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Coronavirus: Information for Residents

 

This page is being constantly updated as new information emerges. Please keep checking.

What changes have you made to your services following Government advice?

In summary, we have made the following changes:

We are encouraging all residents to register for ‘My English Rural‘ to ease pressure on our essential services. Here you can contact us, report repairs, feedback on repairs and check and pay your rent 24-hours a day.

We need you to tell us if you are self-isolating.

We are only able to respond to emergency repairs and essential gas safety checks.

Where possible, our contractors will only make essential home visits and will strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines.

We have closed our offices and staff are continuing to work from home.

We are encouraging all residents to follow the latest advice from the Government and NHS.

How do I register for the online resident portal?

If you have not already done so, we would ask that you now sign-up to use the online resident portal. The portal offers a range of self-service options and will help to minimise calls during what is a busy and pressurised time.

It is quick and easy to sign up with a computer or smartphone. You just need a few details to hand. You can register using the following link – https://englishrural.org.uk/register.

If you need help, email us first on info@englishrural.org.uk or call us on 020 7820 7930 and we can register for you if you have a valid email address.

How do I tell English Rural if I am self-isolating?

Please let us know if you are self-isolating. You can now alert us via the resident portal in the ‘Contact Us’ section or you can email us on info@englishrural.org.uk or call us on 020 7820 7930. We have also introduced some extra protocols for staff, which mean they will ask you some further questions when you call. Please always be clear and honest in your response to these questions.

If you display any symptoms like those of the coronavirus you should follow guidance available from public authorities. The advice is subject to change and can be found on the NHS website.

The Government have also produced a series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about social distancing and information on how to manage your mental health.

What should I do if I am worried about how I will pay my rent?

The Government has outlined measures to protect people’s wages with the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which sets out to cover up to 80% of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month (backdated to March 1st 2020).

The Government is also increasing the Universal Credit standard allowance for the next 12 months, by £1,000 a year. The basic element of Working Tax Credit is increasing by £1,045 to £3,040 from 6 April 2020 until 5 April 2021. In addition, the Government is strengthening the safety net for self-employed people too, by suspending the minimum income floor for everyone affected by the economic impacts of coronavirus.

On the 26th March, the Chancellor announced that the Government will pay self-employed people adversely affected by the coronavirus with a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last 3 years, up to £2,500 per month.

The Government has also confirmed that a £500 million hardship fund will provide council tax relief for vulnerable households.

A voucher scheme has been launched by the Government for schools providing free school meals. Weekly shopping vouchers worth £15 will be issued to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed due to coronavirus.

If you are having any problems paying your rent, discuss these with your Regional Housing Manager who can offer further advice based on your circumstances. English Rural has a social purpose, and this means that we will understand and support you when you face financial challenges.

The rent setting policy applied by English Rural means that none of our rents are above the level at which you will be able to receive financial support from the Government. Claiming financial support from the Government can take time and the important thing is to start this as soon as your circumstances change. Contact your dedicated Regional Housing Manager if you are unsure about how to do this. They will be ready and willing to help you.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau offers further advice if you can’t pay your bills because of coronavirus.

Should I still report repairs in the same way?

Following the Government’s advice on 23rd March 2020, English Rural will be amending their repairs and maintenance reasonability to reflect the necessary safeguarding of residents, contractors and colleagues 

The following service changes commenced on 24th March 2020 and shall continue until we are advised otherwise. 

Scope of work and response times 

Currently, reported repairs are diagnosed as either i) Routine Repairs and given a priority of 30-days for completion ii) an Emergency Repairs and given a 24-hour priority to make safe or repair. 

Non-urgent and Routine Repairs
English Rural will still accept and raise repairs that are Non-Urgent, but these will not be completed in line within the 30-day priority and we will not be requesting our contractors make arrangements within the standard 48-hour timeframe to make an appointment. 

At the appropriate time, English Rural contractors will resume the process of arranging suitable appointments. If the repair worsens and you feel this is an emergency, please call the repairs line for further advice (numbers below). 

