Coronavirus – some answers about our services

by The Gateshead Housing Company & filed under Posts.

Reducing the risk of coronavirus is a priority for everyone at the housing company. We are putting all our efforts into looking after the health and safety of our customers and employees, while continuing to maintain essential services.

We are working with our colleagues at Gateshead Council and in partnership with Public Health England, the NHS and Government, to manage the situation and our response to it.

The Government is issuing daily updates, please follow the latest official advice at www.nhs.uk.

As the situation is constantly changing, please do keep checking our website and gateshead.gov.uk/coronavirus for updates. 

You can also read the Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Landlords and Tenants.

We hope that the following questions and answers will help you understand what to expect from the housing company during this difficult time. If you need support during this extremely difficult time or have any other questions, please contact us. We work closely with Gateshead Council and can advise, guide and signpost you wherever and however we can.

For general enquiries, you can email us at enquiries@gatesheadhousing.co.uk or call 0191 433 5353.

What are we doing?

We will continue to deliver critical services, and we have plans in place to support our most vulnerable customers. However, some of the ways we do things may change as we adapt to the developing situation.

A member of TGHC staff is due to visit my home. Do I have to tell you if I am self-isolating or have any symptoms related to the virus?

Please help us to keep employees safe and inform us in advance if your household is self-isolating so nobody is put at risk

We’ll ask you a series of questions before we visit your home, and again and at the time we visit. Please don’t be offended – our only intention is to make sure risks of transferring the virus are minimised. And please also feel free to ask our staff if you have any questions about our safe working practices.

To help keep everyone safe, we ask that you maintain a distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from our employees. If possible, you should stay in a different room while our repairs team is working in your home.

What will happen with the repairs service?

We are focused on maintaining this critical service. We are currently only carrying out emergencies and repairs that are deemed to be essential.

Our emergency service will still operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

If you have reported a non-urgent repair, we are unable at this stage to offer you an appointment or give you a timescale for completion.

What if my heating is due to be serviced?

Making sure heating appliances are safe is extremely important, therefore we’ll carry on as normal with our servicing programme.

We will need access to your home, so please let us in and be assured we have taken every precaution to ensure our staff can work safely.

To help keep everyone safe, we ask that you maintain a distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from our employees. If possible, you should stay in a different room while our repairs team is working in your home.

I have an asbestos survey booked in. Will it go ahead?

All asbestos surveys are postponed until further notice. Pattinsons will be calling all customers individually to let them know.

I’m due to have improvements done to my home – will these still go ahead?

All planned works have been postponed. We’ll let you know when they can go ahead.

I have decoration vouchers for Johnstone’s Decorating Centre. Can I still use them?

Johnstone’s have now closed to the public for safety reasons, so you will be unable to use your vouchers during this time. Our Customer Support Team is contacting our affected customers to discuss possible alternatives.

I’m waiting for an adaptation – will this still go ahead?

We are contacting customers who are waiting for an adaptation to discuss whether it can go ahead. In some cases, an adaptation may be essential for you to remain in your home or to return to it. In these circumstances we will look at your needs and assess how and when the work will be carried out.

Rent and financial advice

We understand that finances are a concern for many of our customers following the measures the Government has put in place to manage the coronavirus outbreak.

We are waiting for further Government guidance on what additional financial support might be available to our customers.

What happens if my income is reduced?

If you face such circumstances, please get in touch with us on 0191 433 6150 and we will look at how we can help you. We can help you apply for benefits, grants and help towards paying your rent. We can also help you with any debts you may have. Please be reassured that our aim is to help you manage your tenancy and remain in your home. Support and advice on Universal Credit and benefits is still available over the phone.

What about my rent?

There are several ways to pay your rent from home.

You can call our automated 24-hour service on 0800 052 3455 to pay with a debit or credit card.

You can also set up a login on ‘MyTGHCaccount’ and make payments via our website.

The easiest and safest way to pay your rent is by Direct Debit. You can download a Direct Debit form here.

I have a pre-payment meter – what can I do if I can’t leave home to top it up?

Call your energy supplier, who will discuss the options available to help you stay connected.

