If you are a tenant of The Pioneer Group, you will have recently received your rent review letter. The letter tells you what you need to do and what support is available.

If you haven’t received this letter, please give our team a call on 0121 748 8100 and we can send you a copy. A small number of market rent properties that started after 1 October 2021 don’t have a rent review this year because they are fixed term tenancies.

We understand the cost of living has seen a sharp increase which has put a lot of pressure on residents and community organisations alike. While prices continue to rise, we are working hard in the background to get the best value for money for the rent you pay.

All rent is reinvested into our core mission to provide great, safe homes and help build resilient communities where people can thrive.

The Pioneer Group invest more than £2m a year on day-to-day maintenance, with further investments in future planned works. This includes programmes such as our kitchen replacement scheme, where we have finished fitting 64 kitchens this year, and our upcoming window replacement scheme in 2022/23. Tenants will also know that we have undertaken significant investment in our electrical testing this year to keep your homes safe. Our £2.5m community investment pledge delivers a range of community services including the upkeep of Castle Vale’s open spaces and community safety initiatives (including CCTV) to keep our estate clean and safe.

It can feel particularly tough making ends meet right now, which is why we have invested so heavily in our support services, ranging from employment support, to health & wellbeing initiatives, debt advice to older persons service. There is a strong sense of community in Castle Vale, which is why we are dedicated to providing more affordable homes to rent, such as the 24 newly developed properties on Farnborough Road.

If you experience any financial difficulties, please talk to us straight away. We fund a confidential, independent money advice service for all Pioneer Group customers to receive free benefits, debt and budgeting advice without any delay.

Compass Support’s Employment Team offer various programmes of support, tailored to individual needs in order to help people get back into work. They provide 1-1 information, advice and guidance, training, help with confidence building, CVs, applying for jobs, computer skills and interview skills.

Independent Living Support and Family Support Teams provide assistance to people who are experiencing challenges within their home related to relationships, health, financial concerns, education or employment.  They provide support to help respond to these challenges including access to specialist help, advice or support if needed.

You can find out more by dropping in to The Sanctuary on Tangmere Drive, contacting a member of the team on 0121 748 8111 or emailing contactus@compass-support.org.uk

We also fund a crisis fund which we run in partnership with Spitfire Services. If you are facing an immediate financial crisis please contact us or Spitfire Services straight away.

If you think you will struggle to meet your new charges, please give our team a call. We have set aside some funds to help those customers who need help as a result of the changes in rent and service charges. Payments are not made automatically, and we can send you an application form if you think this applies to you.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your rent payments, please contact our team on 0121 748 8100.

Why is my rent increasing?

We review our rents each year. They can go up or down based on inflation. When inflation rates increase, the cost of providing our services increases so we have to change the amount of rent we charge. This is so we can provide our services and pay our suppliers.

The Government set the rules about how we set our rents. They are then reviewed according to the rules set by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH). These are set out in the Rent Standard and are based on the September’s Consumer Prices Index (CPI) plus 1%

 

How much are The Pioneer Group’s rents increasing by?

Our rents for social housing are increasing by 4.1% on 4 April 2022.

As an example, our average weekly rent is currently £92.55, so this would increase to £96.34.

The rules for increasing rents are set by our regulator. The maximum amount allowed is set at September’s Consumer Prices Index plus 1%.

In reaching their decision, our Board looked very carefully at whether to charge this full amount, considering our increasing costs and the need for more social housing.

The extra 1% above the Consumer Prices Index goes towards funding the building of new affordable homes for rent. These include the new homes that are being built on Farnborough Road and Slade Road.

 

How are social housing rents set?

Rents are set when you first move into your home. The way we calculate these is set by the government and is based on property value, number of bedrooms and average earnings for Birmingham.

You can see these rules by clicking here.

 

Why has inflation affected my rent?

Consumer Price Inflation is the rate at which the prices of goods and services rise or fall; it is calculated using the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) and is announced by the Office of National Statistics each month.

In September each year the annual CPI figure is set, which is then used to calculate the limit on annual rent increases.

2021’s September CPI figure was announced as rising by 3.1% which indicates goods and services have increased in cost. Therefore, in order to continue providing our services, we need to increase rents to cover these costs.

 

Will service charges also be increasing?

Service charges change every year and reflect the changing cost of the services. There can be lots of different elements to the service charge – some go up and some go down. This year, the cost of energy (for example communal electricity costs) has increased a lot, and the National Minimum Wage has increased, so we have to pay more to our suppliers.

We don’t make a profit on any of our services, so the amount of service charge you pay is reflective of the true cost of provision.

