The Government has released guidance for landlords and tenants in the context of Coronavirus (COVID-19). You can find this guidance at: COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities

They have also announced a number of new measures to help support employees, benefit claimants and businesses. You can find out more about this at: Coronavirus - support for employees, benefit claimants and businesses

The situation is changing frequently and the latest advice can be found on the Government's website.

 

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Information and guidance for landlords

The pandemic has presented a challenging situation for. As a local authority, we are following the Government guidance and taking a risk-based approach to enforcement during these times.

The Government has updated its guidance to landlords concerning property access and health and safety obligations. Below are some frequently asked questions which may be helpful.

 

Q. I am a benefits customer. Can I access my services online?

A. Yes — whether you are a council tax, business rates or benefits customer, you can access all of our services 24/7on our website through 'My Account'.

By using 'My Account' on our website, you can:

  • manage payments
  • access council tax or business rates records
  • view account details and recent bills
  • claim housing benefit or council tax reduction
  • report a change in your circumstances for housing benefit or council tax reduction, and
  • update personal details

Simply visit  www.chichester.gov.uk/myaccount and select the service you need.
 

Q. I am a resident and need financial help to pay my bills. What can I do?

A. If you are on a low income or are out of work, you can claim Universal Credit.

However, if you:

  • receive a Severe Disability Premium,
  • you are a pensioner,  and/or
  • you live in temporary accommodation.

Then you would need to claim housing benefit and/or council tax reduction from us instead.

For help with council tax and fuel bills, please see the information below.

 

Q. How can I apply for housing benefit?

A. Residents who are on a low income or are out of work, and who are not entitled to Universal Credit, can claim housing benefit.

To do this, please visit: Applying for benefit 

 

Q. How can I apply for council tax reduction or access other help with my council tax bill?

A. The council offers a number of discounts for council tax payers, and you can see these options here: Council tax discounts 

One of the options is to apply for Council Tax Reduction. This is a means tested benefit and does not take account of outgoings. Applications should be made online at  www.chichester.gov.uk/myaccount selecting benefits and make a claim.

As a result of Covid-19 the Council has received some additional funding to be used to support those of working age in receipt of Council Tax Reduction in paying their Council Tax Bill. All current working age recipients of Council Tax Reduction have received up to an additional £150 in support for this financial year. This additional payment will continue for all new applicants of Council tax Reduction that are eligible.

The Council have decided to extend this scheme to following groups.

  • People of working age who have already received £150 can claim up to an additional £100.

  • All other recipients of Council Tax Reduction i.e. pension age applicants can claim up to £150 in additional support.

  • All other Council Tax payers financially vulnerable as a result of the pandemic struggling to meet the cost of their Council Tax can claim up to £150 in discretionary support.

Applications for Discretionary Council Tax Reduction can be made online www.chichester.gov.uk/benefitforms and selecting Discretionary Council Tax Reduction. The form asks you to explain why you are struggling to make payments and to describe any steps that you have taken to resolve the issue, such as request a payment holiday, claim benefits or ask family and friends for support. You will also have to tell us about your household income and outgoings.

If you apply or have applied and you are still concerned about your Council tax account we urge you to contact us so that we can discuss your options, the Council Offices remain closed therefore the best way to do this is by email benefits@chichester.gov.uk or taxation@chichester.gov.uk, alternatively you can call us on 01243 534509 although please be aware that in busy periods you may have to wait.

Q. I receive housing benefit and/or council tax reduction. Do I need to update you of a change in circumstance?

A. Yes please. It is important that you let us know about any change in your circumstances. This is quick and easy to do. You can do this by visiting Change of circumstances


If your income has changed as a result of coronavirus don't forget to tell us so that your award can be amended. The easiest way to do this is online please visit www.chichester.gov.uk/myaccount


You do not need to contact us if your circumstances have not changed. If you are eligible for financial support as part of the Government's Hardship Fund, you will have your award automatically credited to your council tax bill. You do not need to contact us to receive this payment because we have all of the relevant details. We will be processing these payments as quickly as possible and we currently estimate that this will be done during April.

