Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

Coronavirus Advice

In line with government advice on the management of the coronavirus outbreak, it has become necessary to make changes in the way we deliver our services. 

These changes are intended to protect you and our staff while ensuring that we continue to provide key essential services.

Please continue to refer to this FAQs page and the latest official advice and guidance from the Public Health Agency (PHA).

Our Services

All public reception areas in our local offices are closed until further notice. You can contact us online or on the following telephone numbers:

Please note that staff will not be carrying out home visits until further notice.

There are a number of services that you can access from your home including paying your bills and reporting repairs. You can find a list of our online services here.

All public reception areas in our local offices are closed until further notice. You can contact us online or on the following telephone numbers:

Please note that staff will not be carrying out home visits until further notice.

You can call our general enquiries line on 03448 920 900 and we can put you in touch with your Patch Manager.

We have now implemented a contingency plan for all maintenance services for the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

With immediate effect, the following approach applies:

We will only undertake emergency repairs.

We have identified the following as what we would deem to be an emergency:

  • Heating systems that have failed or if a household cannot heat water
  • Unsafe gas supplies/installation
  • Burst water pipes
  • Lack of electrical supply or unsafe electrics
  • People who have become stuck in an elevator
  • Blocked drains
  • Shower or bath not working (if it is the only one in the property)

External work and change of tenancy work will no longer be carried out until further notice.

Heating installations have stopped, but essential annual servicing will continue.

Before repair teams attend at a property, a risk assessment will be carried out.

Where a major adaptation has commenced and a property is occupied, work will continue while it’s safe to do so and new work will only commence in vacant properties.

Where planned maintenance work has been scheduled to take place inside a home, this work is now suspended until further notice.

Repairs can be reported:

  • Online
  • By calling us on 03448 920 901.
  • By text to 66644 starting your message with the word “Repair” and remembering to include your address.

Find out more on emergency repairs here

We will only access your home if it is absolutely necessary.

As your landlord, we are legally required to carry out certain essential work such as inspections for electrics and heating appliances in your home.

The Health and Safety Executive has advised that this work should continue at this time.

Your safety is our top priority and this is why before we visit your home, we will contact you to:

  • Arrange a suitable time and date for the work to be carried out
  • Check that no one in your home is self-isolating or has coronavirus symptoms
  • Explain what you need to do to protect yourself while the contractor is completing the work

When the contractor is in your home they will:

  • Wash their hands before, during and after carrying out their work
  • Wear suitable Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
  • Ensure they stay at least 2 metres apart from anyone in your home

Before the contractor leaves your home they will sanitise the area they have been working at.

You should also take the following steps to protect yourself while the contractor visits your home:

  • Open your front door and stand well back
  • Ensure everyone in your home stays at least 2 metres apart from the contractor
  • Open the window, if possible, in the room the contractor is working in

If you do not wish to have our staff attend your home at this time, please call us on 03348 920 901.

We are keeping a record of those who do not wish to be visited at present.

If you do not wish to have staff attend your home, we will be in regular contact with you in order to assess whether your decision has changed, and to ensure your safety in your home.

By taking these steps we can all stay safe during the coronavirus outbreak.

We are doing all we can to keep essential services running.  However, we have streamlined services to provide essential assistance and prioritise payments for grant-aid work which has been carried out.

In line with social distancing measures we have suspended technical inspections and many members of staff are now working from home.  

For more information on how Private Sector Improvement Services is operating during the ongoing COVID-19 situation please click on the relevant link:

We are currently trying to manage the unprecedented circumstances brought about by the coronavirus outbreak.

Like many other organisations, this is impacting on our ability to provide our full normal service.

We therefore may not be able to fully investigate your complaint at this time and may have to hold it until normal service resumes.

We are currently not carrying out home visits and are only able to carry out emergency repairs, i.e. where there is a risk to property or life.

If your complaint is about a non-emergency repair or will require a home visit, please consider not submitting it at this time and waiting until normal service has resumed.

If you do need to make a complaint, you can do so here

Rent and Housing Support

If you are suffering from a loss of income and are worried about paying your rent during this worrying time please be reassured that we will not be taking legal action to evict tenants where financial hardship is suffered as a result of coronavirus.

We are here to support you and if you have any concerns about your ability to pay your rent, please contact us as soon as possible.

Our staff can talk you through your situation and the options available to you, including benefits and other help and support you can access.

The planned rent increase for our tenants which was due to take place on 6th April 2020 has now been postponed until October 1st 2020.  

The postponement of the rent increase applies only to Housing Executive tenants and those renting garages.

