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Covid-19 Housing advice

Council tenants

Following the lockdown announcements, a review of essential services has taken place in line with current government guidance and consideration of the rising number of positive Covid-19 cases in our area. Our priority is to keep our customers and staff safe during this period and as such there are some services that are altered or we will not be providing, please see the service area drop downs below for up to date information about how we are currently operating.

Our priority is to keep you and our staff safe. During the COVID-19 period, we have not been able to complete all reported non-emergency repairs. As we come out of lockdown, please continue to bear with us as we catch up.

Somerset West and Taunton Council trade staff are working to complete this backlog of repairs as soon as possible, and we are also working with MD Group (an established repairs contractor) to help us progress this work. 

If you have raised a repair with us during the COVID-19 lockdown, MD Group will call you directly on our behalf for any repairs they are undertaking to book a convenient time to complete your repair.

Rest assured, staff from MD Group will arrive in an MD Group branded vehicle and will introduce themselves, showing their ID when they arrive at your property. If you have any doubts as to who is visiting, please contact us before letting them into your home. They will be happy to wait whilst you confirm with our contact centre that they are working on our behalf. Please call us on 0300 304 8000 if you are concerned.

Please see our housing repairs page for further information. 

If we or MD Group are visiting to undertake a repair (or for any other reason), we will contact you prior to the visit to assess whether any members of your household are displaying Coronavirus symptoms or are self-isolating.

Face to face meetings will be avoided wherever possible for safety reasons. Our periodic inspections of Sheltered Housing schemes will continue as part of our hazard/compliance checks and we continue to check in on our tenants over the phone.

Extra Care, Kilkenny and Lodge Close - The provider of these facilities has introduced a sensitive lockdown which includes the ceasing of social and family visits whilst allowing support to continue.

To reduce the risk of spreading the virus we need to stop the use of meeting halls with immediate effect and therefore until further notice, these should now no longer be used by tenants or any other parties.

It is important that all tenants continue to pay their rent on time, if you’re already in receipt of benefits these will continue and if your Universal Credit includes an amount for your housing costs it’s important that you use this to continue to pay your rent as normal.

If though you have been affected by Coronavirus or self-isolation and this has impacted on your income, you may need to contact us for further support.

We do not want anyone to lose their tenancy as a result of the virus. If you are having problems paying your rent either because you can’t pay by your usual method or you’re having financial difficulties, please call us on 0300 304 8000.

We have a team of Case Managers who can offer telephone support and help with financial and benefit matters.

If you are already getting Housing Benefit and Council Tax support and your income has changed you will need to inform the Housing Benefit team of these changes by calling 0300 304 8000.

Rent Recovery will continue as normal, however we will be avoiding face to face meetings as far as possible.

To reduce the risk of spreading the virus we need to stop the use of meeting halls with immediate effect and therefore until further notice, these should now no longer be used by tenants or any other parties.

Asset Management - Stock Condition Surveys and Energy Assessments are currently paused (other than those carried out in void properties).

Voids repair works – are continuing as usual with updated risk assessments to ensure staff safety are in place in our empty properties.

Capital Programme – Some of these planned works are continuing where it’s safe for them to do so, including, roofline, external painting, door replacement, roofing, and door entry systems to continue. All other planned capital works programmes have been temporarily put on hold during this period.

Tenants support, including vulnerable tenants – Will continue with face to face meetings avoided wherever possible. Face to face meetings will only be carried out with regards to safeguarding and tenant welfare.

We have been undertaking welfare checks by phone to our supported housing and vulnerable tenants, particularly those living alone. During these calls we will look to ensure that you are getting the help and support you need. However if you are elderly and alone and need support from us, then please contact us on 0300 304 8000.

The Council also commissions Mind to provide support to our tenants. Mindline is their emotional support helpline and can be called on 01823 276892. Please let them know you are a tenant of the council, if you need to call them.

New lettings will continue with updated risk assessments in place. Mutual Exchanges and garage lettings will be temporarily put on hold during this period.

Our Homelessness and Homefinder services are continuing as normal with face to face meetings avoided wherever possible.

The Rough Sleeping Service continues in compliance with agreed risk assessed controls, including acceptance of new clients and working practises.

Our construction site activity and supervision to continue with appropriate safety measures in place.

To ensure we can continue to offer services throughout this Covid-19 period we are asking all tenants to please adhere to the following requests below:

  • If anyone in your household is self-isolating with symptoms or has tested positive with Coronavirus you must let us know in advance of our teams arriving at your house.
  • We will do our best to call ahead on the day of your repair to confirm our arrival time.
  • We will ask you and all members of your household to isolate in another room while we complete work in your home. 
  • Please ensure you follow the two-meter social distancing rules whilst we are in your home.
  • If you do not follow these requests when we arrive our staff will make the decision not to complete the visit and you will need to reschedule.
  • If you do not follow these requests and your service request is an emergency, we will look to isolate the problem from outside of the property where possible.