 

Q. How do I find out more about Universal Credit?

A. You can find further information about Universal Credit  online at: Universal Credit - .GOV page

Universal Credit can be contacted by calling the Universal Credit helpline on: 0800 328 5644 (Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm)

If you are already a Universal Credit customer, you can also contact them through  Your universal credit account  
 

Q. I currently receive Universal Credit. Do I need to notify anyone of a change in circumstance?

A.Yes. You should notify the Department for Works and Pensions of any changes in your circumstances. You can do this by visiting: Universal Credit - Change of Circumstances  

For details of what constitutes a change, please click on the link above.
 

Q. I receive housing benefit/Universal Credit but am still having difficulty meeting my rent payments. Is there any extra help I can access?
 


A. You may be able to access extra help from the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) Fund. This money is there to help people with their housing costs and is available to people in receipt of housing benefit or those who have housing costs included in their Universal Credit award, and where someone has a shortfall between the rent that they are eligible to pay and the amount of benefit that they receive. This can be applied for online at Benefit forms If you have been in receipt of Discretionary Housing Payment in March 2020, we will consider an extension to your award to avoid you having to reclaim at this time. We will contact you with details about this if you are affected.

The Government has increased Local Housing Allowance rates as an emergency response to the coronavirus outbreak. This will increase your housing benefit or universal credit payment if you rent privately. The new rates have been published for details visit Housing benefit & council tax reduction We are working on updating our system this week and letters advising you of your new housing benefit award will be issued shortly. It would assist us if you could sign up to receive your benefit letters and council tax bills online. To find out more visit www.chichester.gov.uk/myaccount.

You may also be able to access Council Tax Reduction on your council tax, which is a means tested benefit and does not take account of outgoings. The Government has announced a Hardship Fund to support residents who are struggling financially. Residents who are eligible for the support will have their award automatically credited to their council tax bill. You do not need to contact us to receive this payment because we have all of the relevant details. We will be processing these payments as quickly as possible and we currently estimate that this will be done during April. If you do not receive 'Council Tax Reduction' and think you may be eligible, please visit our website for further details and to make an online application www.chichester.gov.uk/myaccount. Residents who are experiencing difficulties paying their council tax are encouraged to contact the us to discuss the options available to them. You can also find out more information at: Council tax payment difficulties

 

Q. I am going to have problems paying my mortgage because of the coronavirus, what should I do?

A.The Government has announced some help for people who are struggling to pay their mortgage as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. This may involve a payment holiday of up to three months. You will need to contact your lender to find out how to apply for assistance in these circumstances.
 

Q. I am going to have problems paying my rent to my social landlord because of the coronavirus, what should I do?

A. If you pay your rent to a social landlord (housing association) please read the information above. If you are still concerned afterwards you should contact your social landlord immediately.
 

Q. I am worried I may have to leave my privately rented home as a result of the coronavirus, what should I do?

A.You should not give up your current accommodation without first seeking advice.  

Please follow the advice above about help with meeting housing costs. The Government has increased Local Housing Allowance rates as an emergency response to the coronavirus outbreak. This will increase your housing benefit or universal credit payment if you rent privately. The new rates have been published for details visit Housing benefit & council tax reduction  We are working on updating our system this week and letters advising you of your new housing benefit award will be issued shortly. It would assist us if you could sign up to receive your benefit letters and council tax bills online. To find out more visit www.chichester.gov.uk/myaccount.

If you need more detailed advice about your situation please contact our Housing Advice Team by emailing housingadvice@chichester.gov.uk or calling 01243 534734.

The Government has also promised additional help for renters. When we know more we will update this section so please check on a regular basis.
 

Q. I live in shared accommodation and I need to self-isolate, what should I do?

A.Please see the latest Government guidance here: Coronavirus - advice for households with possible coronavirus infection
 

Q. How are you supporting rough sleepers?


A. We are doing everything it can to help rough sleepers during the current crisis. We are especially conscious that rough sleepers face particular health risks and so we have identified short term accommodation options for all of the known rough sleepers in Chichester and where they have taken up this offer have ensured that they have the support they need. A very small number of people may refuse this, and in these cases we will provide advice and guidance around the need for self-isolation and signpost to the support that is available.