 

Will garage rents also be increasing?

Yes. Garage rents will be increasing through a standard fixed rate.

The new monthly rent for garages, payable from 1 April 2022, is £34.00 for CVCH tenants. If you are not a CVCH tenant, the price is £34.00+VAT (£40.80).

When deciding what rent to charge for garages, we look at what other providers are charging, then agree the amount with the CVCH resident-led Board (as all of our garages are based in Castle Vale).

It is our policy to charge the market rate for our garages. In 2021/2022, Birmingham City Council charged £10.83 per week (plus VAT where applicable). However, we have decided to cap our rent levels so that you do not face high increases.

 

I live in a market rent property (through Stockland Green Community Housing/Pioneer Places), will my rent be increasing?

Market rent reviews operate differently to our social housing rent review.

We review our rents each year based on the local housing market. We look at what rent we currently charge for our empty homes and what other properties are being let for in the area. It is our policy to charge the market rate, but we know that our existing rents are a lot lower than others in the area. We know that the cost of living is high at the moment, so we have decided to cap our rent increase, so you may still not be paying the full market rate. We have decided to cap our monthly rent increase at £60.00, so nobody will face an increase more than this.

 

I live in a rent to buy property, will my rent be increasing?

For rent to buy properties, rent will be increasing using the same rules as social housing. This means rents will increase by 4.1%.

 

I live in a shared ownership property, will my rent be increasing?

Rents will increase in line with your individual lease agreement.

 

I live in shared accommodation in Stockland Green, will my rent be increasing?

No, while we are keeping these under review as costs increase, there are no immediate changes to the current rents.

 

Where will the extra money be spent?

The Pioneer Group is a not-for-profit organisation, which means we don’t have shareholders who take money out of our business. All money collected is reinvested into our core mission to provide great homes and help build resilient communities where people can thrive.

When the cost of living goes up, this also impacts our costs, and unfortunately, we have seen very high cost increases in areas where we have little control.

For example the cost to insure our homes has risen sharply. Not insuring our homes isn’t an option, therefore the extra funds from the rent increases will go towards covering these costs. In addition to this, rent is used to fund the services provided to residents. This includes keeping your home in a good state of repair, which is one of The Pioneer Group’s largest area of spending.

Housing associations access grants as well as borrowing money to build and buy houses and to keep improving them. Rent is then used to pay the interest and repayments on these loans.

 

Could you make savings to lower rents?

We always consider this, and our regulator tells us that we must ensure that our services are value for money. We constantly review our services to see if we can reduce our costs.

We looked at the impact of freezing rents, or applying a smaller rent increase. There are many costs that we can’t control – for example we have no choice about insuring our properties or meeting legal requirements to keep them safe.

Unfortunately, with the rise of inflation, if we don’t find ways to increase our income to meet these additional costs we will have to cut services. Residents would feel the impact of any cuts and we wouldn’t be able to provide the support services that so many of our customers rely on and tell us that they value.

 

What happens if I don’t pay my rent?

It is important to pay your rent on time and get help if you have any financial difficulties making these payments.

We will always endeavour to support residents with any financial concerns they have. It is always best to contact our team in the first instance if you are worried about paying your rent. We can discuss options of support available to you, whether it’s employment issues, benefit advice, debt management, or more immediate support that is needed.

You don’t have to be in rent arrears to access our support services. We would prefer that you contact us as soon as you know you might be facing difficulty. We know how stressful it can be to face debt issues, so the earlier you talk to us the sooner we can help you find a solution.

Failure to make payments could cause rent arrears and result in our income officers making contact to discuss the situation. If you don’t work with us to solve the problem, this could result in court proceedings as you’ll be breaking the terms of your tenancy agreement.

 

My rent is too high. What can I do?

We understand that the amount of rent we charge can make a real difference to the families who live in our homes. Whenever we review our rents we always think carefully about the cost to deliver our services and the impact on our tenants.

Once you have received your rent review letter and viewed your new rent payments, if you have any concerns at all you can contact our team by calling 0121 748 8100 or emailing contactus@pioneergroup.org.uk

The government raises allowances for Housing Benefits and Universal Credit most years, so it’s always worth checking to see if you are eligible for any additional support. Check out the following benefits calculator to find out how much you can claim to maximise your income www.betteroffcalculator.co.uk

All customers of The Pioneer Group, and residents of Castle Vale, also have access to independent money advice support through Spitfire Services. The team offers a wide range of support including welfare benefits advice, budgeting and debt management help, assistance with grant applications and identifying ways to improve rent affordability.