If you require an update on an existing repair, we request you contact us via the ‘My English Rural’ resident portal. This ensures our telephone lines are utilised for emergencies only. We are encouraging all residents to register for the portal which offers a range of self-service options that will help minimise calls during what is a busy and pressurised time. You can register here: https://englishrural.org.uk/register. 

Urgent Repairs and Emergencies
English Rural intend to continue delivering ‘make safe or repair’ within the 24-hour timeframe and residents should continue to report these repairs by phone:

Office Hours Repairs – 0800 121 4422 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) 

Out-Of-Hours Repairs – 0800 046 9985 

English Rural has several approved contractors who carry out repairs and maintenance on our behalf. All have taken measures to safeguard their staff and limit the interaction with customers. When English Rural issues an emergency order you will be expected to answer a serious of questions relevant to coronavirus (COVID-19) and this may affect whether the emergency can be attended to. 

Emergency repairs are classified as: 

  • Uncontainable water leaks
  • No power to the whole property
  • No heating and no hot water
  • Any other repairs that English Rural deem to be an emergency and a risk to resident safety

Before reporting an emergency relating to either ‘No Power’ or a ‘Water Leak’ please see the guidance below to assist in preventing escalating damaging to properties or unnecessary call outs. 

How to isolate a water leak to your property: 

 If you feel confident, and it is safe to do so, there are a few things you can do yourself before you call*:

 

  • If you have a leak coming from a tap or a toilet, you may be able to isolate it using an isolation valve instead of turning the water off to your entire property
  • The isolation valve is usually located under your toilet, sink or tap
  • To turn it off you’ll need a flat head screwdriver
  • When the water is on, the slot on the isolation valve slot should follow the direction of the pipework
  • To turn the water off, give the slot a quarter turn in either direction, so it’s going across the pipework
  • If you find this hasn’t worked, and the leak is still there, you’ll need to turn the water off at the main stop tap

 How to isolate a fault with your wiring or appliances: 

 If you feel confident, and it is safe to do so, there are a few things you can do yourself before you call*: 

  • With the main trip-switch on and your main power turned off, flip all the individual switches off.
    Without turning the power back on, flip ONE switch back into the ON position. After that please turn the power back on.
  • If the power works and the main trip switch does not switch off, try switching off your power again and repeat the process, adding ONE switch at a time. Eventually, the switch protecting the faulty circuit will cause the main trip to operate. When this happens, switch the power back off and reset the main trip switch. Turn the last flip-switch back to OFF.
  • Next, flip all your other circuit switches back on. Turn the power on once more and if there’s only one fault the power should stay on. 
  • Turning the power off again, you need to unplug or switch off everything that runs on the faulty circuit. Common culprits are kettles, immersion heaters, and hotplates on electric cookers. Once done, try flipping the switch back on. If the main trip goes again and there is nothing plugged in, then there is probably a problem with the wiring and you’ll need an electrician. 
  • If the power remains on and the main trip does not operate, then one or more of the appliances you have removed is faulty. Turn off the power again and plug in and switch on ONE appliance before switching the main power back on. Repeat this until the main trip-switch goes. – When this happens, the last thing you plugged in should be removed before testing again. If the power stays on, you’ve found your faulty appliance.  

 *If you do not feel confident or it is not safe to isolate the water or power please ring the repair line above.

Only contact English Rural after completing the above instructions.

Gas safety in the home 

If you smell gas, immediately call the National Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999.

In the event of an emergency:

  • Do not smoke of light matches
  • Do not turn electrical switches on or off
  • Open doors and windows
  • Turn off the meter at the control handle unless the meter is in the cellar
  • Call the National Gas Emergency number on 0800 111 999

Will you still be carrying out my gas safety check?

Yes. English Rural has a legal obligation to carry out gas safety checks. We will continue to follow all guidelines from the Government and our Regulator and will be prioritising all programmed services to make sure current certifications do not expire. This is to ensure the health and safety of our residents.

All our contractors will be stricly adhering to social distancing guidelines. Please make sure you tell us if you are self-isolating.