In February 2020, leasehold customers were issued with their yearly estimated charges for 2020/21. These charges will remain as stated in the statement issued in February.

You can call our General Enquiries Line 03448 920 900 to chat to someone about your financial situation.

We also work with a wide range of organisations who offer:

  • free and independent money and debt advice provided by Advice NI

  • free Benefit Entitlement Checks, through the Make the Call service

The Consumer Council has also produced advice and information for Northern Ireland consumers who may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

If you are a tenant of one of our commercial properties, you can visit here for further information on advice and assistance.

The planned rent increase for our tenants which was due to take place on 6th April 2020 has now been postponed until October 1st 2020.  

The postponement of the rent increase applies only to Housing Executive tenants and those renting garages.

In February 2020, leasehold customers were issued with their yearly estimated charges for 2020/21. These charges will remain as stated in the statement issued in February.

You can call our General Enquiries Line 03448 920 900 to chat to someone about your financial situation.

If you are currently receiving Housing Benefit, payments will continue as normal.

If you wish to inform us of a change in circumstances please contact us via one of the following methods:

  • Email your local Housing Benefit Unit using the contact details below OR
  • Call the Housing Benefit Unit on 03448 920 902

We would prefer that you do not post any documentation to us at this time, but you can:

  • Scan any documentation and email it to your local Housing Benefit Unit OR
  • Photograph your document on a mobile phone or tablet device and email it through to your local Housing Benefit Unit.

Housing Benefit offices

South HB

Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Newry and Mourne

southarea.hb@nihe.gov.uk

Omagh

Cookstown, Dungannon, Fermanagh, Omagh

omagh.housingbenefit@nihe.gov.uk

Belfast

Belfast

belfasthb@nihe.gov.uk

South East

Ards, Bangor, Castlereagh, Downpatrick, Lisburn

southeast.housingbenefit@nihe.gov.uk

North East

Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Carrickfergus, Coleraine, Larne, Newtownabbey, Moyle

northeast.housingbenefit@nihe.gov.uk

West

Derry, Limavady, Magherafelt, Strabane

westarea.housingbenefit@nihe.gov.uk

Universal Credit

If you need assistance with paying rent and are of working age you must make an application for Universal Credit.

You can apply for Universal Credit here.

Please do not delay making an application for Universal Credit.

Housing Benefit

You can only make a new claim for Housing Benefit if:

  • You have been placed in temporary accommodation by the Housing Executive
  • You live in supported accommodation (including sheltered housing for older people)
  • You are getting Severe Disability Premium as part of a benefit you are claiming
  • You are of pensionable age (if you have a partner you both need to be of pensionable age to apply)

If you want to make a new claim or report a change in circumstances you can do this online or call our Housing Benefit number on 03448 920 902

If you’re living in privately rented accommodation you could be entitled to additional help to pay your rent during the coronavirus outbreak in the form of a Discretionary Housing Payment. This is an extra payment that helps cover your rent, on top of the housing costs element of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit.

Applying for Discretionary Housing Payment can be done by filling out a simple form on our website for both Universal Credit and Housing Benefit claimants.  

If you are eligible for Discretionary Housing Payment this will be paid to your landlord, usually 4 weeks in arrears.

13 week protection

If you are a new claimant of Universal Credit you may also be entitled to a 13 week protection. This had previously only been available to Housing Benefit claimants.

You can be considered for the new 13 week protection rule if you meet the following criteria:

  1. There is a shortfall between the actual rent charged by your landlord and the rent (eligible rent / Local Housing Allowance) used to calculate the housing cost of your Universal Credit award; and
  2. You have recently lost your job or have been made temporarily redundant, or your income has significantly reduced; and
  3. You have not received Housing Benefit or housing costs element of Universal Credit in the last 12 months.

If you meet the criteria for the 13 week protection rule the shortfall between the rent charged by your landlord and the Local Housing Allowance for the area you live in will be paid in full for the next 13 weeks.

If you have any queries about Discretionary Housing Payment contact our Housing Benefit Team on 03448 920 902. We are currently dealing with a high volume of queries so please bear with us and we will come back to you as soon as possible.

Homelessness

Due to the current COVID19 pandemic the Housing Executive is operating emergency contingency arrangements. 

We are focused on trying to ensure resources are targeted to those in greatest need
and are working closely with the Department for Communities, Public Health
Agency, Department for Health and local homeless providers to ensure the
protection of the most vulnerable.

You should seek, where it is possible and safe to do so, to continue to reside in your
current accommodation, even in the short term. 

