Rent and service charges 2024/25

During February 2024 we are writing to all residents about their rent and service charge changes from April 2024. You may have questions so we have provided answers on this page. If you can't find the answer to your question please contact info@brighterplaces.co.uk

  • Why has my rent increased so much this year?

    Each year we need to set a rent that is as fair as possible for residents and means we can keep on providing and investing in our resident homes and services.

    This is always a difficult decision and increasing rent for our residents is not a decision we take lightly. Our priority is to provide safe, good quality homes and support to residents and the costs of doing this have risen in many areas, such as repairs, at a much higher rate than inflation.

    This means we have taken the difficult decision to increase rents in line with the Government’s rent setting policy which is an increase of 7.7% from April 2024. If you are a shared owner your rent will increase by 9.4% as per your agreement.

    In coming to this decision, the Brighter Places Board consulted with the Resident Engagement Panel and looked in detail at the implications of not applying the full rent increase.  We felt that in order to keep providing quality services to residents and  increase investment in our existing homes, a rent increase was required.

    The government has announced that the state pension will increase by 8.5% in April and most other benefits will increase by 6.7%.  So, if you use Housing Benefit, Universal Credit or another benefit to pay your rent, you will see these payments rise from April.  However we understand that many residents will be concerned about how to afford their rent alongside other outgoings.

    Social housing rents are set in line with the government’s rent standard. This allows rent increases up to a maximum of 1% above the Consumer Price Index (CPI) each September.   CPI is a measure of inflation which shows changes in the price of goods and services. In September 2023, the CPI was 6.7% so adding 1% brings the maximum rent increase to 7.7%.

    Shared Ownership rents are linked to the Retail Prices Index (RPI)  Landlords are allowed to increase rent in line with RPI plus 0.5%.  The RPI in September 2023 was 8.9%.

    In 2024/25 we plan to invest £7.8m in improving and maintaining our existing homes.

     

  • Why have my service charges changed so much?

    In line with government rules we review our service charges each year at the same time as setting our rent.

    Your service charges for 2024-25 are based on:

    • expected costs for 2024-25 for contracted services such as cleaning and grounds maintenance
    • an estimate for electricity costs during 2024-25
    • an adjustment for what we spent on your service charge in 2022-23
    • we will check at the end of the year if the actual costs were the same as the estimate. Any  difference will be reflected in your service charges for  2026-27

     

     

     

     

  • Who approves the rent increase and can I appeal against it?

    The Brighter Places board approves the rent increase following consultation with the resident engagement panel.

    If you have been a resident for over a year, you can feedback your concerns.  Please fill out our feedback form https://www.brighterplaces.co.uk/feedback/ This will be followed up as part of our feedback process.

    If you have been a resident for under a year, you can appeal.  With your ‘notice of rent change – 2024-2025’ letter we enclosed a form – Form 4B.  This explains how you can appeal against the rent increase.

    If you want to appeal, you’ll need to do so before the increase takes effect.  This is 1 April for if your rent is charged weekly or monthly.

  • I’m not happy with the services I receive / outstanding repairs in my home, but you’re asking me to pay more.

    Most contractors we use to provide services for residents have increased their costs due to current conditions and price rises.  The 7% rent rise won’t cover the increased costs we are paying contractors to provide these services.

    We want to provide value for money so please come and talk to us if you have any feedback or concerns that can be investigated.

    You can contact us by calling 0117 942 4600 or email info@brighterplaces.co.uk

    We aim to resolve any issues with you. However if you want to make a formal complaint please visit the ‘Feedback and Complaints’ page on our website which provides details on the complaints process.  There is a complaint form at the bottom of the web page that you can complete and submit.    https://www.brighterplaces.co.uk/feedback-and-complaints/

     

  • I can’t afford this new amount.