Will work still be carried out in my home?

Work carried out in your homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no coronavirus symptoms.

It is important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a 2-metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.

No work will be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England is providing advice to tradespeople and households. Routine safety maintenance that ensures your home is safe to live in (e.g. gas servicing) will continue to be carried out.

No work will be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

Will English Rural staff still attend appointments?

No. The advice from the Government is for everyone to stay at home and to only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work.  Instead, we will use alternatives arrangements such as telephone or video calling. Please contact your Regional Housing Manager if you have any concerns.

How will English Rural keep me informed?

We will use our website and the resident portal as our primary channels to provide you with new information. We will also send text messages and the postal service when appropriate. We recognise that not everyone has access to the internet, and where you do not, we would ask that you check with neighbours who do so that they can share information with you, ensuring you adhere to the Government guidelines on social distancing. We have made the decision to offer future updates electronically partly for practical reasons, but also because circumstances are changing so rapidly that information is quickly out of date.

We also strongly recommend that residents consult the advice given on the Government and NHS websites.

The Government have also produced a series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about social distancing and information on how to manage your mental health. You can also download a helpful information leaflet here (PDF).

Please be aware that false and misleading claims about coronavirus can spread online and in social media at this time. Special units across government are working to combat this. Read more here.

Are English Rural’s offices still open?

No. Based on advice from the Government we have taken the decision to close our offices. We were well prepared for this decision as our IT and phone systems enable home working for all staff. We have redirected post. Phone numbers remain the same. The reality is that residents are unlikely to notice that this change has happened.

Where do I go for support if suffering domestic violence?

You should contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on Freephone 0808 2000 247 or contact your Regional Housing Manager. If it’s an emergency then call the Police on 999. Most councils also provide a list of local contacts on their website where you can seek support. Please also see our specific page on domestic violence which lists useful contact details for a variety or organisations and services that can help.

The Government also offers advice about what you can do if you’re struggling because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

How can I look after my mental health and wellbeing?

During this time, you may be bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also feel low, worried, anxious, or be concerned about your health or that of those close to you. Everyone reacts differently to events and changes in the way that we think, feel and behave vary between different people and over time. It’s important that you take care of your mind as well as your body and to get further support if you need it.

Please refer to the Government’s guidance on looking after your mental health and wellbeing during this time.

The Government also offers advice about what you can do if you’re struggling because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

How can I apply for the English Rural Coronavirus Hardship Fund?

English Rural have launched a Hardship Fund especially for residents in need of extra financial help during the coronavirus pandemic. The fund is a one-off payment to eligible residents who are experiencing extreme financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. Find out more and how you can apply here.

Please note that the closing date for applications is Monday 4th May 2020.

What is happening with planned maintenance?

Planned kitchen and bathrooms replacements for 2020

We have taken the decision to suspend the current programme until an appropriate time where work can be safely completed within homes and  following government guidelines. We continue to work with our contractors and suppliers in preparation for work to commence, however at this stage we are not able to advise when this might be.

External decoration programme for 2020

All of our cyclical maintenance programmes (including external painting, windows, doors etc.) are currently suspended until an appropriate time where work can be safely carried out whilst observing the Government’s guidelines. We continue to work with our contractors in preparation for work to commence, however at this stage we are not able to advise when this might be. This may be postponed if the current pandemic restrictions continue into the winter period.

I’ve been contacted about my gas safety inspection, will this still go ahead?

Yes, this will still go ahead in line with the unchanged guidance from the Government and the HSE on landlord gas safety compliance.

Our gas servicing providers have put measures in place to continue delivering gas safety certificates for all properties needing their annual inspection. Please contact us immediately if you’re self-isolating or have been diagnosed with Covid-19 so that additional preparations can be put in place.

The HSE guidance still dictates that we go through various stages to gain entry to properties nearing the end of their twelve month validation. These guidelines have to be followed, so we ask that you work with us to arrange a convenient appointment for gas servicing engineers to gain entry to your property.

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