If this is not possible and you are already homeless or worried about becoming
homeless, please ring our dedicated Homelessness line on 03448 920 908 as soon
as possible. 


During normal working hours you will be referred to one of our Housing Advisors and
we also provide an emergency out-of-hours service after 5pm, at the weekend and
on bank holidays.  

We continue to meet our statutory duties in the delivery of homelessness services while implementing the latest government guidance on social distancing.

We are doing all that we can to ensure you can access the necessary advice and support and to ensure temporary accommodation is made available if required.

In these very challenging circumstances, we may only have access to a limited supply of accommodation and this may not be in your current area.

We will continue to explore a number of potential alternatives for temporary accommodation. 

We have been working alongside homeless charities and organisations to support anyone who finds themselves homeless in the current pandemic and, particularly, to assist people sleeping on the streets to avail of the temporary accommodation available.

Plans are also being put in place to support those experiencing homelessness to self-isolate, if necessary. 

Other Support

COVID-19 Community Helpline

Having to stay at home can be very stressful especially if you are older or have an underlying health condition and are worried about getting essentials like food and medicine.  This is why the Department for Communities has set up the COVID-19 Community Helpline to help you access services such as:

  • Food delivery
  • Prescription medication delivery
  • Advice on claiming benefits
  • Dog walking
  • Mental health support

The helpline is operated by Advice NI staff and can be accessed free of charge by ringing 0808 802 0020. You can also email covid19@adviceni.net or text ‘ACTION’ 81025.

‘Good Morning’ Calls

We have also implemented a ‘Good Morning’ telephone call service for elderly and vulnerable tenants.

Our staff are making regular phone calls to vulnerable tenants checking how they are coping, making connections to local action groups providing food and basic hygiene items, as well as arranging pharmacy pick-ups.

Most importantly, we are here to provide a friendly voice and a listening ear at this time to reduce any sense of social isolation.

We can refer you to ‘Good Morning’ telephone call services, which are available in the areas below. If you are interested in this service, please contact your Patch Manager or local office on 03448 920 900.

Areas and groups supported

Mid Ulster: Older people

Mid and East Antrim: Older people

North Belfast: Older and vulnerable people

West Belfast: Older and vulnerable people

South and East Belfast: Older and vulnerable people

Down:Older and vulnerable people

Please note that this service is not available in some areas.

If you are vulnerable or require additional support and do not live in the areas listed, you can call your Patch Manager or local office on 03448 920 900, and you can be signposted to local services that can provide assistance.

We understand that this is a worrying time especially if you are suffering from a loss of income or are unable to leave your home. This section provides information on how to access advice and support during the coronavirus outbreak.

Support for those in financial crisis

Please ring the Finance Support Service on 0800 5872 750 if you are in financial crisis as soon as possible. This Freephone number is operated by staff from the Department for Communities who can offer you guidance on applying for Discretionary Support or a Short Term Benefit Advance.

More info can be found on nidirect

Accessing financial support if you’re self-employed

If you are self-employed you could be entitled to financial support through the government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

Please note HMRC will contact you directly with guidance on how to apply if you are eligible for this scheme.

You may also be able to access the Business Interruption Loan Scheme from your bank or building society.

Advice for tenants who have lost your job

If you have been told you will be laid off or have already been laid off as a result of the coronavirus outbreak you should ask your employer if you can be reemployed and furloughed. 

This is where the government will continue paying part of your salary as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. There is a cut-off to apply, so don’t delay in contacting your employer as soon as possible about this scheme.

How your bank or building society can help

Many banks and building societies are also offering extra support to their customers at this time such as:‚Äč

  • Increased credit card banking limits
  • Increased cash withdrawal limits
  • Refunds on credit card cash advance fees
  • No additional fees on missed loans and credit card payments
  • Emergency access to fixed term accounts

It’s important to consider the affordability of any extra borrowing. Support can vary so please speak to your creditor for further information on any of the above.

We’ve set up a Covid-19 Response Fund to help community groups provide support and assistance to vulnerable people living in Housing Executive neighbourhoods.

Constituted community groups, including Housing Community Network groups, organisations and enterprises, could receive up to £1500 to provide services such as food/medicine delivery or to help people stay connected with their local community.

Applications for the fund are now open. To find out the criteria and apply you should contact your local office by ringing our General Enquiries Line on 03448 920 900 

For the latest information on coronavirus you should refer to the advice published by the Public Health Agency.

Here you will find:

  • Health advice
  • Precautions you can take to stop the spread of infection
  • Information on social distancing
  • Information on self-isolation

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