    We are here to help. Please speak to your Income Officer or your Housing Officer if you are struggling to pay your rent alongside other day to day living costs.  Call us on 0117 942 4600 or email info@brighterplaces.co.uk

    There are various ways we can help:

    • we can set up an affordable repayment plan to help you pay your rent if you fall into arrears.
    • you can talk to one of our income officers face to face every Monday, Thursday and Friday morning at our office (Eden House, 10 Eastgate Office Park, Bristol, BS5 6XX)
    • we can offer benefit assessments to make sure you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to. We can also support you in applying for DHP (Discretionary Housing Payments)
    • if your case is more complex our Tenant Support Team can provide support and advice tailored to your individual needs. Please contact the team on  tenancysustainment@brighterplaces.co.uk or call 0117 942 4600 (Ask for option 4) Or find more details on our website https://www.brighterplaces.co.uk/tenancy-support/
    • we can provide one-off supermarket or energy vouchers from our tenant support fund if you are experiencing financial hardship. Vouchers up to £350 for a family of five or more or up to  £250 per eligible individual are available.  Please talk to your Housing Officer to see if you are eligible
    • we can also refer you to other agencies who can provide the support you need.
  • Do I need to let Universal Credit know? If so, when?

    Universal Credit will add a ‘Confirm your housing costs’ in your ‘to-do’ section of your Universal Credit account on 1 April 2024

    You must complete the ‘to do’ before the end of your Universal Credit assessment period in April 2024 or you will miss out on the money you are due.

     How will this look?

    On the day of the change (1  April 2024), you will get notifications in your ‘to do’ section of the Universal Credit.  You will be asked similar questions to those in the image below.

     How to confirm housing costs:  Go to your to-do list and select ‘Confirm your housing costs.’  Do not use  the ‘Change of circumstances’ to-do to report your rent change.

     Note – If you do not pay service charges, type £00.00.

    Change of circumstances 

    You don’t need to update your rent through the ‘change of circumstance’ facility – just complete the ‘to do’ item as above.

    The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) encourages everyone to use their online services. You can log in here: https://www.gov.uk/sign-in-universal-credit  Or call their helpline: 0800 328 5644

     

  • Do I need to let Housing Benefit know?

    If your housing benefit is paid directly to Brighter Places, we will let your Housing Benefit team know.   However, we would encourage residents to also inform Housing Benefit of their rent change.

    If housing benefit is paid to you, you need to contact the Housing Benefits team at your local council to let them know your rent has changed.   Please do this as soon as you can.

    The Housing Benefits team will probably ask you to notify them of a ‘change of circumstance’ and provide a copy of your rent notification letter confirming your rent from April 2024.    Councils receive high volumes of calls so please give your council as much notice as you can.

    Bristol  https://www.bristol.gov.uk/changes-of-circumstance

    Call 0117 922 2300, Mon to Fri 8.30am – 6.00pm.   Closed Wed 12.00-1.30pm.

    Currently quoting 14 days for a response to a change of circumstance notification.

     South Gloucestershire   https://beta.southglos.gov.uk/change-of-circumstances

    Call 01454 868002

    The council has public offices at Kingswood, Yate and Patchway where you can hand in forms or speak to someone if you need help.

    Swindon  https://www.swindon.gov.uk/info/20013/benefits_and_swindon_money_matters/121/change_of_circumstances

    Call 0345 3022316

    Bath & North East Somerset  https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/manage-your-benefits-claim-online

    BANES usually want residents to manage their housing benefits online.   If you cannot do that, you can call 01225 477777.

  • I pay by Direct Debit, what do I need to do?

    We will change this for you and you will receive a confirmation letter when this happens.

    If you do not receive a letter before 1 April saying your direct debit has changed please contact us on 0117 942 4600.

    Please check your direct debit five days after the  first payment is due to check the amount has been amended to reflect your rent change.

    If your direct debit has not been changed or you think there is an error, please call us on 0117 942 4600.

     

  • How do I change my standing order?  

    We can’t change your standing order so you need to make sure your bank has instructions to pay the new rent and service charge. You can do this by contacting your bank online, by phone or visiting a branch.

    Please do this at least 10 days before your first payment in April is due.

    If you don’t know how much to amend your standing order by, please ring us on 0117 942 4600. We will give you the details so you can contact your bank to make the change to your standing order.

    If you change your rent payment to pay by  direct debit instead, we can do this automatically for you in future.

