Covid-19 Housing advice
Following the outbreak of Covid-19 in our area, our priority is to comply with government guidance, keeping our customers and staff safe. Please see the service area drop downs below for up to date information about how we are currently operating.
Somerset West and Taunton Council are working to complete a backlog of repairs following Covid restrictions as soon as possible, including working with MD Group to help us progress this work.
If you have raised a repair with us, you may receive a call from MD Group 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.
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.
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.
Meeting Halls must be booked in advance and the number of people allowed in halls at any one time has been reduced. To book a meeting hall please call 0300 304 8000 and ask for Ops Support.
- If you are using this space, as a tenant, member of SWT staff, a provider of a service, or as a member of the public, we encourage you to please be Covid-19 aware, and ensure the following, for your personal safety and the safety of others;
- Please do not use the meeting hall if you have Covid-19, symptoms of the virus, or have been advised to self-isolate whilst you await Covid-19 test results
- Please continue to use a face mask, if you are eligible to, or choose to
- Please be respectful of other’s choice to wear a face mask, even if this is not your choice
- Please use the anti-bacterial hand gel provided
- Please ensure that you thoroughly wash your hands after using the bathroom and/or making drinks or preparing food etc.
- Please use the anti-bacterial wipes provided to clean down areas you are using, before and after use (tables, chairs, kitchen surfaces etc.)
- Please open windows within the building to enable there to be a flow of air throughout, and ensure these are closed, when locking up the building after use
- Please socially distance where possible
Our planned capital work programmes continue with appropriate safety measures in place.
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.
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 Gov.uk 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 Gov.uk.
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
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 Gov.uk 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.
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:
Please also refer your tenants to the local Somerset Domestic Abuse Support helpline: 0800 69 49 999.
- Citizens Advice – check what benefits you can get
- Citizens Advice – help with your energy supplies
- West Country Savings and Loans
- Stepchange Tel 0800 138 1111
- Samaritans Tel 116 123
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.