A comprehensive list of services available by Spitfire Services can be found here.

If you think you will struggle to meet your new charges, please give our team a call. We have set aside some funds to help those customers who need help as a result of the changes in rent and service charges. Payments are not made automatically, and we can send you an application form if you think this applies to you.

 

What method of payment can I use to pay my rent or service charge?

We have a number of ways you can pay your rent with us including setting up a simple direct debit, or making payments online.

For more information on making rent payments, visit our website at www.cvch.org.uk/your-cvch/your-finances/your-rent or call our team on 0121 748 8100.

 

I have received my rent letter but my rent is paid by housing benefits. Do I need to do anything?

If you receive Housing Benefit we will tell Birmingham City Council of the new amount for you. However, it is your responsibility to make sure your claim is correct, so if you haven’t received notification that they have updated your claim within four weeks you should contact the council to find out why.

If you receive Housing Benefit payments directly and pay yourself, you must inform the council of the new rent amount.

 

I have received my rent letter but my rent is paid by Universal Credit (UC). Do I need to do anything?

Yes. It is your responsibility to make sure that the Department for Work and Pensions are aware of the change to your rent.

You will need to update your online journal with your new rent and service charges within 14 days of your rent changing. We cannot do this for you. If you fail to inform them in time, you may miss out on benefits that you are entitled to and will have to pay any shortfall yourself.

 

I have received my rent letter, but I pay my rent by standing order. Do I need to do anything?

Yes. As your standing order can only be setup or amended by yourself, you will need to update the payments before they are due.

It is important this information is updated as soon as possible to avoid falling into any rent arrears.

You may prefer to set a direct debit up instead in order to ensure any changes to payments are automatically updated in the future. Contact our team on 0121 748 8100 to get help setting a direct debit.

 

I have received my rent letter, but I pay my rent online. Do I need to do anything?

No, simply make sure you are entering the updated amount when making payments from April 2022 in order to avoid falling into any rent arrears.

You may prefer to set a direct debit up instead in order so all payments can be made automatically in the future. Contact our team on 0121 748 8100 to get help setting a direct debit.

 

I have received my rent letter, but my rent is paid by Direct Debit. Do I need to do anything?

No. Your direct debit payments will be updated automatically in line with your new rent from April 2022.

You should receive a letter directly from Allpay regarding this update. Please check this letter to make sure that your Direct Debit has been increased correctly.

 

I have lost/haven’t received my rent letter. What do I do?

Contact our team as soon as possible if you need a copy of your rent letter. You can contact our team on contactus@pioneergroup.org.uk or 0121 718 8100.

 

Can I withhold my rent if I am unhappy with a service?

We understand that sometimes things do go wrong and we want to make it easy to sort things out. If you need to request a service, or something isn’t quite right, please contact us; we aim to process enquiries straight away and find that most problems get sorted as soon as they are reported.

However, if you need to raise a matter more formally, we have a simple complaints procedure which aims to put things right quickly. This can be found by visiting www.pioneergroup.org.uk/complaints-procedure or ask us for our complaints leaflet.

It is important not to withhold your rent as this would result in breaking the terms of your tenancy agreement and could lead to court proceedings.

If you are unhappy with the service, we encourage you to talk to us about it so we can endeavour to try and put things right.

 

What support is available if I’m struggling to pay my rent?

If you experience any financial difficulties, please talk to us straight away. We fund a confidential, independent money advice service for all Pioneer Group customers to receive free benefits, debt and budgeting advice without any delay.

Compass Support’s Employment Team offer various programmes of support, tailored to individual needs in order to help people get back into work. They provide 1-1 information, advice and guidance, training, help with confidence building, CVs, applying for jobs, computer skills and interview skills.

Independent Living Support and Family Support Teams provide assistance to people who are experiencing challenges within their home related to relationships, health, financial concerns, education or employment.  They provide support to help respond to these challenges including access to specialist help, advice or support if needed.

You can find out more by dropping in to The Sanctuary on Tangmere Drive, contacting a member of the team on 0121 748 8111 or emailing contactus@compass-support.org.uk

We also fund a crisis fund which we run in partnership with Spitfire Services. If you are facing an immediate financial crisis please contact us or Spitfire Services straight away.

If you think you will struggle to meet your new charges, please give our team a call. We have set aside some funds to help those customers who need help as a result of the changes in rent and service charges. Payments are not made automatically, and we can send you an application form if you think this applies to you.

We can only assist you if we know there is a problem, so please tell us straight away. If we cannot assist you, we will help you access other services that can help.