    Please note:  the former Solon Bank Account with HSBC has now been closed and you are no longer able to make payments into that account. Please contact us to set up a direct debit or get details of our new bank account.

    You can find out more about paying by direct debit on our website. https://www.brighterplaces.co.uk/direct-debit/

  • I pay weekly rent on a monthly basis, how much do I need to pay going forward? 

    2024-25 has a total of 53 weeks, so to calculate your new monthly amount:

    £ weekly figure x 53** (weeks) = yearly total.

    Yearly total divided by 12 (months) = [MONTHLY TOTAL].

    ** rent weeks always start on a Monday. Every five or six years, the days of the week fall so there are 53 Mondays  and 53 ‘rent weeks’ in the year.  There are 53 rent weeks in the  Monday 1 April 2024 to Sunday 6 April 2025 financial year.

    If in doubt please contact us on 0117 042 4600 and ask to speak to an Income Officer who will be able to recalculate your monthly payments for you.    

    If you are currently on a repayment plan for arrears, please make sure your payments are increased in line with your new rent and service charge from April.

     

     

  • I already have a repayment plan for rent arrears from last year

    If you are currently on a repayment plan for arrears, please make sure your payments are increased in line with your new rent and service charge from April.

  • I have a payment plan / court order in place to repay a debt, will this change?

    You may need to review your payment plan, to make sure it is still affordable for you. If you have any concerns about either your agreement to pay with us or your court order please contact your Income Officer for advice. You can call them on 0117 942 4600.

  • I get some benefits towards my rent so how much do I need to pay?

    If your Housing Benefit is paid directly to Brighter Places we will update the Housing Benefit team at your local council.  However please check to ensure your entitlement has been updated.

    If your Housing Benefit is paid to you directly you need to contact the Housing Benefits team at your local council to let them know about the change to your rent and complete a “change of circumstances” form.

    When your new benefit amount has been calculated, please contact us to tell us your new Housing Benefit entitlement so we can correctly advise you on the payments you need to make.

  • I don’t understand the letter. Can I speak to someone or have it another format?

    Please call us on 0117 942 4600 and ask to speak to an Income Officer so they can help you.

    If you need the letter in Easy Read or translated into another language please contact us and we will arrange that for you.

  • I haven’t received a letter about the changes to my rent from April 2024 onwards.

    Letters will be delivered to residents week commencing 19 February 2024. If you have not received a letter by Monday 6 March please contact us to request a duplicate letter.

    NOTE – Rackfield House residents and some residents in our new developments will not have a rent change so will not receive a letter.

  • I moved in after the rent change letter was sent to residents, but before April 2024. Is the rent/service charge I pay changing?

    No, your tenancy agreement will set out the rent and service charges for your new home and when you are liable to pay them.

    If you have any queries, please contact your Income Officer on 0117 942 4600.

  • Is there anywhere I can get financial help and support?

    The government has announced that the state pension will increase by 8.5% in April and most other benefits will increase by 6.7%.  So, if you use Housing Benefit, Universal Credit or another benefit to pay your rent, you will see these payments rise from April.

     However we understand that many residents will be concerned about how to afford their rent alongside other outgoings

    To help you manage we have sent you a useful leaflet with the your  ‘notice of rent change – 2024-2025’ letter. It includes information on support and advice to help you with budgeting, benefits, managing debt, employment and keeping track of your energy costs.

    You can also get free, confidential advice on how to manage debt from:

    If you want to talk to someone about your rent payments please call 0117 942 4600 or email info@brighterplaces.co.uk and we will put you in touch with an Income Officer.

    Our Tenant Support Team can provide support and advice tailored to your individual needs.  Please contact the team on  tenancysustainment@brighterplaces.co.uk or call 0117 942 4600 (Ask for option 4) Or find more details on our website https://www.brighterplaces.co.uk/tenancy-support/

    Our Tenant Support Fund is available to any resident who experiencing financial hardship.  We can provide a one-off payment of supermarket or energy vouchers for up to £350 for a family or up to £250 per individual for eligible residents. Please talk to your Housing Officer about making an application.