Private tenants and landlords advice

The government has brought forward a package of measures to protect renters affected by coronavirus (Covid-19). For those privately renting (and those in social housing accommodation), this means they will not be forced out of their home. There is specific guidance on this as well as more general advice on landlords and tenants rights and responsibilities during the Covid-19 outbreak. All current guidance on this can be found on the website.

There is also specific advice on gas safety from the Health and Safety Executive which sets out how the landlord must take all reasonable steps to comply with their duties.

There is also general advice on how to protect yourself and others from Covid-19. If you live or rent out shared accommodation, where the facilities or common areas are shared with people who are not related or the accommodation is overcrowded, there is further guidance to follow on

Where visits are necessary, there is also useful advice on visits to properties to make repairs in addition to the general advice above to landlords and tenants.

Where access by a landlord is needed to a property for serious and urgent issues then it’s recommended that a tenant allows the landlord or their contractor access to remedy these urgent health and safety issues. There must be strict adherence to current government guidance to enable this to happen safely. We will offer advice to the landlord and tenant where there are concerns over such visits taking place.

In light of the current government guidance on COVID-19 and rented properties, we are making changes to the way we carry out our normal services to ensure standards in private rented properties. We will be prioritising reactive work and, in particular, cases where there is a serious and imminent risk to a tenant.

On complaints about conditions in private rented properties, the normal advice follows that a tenant must first report the problem to their landlord in writing, give them a reasonable time to fix it and chase this up if no action is taken. If it’s not fixed, then report this to us by filling out a general enquiry form. To enable us to assess the risk, we will then contact the tenant and ask for photographic or video evidence.

Given current coronavirus guidance we will only be considering carrying out essential visits where there is a serious and imminent risk, it is completely necessary and there is no other way in which to resolve the matter. Before undertaking a visit, a suitable risk assessment will be carried out as we must balance ensuring landlords fulfil their legal obligations against the risk of infection or spread of the virus. Where a visit is unavoidable then social distancing and current government advice will be applied.

We will continue to accept and process applications for a HMO licence, including assessing HMO applications to ensure they contains all the information and documents required and are considered valid. As current government guidance recommends suspending inspections of licensable properties, the inspection of your HMO as part of the licensing process will be delayed and you will contacted as soon as guidance changes and we are able to resume inspections once again.

Where a HMO already has a licence, we will also not be carrying out licensing compliance visits until government guidance changes.

We are currently unable to provide housing immigration inspections in relation applications for immigration as this is a discretionary service, the inspections are non-urgent and we are currently prioritising serious complaints from tenants.

Claiming for universal credit

Don’t delay in making your claim for universal credit. You can apply for Universal Credit online, or if you are unable to so online you can call on 0800 328 5644.

You would normally be asked to attend an appointment at the Job Centre, but we’ve been advised that the Job Centres are now closed. All Universal Credit communications should be done online or by phone.

Please don’t worry, your claim will be processed, for everyone making a new claim for Universal Credit, advances are available and these can be claimed online or by phone.

For the latest information on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) please visit the website.

You can then follow the above link for Employment and financial support

Which gives you information on the following

  • Check if you can get statutory sick pay (SSP)
  • Check if you're eligible for Universal Credit
  • Check if you're eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Employers can apply for staff to get up to 80% pay if they can’t work
  • Financial help if you’re self-employed
  • Get an isolation note to give to your employer
  • Your rights if your hours are cut or you’re laid off
  • What to do if you cannot pay your tax bill on time

It is very easy for tenants to pay their rent without having to leave the house. We encourage all tenants to set up a Direct Debit, which is the simplest way to pay and this can be done by asking us to set this up by calling on 0300 304 8000.

Tenants are also able to pay online via our website or through our automated payment line on 0300 304 8000.

What if a member of my family contracts the Coronavirus

If you or any member of your household suspect you have the virus, you will all need to self-isolate for 14 days, seek information online or contact 111 to give you further advice.

We would advise all tenants to follow the latest advice and guidance from government.  The NHS website has excellent advice on what to do in these circumstances and so does Public Health England:

Domestic abuse

Despite local data suggesting that so far, there is no increase in the rates of domestic abuse in Somerset since crisis measures began, evidence from other countries further ahead of the curve than the UK, suggests that we should prepare for an increase, as persistent isolation and other life pressures take their toll on family life.

Landlord guidance for dealing with domestic abuse in your premises.

Please also refer your tenants to the local Somerset Domestic Abuse Support helpline: 0800 69 49 999.

Useful links

Keep you up-to-date with further changes

We will continue to update our website which will include a specific page on the Coronavirus for our tenants.

We urge all tenants to monitor this for any further changes.  We will also provide updates through our social media channels and