Covid-19 (Coronavirus) updates and advice for tenants

LAST UPDATED: 13:53, THURSDAY 16th APRIL 2020

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 (Coronavirus), Hillcrest has been monitoring its spread and government advice closely.  We are hoping to minimise any disruption to our services but In order to protect you and our staff, and help control the spread of the illness we may have to make some changes now and in the future.

Repairs

Due to the latest Government guidance, we are restricting our repairs service to emergency repairs only.

Emergency repairs are those which would have a direct impact on your health or safety if they were not rectified.  Our trades operatives will wear appropriate personal protective equipment when they visit your home to help prevent any spread of the virus.

If you are self-isolating or have been diagnosed with Coronavirus and already have an appointment to have maintenance work carried out, please contact us.  Please note that any appointments delayed through these safety measures will be followed up as soon as the situation changes.

 

Non Repair Home Visits

We are reducing the number of visits to people’s homes.  Queries will be dealt with over the phone or via e-mail/other mediums where possible.

 

Office Visits

Our offices are closed to all visitors. All queries will now be answered via phone (0300 123 2640) or email (customerservice@hillcrest.org.uk).

 

Rent concerns – support for tenants struggling as a result of Coronavirus

Tenants affected by Coronavirus who are concerned about paying their rent should contact us as quickly as possible.  We are currently trying to contact all tenants to check on their wellbeing and see if we can help during the current crisis.

We have suspended our standard rent arrears collection processes to focus on individual contacts and support.

Your rent will remain due during this period and you can apply for Universal Credit from the Department for Work and Pensions, which includes support for housing costs if they are eligible. The UK Government has introduced some temporary changes to make this easier. We can help you through this process.

With a rise in new Universal Credit claims, and with demand for support over the phone increasing, the Department for Work and Pensions is taking unprecedented action to make sure people can get the support they need, including moving 10,000 existing staff to focus on processing new claims.

If you are applying for Universal Credit, please do so online rather than by telephone. More information about Universal Credit and the current health crisis is available here.

Our Tenancy Sustainment Service can give advice on Universal Credit applications, and also offer further support if you think that Covid-19 (Coronavirus) is causing issues with your ability to pay your rent and other bills. They can also advise on what you can claim if you are unable to work due to you or someone in your household being ill or self-isolating.

You may have heard about the new government scheme to help self-employed people. For the latest information on this click here.

If you are worried about your rent or if you have any queries about benefits or Universal Credit please contact us on 0300 123 2640.

If your employer has told you not to work, there is further information from Citizen’s Advice Scotland here. The Money Advice Service also has information here relating to Covid-19 and you finances.

Coronavirus update – Scottish Government relaxes benefit eligibility.

The Scottish Government has temporarily changed eligibility for a number of social security benefits to help people who are impacted by coronavirus.

The move is to ensure people who can’t get an application in on time due to things such as illness or caring responsibilities can still get the support that they need.

BEST START GRANT

If someone does not get any other benefits, they normally need to be under 18 to be eligible for the Best Start Grant. If they could not apply before they turned 18 because of disruption caused by Coronavirus, an application will still be considered.

PREGNANCY AND BABY PAYMENT

A baby normally needs to be under six months old for a parent to be eligible for the Pregnancy and Baby Payment. If they could not apply before the baby turned six months old due to the disruption caused by Coronavirus, an application will still be considered.

EARLY LEARNING PAYMENT

A child normally needs to be between two years old and three years and six months old for a parent or carer to be eligible for the Early Learning Payment. If they could not apply before then due to the disruption caused by Coronavirus, an application will still be considered.

FUNERAL SUPPORT PAYMENT

If a person could not apply for a Funeral Support Payment within six months of the funeral taking place due to the disruption caused by Coronavirus, an application will still be considered.

YOUNG CARER GRANT

A young carer normally needs to be under 19 years old. If they could not apply before they turned 19 because of disruption caused by Coronavirus, an application will still be considered.

