession cases during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
  3. Property access and health and safety obligations in the context of Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions

The guidance can be viewed here.

Last Updated: 17th August 2021