Last updated: 26th March 2020
We’re here to help
We support customers in crisis situations all the time. And while the current Coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented, we are still here to help.
We always encourage customers to tell us straight away if they are experiencing problems paying their rent and there is a range of help available.
We can agree affordable repayment plans and provide specialist advice on claiming benefits, maximising income and managing debt through our dedicated Debt Recovery and Welfare Benefits and Money Advice teams.
We are continuing to charge rent as normal and you need to continue to pay your rent in full where possible. Paying as much as you are able to is better than paying nothing at all. We would encourage you to continue to do this to reduce your arrears and to avoid any action in the future.
We realise you may need help from benefits to do this. You will need to make a claim to Universal Credit for help to pay your rent for the period that you are away from work.
People living in social housing affected by Coronavirus will be protected from eviction for three months in emergency legislation to be passed by the government. However, any arrears will continue to increase if you don’t pay your rent and you should talk to us if you are unable to pay. We wish to stress that we will not charge you any interest or any fees, but your weekly or monthly rental charge will still show on your statement.
If you are worried about falling into arrears because you cannot pay us in the short term because of Coronavirus, it is important that you speak to us as soon as possible. Failing to engage with us or make every effort to maintain some form of payment could result in further consequences after the three-month period is up.
If you are worried about falling into arrears because you cannot pay us in the short term because of Coronavirus, you can discuss setting up a payment plan with our Debt Recovery Team as soon as you can. You can contact the team on 0151 510 5204 or Debt.Recovery@haltonhousing.org.
What to do next?
We recognise that for many people, this will be the first time they have needed to claim benefits.
You can get help and support to make a claim for Universal Credit online from:
0800 328 5644
0800 144 8 444
0800 138 1111
You can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without physically attending a Jobcentre. The seven waiting days for ESA for new claimants suffering from Coronavirus or required to stay at home will not apply, so it will be payable from day one.
For more information, including making a claim for a Discretionary Housing Payment, a Council Tax Reduction or Housing Benefit, visit Halton Borough Council’s Council Tax and Benefits website page.
We can support you whilst you make your claim for Universal Credit so please call our Welfare Benefits and Money Advice team if you are experiencing any difficulties. You can contact the team by calling 0151 510 5024. The team are extremely busy trying to help as many customers as possible. If you are struggling to get through, try one of these alternatives:
Money Advice Service
0800 138 7777
Citizens Advice Helpline
0344 477 2121
Stepchange (Debt advice)
0800 138 1111
Additional help and support
Customers affected financially by Coronavirus
We’ve tried to answer a couple of questions you might have if you’re in employment and are ill or affected by Coronavirus. Take a look at our Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions, as we are regularly updating this with information regarding our services and links to support for money-related matters.
Want to know more about Universal Credit? Visit the understanding Universal Credit website.
Council tax support
If your income has reduced you may be eligible for support in paying your council tax.
If you are already claiming but your income has changed, you will need let your council know there has been a change of circumstances so they can re-assess your claim.
Visit Halton Borough Council’s dedicated page.
Gas and electric
Some of you may be worrying about how you are going to pay your utility bills, and for those on pre-payment meters, how you’re going to keep them topped up.
Ofgem, the regulatory authority for gas and electric have published the following advice on what to do if you are faced with affordability issues.
The government has launched an emergency package with energy suppliers to ensure you don’t face any additional hardships in heating or lighting your home during the coronavirus outbreak. If you are struggling with money problems or are repaying a debt, options will include:
- reviewing bill payment plans, including debt repayment plans
- payment breaks or reductions in how much you pay
- giving you greater time to pay
- in some cases access to hardship funds.
You don’t need to worry or stress about gas/electricity if don’t have money to top up or are self-isolating. No credit meters will be disconnected during the outbreak.
Contact your energy supplier if you have a prepay meter tell them your self-isolating. They will send you out two week’s worth of gas/electricity or if you have a smart meter they will top you up.
0333 202 9802
0333 200 5100
0345 052 000
0800 073 3000
0800 027 0072
0345 026 2658
For further general advice on household energy bill support, see Ofgem’s guide: Who to contact if it’s difficult paying bills.
For more information from Ofgem, you can visit their website here: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19-and-your-energy-supply.
United Utilities have published the following advice:
“We wanted to let you know what we’re doing in response to the Coronavirus outbreak to protect our staff and customers. We’re following the government health advice to make sure our customers and our colleagues stay safe and we are putting all the necessary measures in place to ensure this advice is followed by everyone. We understand this is a challenging time and we’ve put our robust business continuity plans into action so we can make sure we can still supply our water and wastewater services to all customers across the North West. Advice from the World Health Organisation is that the water treatment process – specifically the addition of chlorine which is routinely used for disinfection – will kill the virus. Remember, only flush the three Ps – pee, poo and paper. Please do not flush any kitchen roll, wet wipes or newspaper down the toilet as these can cause major blockages in the sewers”.
You can find more information on their website: https://www.unitedutilities.com/Coronavirus-update/
No advice has been published about support TV Licensing is able to give if you have difficulty paying, it is still a legal requirement to have one if you want to:
- watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV, on any channel
- watch or stream programmes live on an online TV service (such as ITV Hub, All 4, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV, Sky Go, etc.)
- download or watch any BBC programmes on iPlayer.
This applies to any device you use, including a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder.
Many internet providers are still working out their response to COVID-19, many are looking at giving free phone calls and extra data and speed boosts. Check your suppliers website directly for more information.