Coronavirus update from our Housing Division

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Update for Southdown tenants from Sarah Murphy, Housing & Property Services Senior Manager:

I wanted to write to you with an update on the service Southdown’s Housing Division is providing and how we are working to keep our tenants, clients and colleagues as safe as possible.

As a supported housing provider, our primary objective remains the safety and wellbeing of our tenants. As an employer, and Registered Provider of Social Housing (RP), we also have obligations to our staff and our Regulator.

If you are self-isolating or have symptoms of Coronavirus please tell us as soon as possible. You can contact us by calling your Housing Officer or our Lewes head office on 01273 405 800. As well as requiring this information so that we can do what we can to control the spread of the virus, we can also provide you with some practical assistance if required.

As the situation has improved and the vaccination programme has pushed ahead at pace, we are starting to see temporary arrangements and legislation returning to pre-covid times. From 1st June 2021, notice periods have reduced down to four months for all but the most serious tenancy breaches and from 1st August they will reduce further to two months.

The ban on bailiffs’ evictions has now also been lifted. Of course legal action is always a last resort for us and our Housing Officers and Housing Assistants are on hand to offer advice and to help residents to make affordable payment arrangements if they have fallen behind with their rent. If you are struggling to pay your rent because of the Coronavirus, or its effects upon your employment, please get in touch as soon as possible. We can help you to access appropriate welfare benefits and other local sources of assistance.

Up to date guidance from the Government for tenants and landlords is available here.

Providing continuity of service

Throughout the pandemic and lockdowns, our staff have largely worked remotely with occasional visits to our properties to carry out essential repairs, welfare and health and safety checks.

We are however pleased to announced that everyone who is able to have a vaccination within the Housing Division has done so and we therefore hope that this reduces any risk that staff may pose to residents. With this in mind, and given the much lower number of covid cases in our local area, we have now returned to face-to-face visits with tenants.

Our staff are all undertaking at least two lateral flow tests per week and recording their results with the NHS. Our staff will not come out to see tenants if they have received a positive result and will isolate and take a PCR test as per current guidance.

We are keen to complete annual tenant visits with as many people as possible to see how you are doing, provide assistance with any issues you may be having and to ensure that our properties are being looked after to a reasonable standard. We will also re-start our Stock Condition Survey visits which will provide us with vital information about our properties so that we are able to plan well for future improvement and maintenance works. Our staff will continue to wear face masks and adhere to social distancing when visiting tenants at home. We ask that if our staff do need to come and see you that you do likewise and also keep your property well ventilated for the duration of our visit.

As the risks have reduced, we have also reverted to our normal position in terms of sending contractors into our Learning Disability Services for routine repairs and for non-statutory compliance checks such as Portable Appliance Testing. Our contractors will also continue to wear face masks and appropriate PPE and are also required to evidence a negative lateral flow test in the previous 72 hours before being allowed into our Learning Disability Services.
We will continue to follow the Government’s recommended social distancing guidelines to prevent the transmission of Coronavirus as much as possible.

We ask that, where staff are present in your property or its communal areas, social distancing is respected and that a distance of at least 2 metres between yourself and the staff member or contractor is maintained.

If you have symptoms or have been told to self-isolate and we are due to visit your home, it is critical you let us know beforehand. This is vital for the safety of our staff, contractors and your neighbours.

We will continue to keep this approach under review. If you are concerned about an upcoming scheduled repair or safety check please get in touch with us to discuss via: property.services@southdown.org or 01273 898744.

Wellbeing

We know that some tenants are still feeling anxious or isolated because of the pandemic and want to reassure you that you can get in touch if you need support or guidance. If you become unwell and do need to self-isolate please don’t suffer if you do not have someone to rely on for shopping and medication. Our Housing team are happy to help so please call us on 01273 405800 if you need our assistance. 

Please continue to keep yourself updated on Coronavirus, how you can keep yourself and others safe via the NHS and gov.uk websites. Southdown will also continue to track developments as the situation evolves and will endeavour to keep you updated.

Best wishes, Sarah Murphy, Housing & Property Services Senior Manager