We will continue to support rough sleepers once they are in accommodation by ensuring that they have a phone and are in regular contact with one of our Outreach Workers. Support will also be available through Stonepillow day centres in Chichester and  Bognor, which are offering access to food and other services. It is worth noting that in order to meet social distancing guidance, the centres are limited to a certain number of people at any one time. The council is supporting this work by providing non-essential staff to assist Stonepillow at the Chichester Hub. 

Every day, our dedicated Outreach Workers engage with all rough sleepers, helping them to access accommodation and the services that they need. We work closely with agencies, partners, and local charities to help support rough sleepers.

If you are worried about anyone who may be sleeping rough please contact  Streetlink This referral will go directly to our Outreach Worker, who will attempt to find the individual and assess their needs.

 

Q. What are you doing to help protect rough sleepers who may become ill due to the coronavirus?

A.We are very aware that rough sleepers face particular health risks at this time. We are working closely with local charities and partners to encourage rough sleepers to take up the help which is available. This includes providing increased grant funding and working with Stonepillow, a registered charity, to recruit additional volunteers.You can find out more about Stonepillow's work online: Stonepillow - Helping homeless people  Outreach workers and community wardens are in regular contact with known rough sleepers to offer them support. If you are worried about anyone who may be sleeping rough please contact Streetlink This referral will go directly to our Outreach Worker, who will attempt to find the individual and assess their needs.

Q. I am struggling to pay my fuel bills. Can I access help?

A. Vulnerable people who meet specific financial criteria are able to access emergency fuel vouchers, funded by Your Energy Sussex and delivered by Citizens Advice across West Sussex. These are available to people who currently use pre-payment metres.

To be eligible a person needs to be facing financial crisis and therefore either:

  • On a means-tested benefit or awaiting a benefit decision, or;

  • Limited income and no recourse to public funds, or;

  • Has no other way of obtaining funds, e.g. funds needed to pay rent arrears to avoid homelessness.

And must be vulnerable for one of the following reasons:

  • Has a disability, or;

  • Is a carer to a child* or disabled person, or;

  • Is of pension age and frail, or;

  • Has *recently been housed following homelessness, or;

  • Recently released from an institution such as prison or hospital, or;

  • At risk of becoming homeless, or;

  • Is fleeing domestic abuse; or

  • Is shielding or self-isolating as defined by Government.

For further advice and to access the scheme, please contact your local Citizens Advice .

 

Q. Do landlords still have to carry out repairs?

A. It is essential that landlords continue to provide their tenants with a decent, warm and safe place to live, and ensure they, or their agent is accessible to tenants at all times. If repairs are required then landlords, their representatives or tradespeople must follow the Government guidance on working safely in people's homes .

Local authority inspecting officers will continue to investigate tenant complaints and inspect property as required based on the risks posed to tenants.

 

Q. How can I make sure the contractors I use are following official government guidance?

A. Any company providing services will have to undertake its own risk assessment in terms of protecting the health and safety of their employees and members of the public. Landlords should ask to see the risk assessment when choosing a contractor. It is important the risk assessment is up to date with information about how the contractor will protect their employees and residents, and also help to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

 

Q. What is a landlord's legal obligation around providing gas and electrical safety inspections during the pandemic?

A. Landlords should make every effort to abide by existing gas safety regulations, and also the new electrical safety regulations that came into force on 1 July 2020.

There are provisions in both regulations to account for situations in which a landlord cannot meet their responsibilities, however landlords will need to demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law. The Health and Safety Executive has produced guidance for landlords and agents on gas safety requirements which will be updated regularly.

 

Q. Do I still need to apply for an HMO licence?

A. Landlords must still apply for new licences and renewals of existing licences as it remains a criminal offence to operate without a licence. In certain situations, it may be necessary to inspect the property later, for example if occupants are self-isolating.

 

Q. Can Iandlords conduct property inspections and viewings?

A. Routine viewings and inspections can resume providing it is safe to do so and that social distancing and hygiene measures can be maintained. It will be necessary to maintain good communication and plan ahead to ensure that the guidance for working safely in people's homes is adhered to.

Landlords and letting agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are symptomatic or self-isolating.

The COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities can be found on the Government website .

For further information contact housingstandards@chichester.gov.uk