Registering and bidding for a new home

The four local authorities that make up the Tyne and Wear Homes partnership (Gateshead Newcastle, North Tyneside and South Tyneside) have jointly suspended the choice-based-lettings programme. This will be reviewed on 14 April 2020.

Until then:

  • Priority will be given to responding to homelessness and emergencies, including helping people who are leaving hospital
  • New applicants can still register, although there will be a delay in processing these applications

If you think you are in urgent and immediate need of housing and have nowhere to stay you can phone us on 0191 433 3174 or email housingadvice@gatesheadhousing.co.uk. Please do not come to the Civic Centre in person.

What if I am a victim of anti-social behaviour?

We may only be able to deal with the most serious reports of anti-social behaviour.

Face–to–face interviews will only take place in exceptional, serious circumstances, with safe working practices in place.

Can I still visit a housing office?

Our housing offices are closed. You can still call us between 9am and 5pm for advice and support on any of these numbers: 0191 433 2730; 0191 433 5822; 0191 433 6202; 0191 433 5888.

You can also email us at enquiries@gatesheadhousing.co.uk

  • My tenancy is due to end – where do I hand in my keys?
  • I have told you I want to end my tenancy, but I need to delay my moving-out date – what should I do?
  • I am ending a tenancy because someone has died, and I’m finding it difficult to make arrangements due to Coronavirus. Can you help?

We can help you with any of these questions and more by calling us on the numbers above.  

We understand this is already a difficult time and we will support you with your individual requirements.

I live in a multi–storey block – will my caretaker keep the communal areas clean?

The caretaking service will continue to deliver essential services in each block. The cleaning programme has been revised and caretakers are focusing on keeping the communal areas regularly sanitised and free from debris/rubbish. You can help by disposing of your rubbish using the chutes and recycling bins in each block. Regular health and safety checks are also a priority and will continue to be carried out.

I’m subscribed to the Garden Tidy Service. Will this service continue?

The Garden Tidy Service is suspended until further notice. The weekly charge will be suspended with effect from 6 April 2020. Contact us at enquiries@gatesheadhousing.co.uk or on 0191 433 2730, 0191 433 5822, 0191 433 6202, or 0191 433 5888 if you have any questions.

Will I still receive support from my support or outreach worker?

You can still receive support from your support worker over the phone, but they won’t be able to visit you at home or see you in the office.

Sheltered accommodation and supported housing schemes

Until further notice, communal lounges are closed, and no social activities will take place.

To protect some of our most vulnerable residents, we are asking friends and family not to visit our schemes unless it is absolutely necessary. We know this is an extremely difficult ask, but self-isolation is the most important way to keep people safe.

Employees are on hand in schemes to support with customers’ day-to-day needs and residents will still be able to contact us for help and support. All our sheltered scheme residents will continue to receive daily check-in phone calls from our team. 

I am a leaseholder and my income has reduced – what about my service charge payments? 

We recognise that some people, particularly the self–employed and those on zero–hour contracts, will be experiencing financial difficulty as a result of Coronavirus. We will work with you to discuss payment terms and the potential to temporarily postpone payment of service charges and major works bills. If you are experiencing financial difficulty, email Leasehold Services at leasehold@gatesheadhousing.co.uk

How will I pay my leasehold service charges if I can’t leave my home? 

There are several ways to do this from home. 

You can call our automated 24-hour service on 0800 052 3455 to pay with a debit or credit card. 

The easiest and safest way to pay your service charge is by direct debit. You can download a Direct Debit form here. Please email your completed form to leasehold@gatesheadhousing.co.uk

Keeping updated 

Nobody can fully predict how the Coronavirus situation will develop, so we will be regularly reviewing the situation and adjusting our services. 

As we stated earlier please keep checking our website and gateshead.gov.uk/coronavirus for updates. We will contact you personally if we have anything to tell you about your individual circumstances. 

This is a very difficult time for all of us. Please do follow the Government advice and try to look after yourselves and your loved ones. We will continue to do our best to deliver our services to you. 

Thank you for your patience and cooperation.