If you would like to find out more about any of these payments, please contact our Tenancy Sustainment Service on 0300 123 2640.

Information for people with prepay meters

If you are self-isolating or recovering from Coronavirus, this will mean you may not be able to leave your home. This can be a problem if you have a prepay meter, which requires you to go to the shop to top up.

Different energy suppliers will have their own ways of dealing with this, which can include one or more of the following options:

Smart meter top up – you can do this online using the usual process. If you are struggling financially due to working restrictions, your energy supplier may be able to top up your meter if it is an emergency situation. Please note – this will have to be paid back to your supplier at a later date in the form of payback per week on your prepay meter.

Electricity key or gas card top up – you can pay your supplier directly by phone and they will then send a unique code to a pay-point near to you. This code can then be picked up by family or friends. If you don’t have anyone who can do this for you, your supplier may be able to send a key or card to your home that will allow you to top up. The supplier will assess how much you would need for the period of isolation and circumstances you are in and usually supply you with enough to stay on-supply during this time.  Please note – this will also have to be paid back to your supplier at a later date in the form of payback per week on your prepay meter.

General tips:

  • If you are not self-isolating, it’s a good idea to keep topping your meter up with extra money whenever you can to build up plenty of credit in case you have to self-isolate at a later date.
  • If you or anyone in your home has any underlying health conditions, you should also contact your energy supplier to let them know. They will add you to the Priority Service Register, which will give you extra support should you need it.
  • If you are self-isolating, you should contact your energy company as soon as you become aware of an issue to do with your prepay meter, as some of the solutions above can take up to a week to sort out.
  • It is a good idea to leave your external meter box unlocked so family or friends can use your key to top up if you are self-isolating. This would also help if your supplier needs access.
  • Energy suppliers will only arrange for an engineer to visit your house in an emergency situation during the Covid-19 lockdown. This would be where a supply is unsafe or off-supply.

 

Advice for billing and Direct Debit customers

  • If you are experiencing difficulty to pay bills or keep up with Direct Debit payments, you should call your supplier as soon as possible to see what assistance they can offer. This may be in the form of deferring or lowering Direct Debit payments or putting accounts on hold, but will vary with different suppliers. No energy supplies will be disconnected during the Covid-19 lockdown period.
  • Recovery letters and notices that are auto-generated will still be sent out and if you receive one, phone your supplier at the earliest opportunity.
  • Suppliers are keen to identify households that have vulnerabilities so they can support them and add them to the Priority Service Register. This is particularly important for tenants who are at risk of going off supply.
  • Energy suppliers will only arrange for an engineer to visit your house in an emergency situation during the Covid-19 lockdown and this would be where a supply is unsafe or off-supply.
  • It is vitally important that if you are experiencing difficulties with your energy supply to get in touch with your energy supplier as soon as possible. This may prevent emergency measures needing to be carried out and is easier for your supplier to give assistance.

SSE has now produced FAQs for their customers that answer a number of specific questions they may have. You can find these here.

If you are concerned that spending a lot of time at home as a result of self-isolation will drive your energy bills up, Energy Action Scotland has tips and information that can help.

If you need any other advice, please contact HEAT on 0300 123 2640.

The main energy suppliers and their contact details are listed below. Many of these suppliers have a live chat option on their website if you have no phone credit.

SSE

0345 026 2658 – Customer service

0345 071 9852 – Priority service

sse.co.uk

EDF

0333 200 5100

www.edfenergy.com

Utilita

0345 2068 333

utilita.co.uk

Bulb

0300 3030635

bulb.co.uk

Scottish Power

0800 0270072

community.scottishpower.co.uk/

Scottish/ British Gas

0220 100 0303

https://www.britishgas.co.uk/

OVO

0330 102 7517

forum.ovoenergy.com/

Npower

0330 100 3000

www.npower.com

text phone 0800 413 016

EON

0345 303 3040

 www.eonenergy.com