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Residents’ handbook A handy guide to your AmicusHorizon home Making homes, helping people 2 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Residents helped us put this handbook together. We hope you find it useful. There are also more detailed fact sheets and leaflets available on some of our services. There is an easy-read version of this handbook. If you need any more information or advice, please get in touch and we will do our best to help. Residents helped us put this handbook together. We hope you find it useful. There are also more detailed fact sheets and leaflets available on some of our services. There is an easy-read version of this handbook. If you need any more information or advice, please get in touch and we will do our best to help. Contents Translations 6 About AmicusHorizon – who we are 7 Paying your rent – how to do it and what to do if you have money worries 10 10 Your tenancy – key legal facts 12 12 Repairs and improvements – how to keep your home in good shape 17 17 Safety first - tips to keep you safe 18 18 Comments, compliments and complaints – how to let us know 21 21 Getting involved – how you can help us improve 24 30 32 35 38 40 43 44 24 In and around your home 30 Supporting you – how we can give you help in your home if you need it 32 Antisocial behaviour – what we can do to help 35 Moving home – your options, and how to end your tenancy 38 Confidentiality – how we keep your details safe 40 More about us 43 Your home checklist – keep it handy in case you need it 44 How to contact us 3Making homes, helping people Making homes, helping people 5 6 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Making homes, helping people About AmicusHorizon Eastbourne Bognor RegisB Margate Dover Folkestone HastingsTonbridge Faversham SheernessMaidstone Dartford Bromley Croydon Sutton Kingston Wandsworth Lambeth SouthwarkGreenwich Bexley Lewisham Tower HamletsBexley SevenoaksTandridge Banstead Tadworth Reigate Esher Woking Redhill East Grinstead Crawley Pease Pottage Canterbury Ashford RyeBattle Ticehurst Bexhill LewesLittlehampton Brighton Rochester Sittingbourne Merton Shoreham Region Key Kent Sussex London We are a housing association providing affordable housing in the south-east of England. We own and manage 28,000 homes and provide a wide range of services. We are a not-for-profit organisation. All our income goes towards helping those who need housing or support. Most of the homes we provide are for affordable rent or low-cost home ownership. We work very closely with our residents, and with local councils, businesses and voluntary organisations. We employ most of our staff to manage and keep our homes well-maintained. We also have specialist teams. You can find out more information about them on page 40. Where properties are: 6 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Making homes, helping people About AmicusHorizon Eastbourne Bognor RegisB Margate Dover Folkestone HastingsTonbridge Faversham SheernessMaidstone Dartford Bromley Croydon Sutton Kingston Wandsworth Lambeth SouthwarkGreenwich Bexley Lewisham Tower HamletsBexley SevenoaksTandridge Banstead Tadworth Reigate Esher Woking Redhill East Grinstead Crawley Pease Pottage Canterbury Ashford RyeBattle Ticehurst Bexhill LewesLittlehampton Brighton Rochester Sittingbourne Merton Shoreham Region Key Kent Sussex London We are a housing association providing affordable housing in the south-east of England. We own and manage 28,000 homes and provide a wide range of services. We are a not-for-profit organisation. All our income goes towards helping those who need housing or support. Most of the homes we provide are for affordable rent or low-cost home ownership. We work very closely with our residents, and with local councils, businesses and voluntary organisations. We employ most of our staff to manage and keep our homes well-maintained. We also have specialist teams. You can find out more information about them on page 40. Where properties are: Paying your rent This section tells you about different ways you can pay your rent and what to do if you are in arrears (get behind with your rent.) How do I pay my rent? You can pay your rent by cash or cheque. Using your plastic Allpay card, you can pay with cash or cheque at over 45,000 places in the UK. This includes post offices, PayPoint and some e-pay outlets. Look for these logos that you can trust. If you would like more information on the places in your local area or where you can use your card, call us, or look online at www.allpay.net. By debit or credit card - use this with your swipe card to pay by phone – to us or to Allpay on 0844 557 8321. ¦ Through our website ¦ By text message on your mobile. You will need to register at www.allpayments.net. Standing order - We can send you a standing order form to send to your bank or building society. They will then make a regular payment to us. You have to tell your bank or building society exactly how much to pay. You must pay monthly lease charges every month for the month to come. Direct debit - Direct debit allows us to collect payments by giving you 14 days’ notice. Your payments are covered by the Direct debit guarantee. This gives you reassurance that your payments are protected. Give us a ring and we can help you set a direct debit up. Housing Benefit Direct - If you are claiming Housing Benefit, you can ask your local council to pay your rent straight to us. However, it is still your responsibility to make sure that we are receiving the payment. • Please don’t pay by cash or cheque without using your swipe card. Please don’t send any payments by post. 7Making homes, helping people Paying your rent What is a service charge? As well as your rent, you may have to pay a service charge. This covers the cost of services such as: ¦ cleaning shared areas in blocks of flats ¦ lighting in areas you share with your neighbours ¦ cutting the grass and maintaining the grounds in shared garden or estate areas ¦ maintaining door-entry systems, fire alarms and lifts in some blocks of flats ¦ shared (communal) TV aerials in some blocks of flats, and ¦ heating if you live in a block of flats with a shared heating system. Service charges go up and down to reflect the actual cost of services. Most (except heating in your home) can be paid for by Housing Benefit if you receive it. What should I do if I have problems paying my rent? You agreed to pay your rent on time when you signed your tenancy agreement. Rent should always be your first priority, as you could lose your home if you do not pay it. So, if you have got money worries: ¦ tell us about all the money you have coming in and going out so that we can make a fair repayment agreement (our welfare benefits advisors will be happy to help you make sure you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to) ¦ do not panic and promise payments that you cannot make ¦ make every effort to pay on time – if you have problems keeping to the payment agreement, please let us know straight away, and ¦ tell us if your circumstances change. 8 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Saving money with a credit union couldn’t be simpler Unlike some other savings schemes, you can save as much or as little as you like, weekly, monthly or as often as you want. You can pay money in at convenient local shops or collection points, or direct from your wages. Credit unions are financial co-operatives owned and controlled by their members. You can join even if you have a bad credit rating. Give us a ring to find out if you have a local credit union. How often will my rent go up? We review rent and service charges every year. Your tenancy agreement says how much notice we need to give you of any change. In most cases we must give 28 days’ notice. So, by the beginning of March we will let you know what your new rent will be and the date it will change. The change usually mirrors the rate of inflation at the end of September in the previous year. Who sorts out my Housing Benefit? If you are receiving Housing Benefit, it is your responsibility to make sure it is being paid - not ours or the council’s. Our welfare benefits advisors can help if you are not sure what to do. If you are still waiting to hear if you have been awarded Housing Benefit, let us know. Make sure that you give us all the information that we ask for. We will not usually take any action until your claim has been dealt with, unless the full amount owed would not be covered by Housing Benefit. What happens if I do get into arrears? We will contact you when you miss a rent payment to tell you the amount that you owe. If you receive a letter, please read it carefully. Contact us straight away to arrange to pay the arrears. Our welfare benefits advisor may be able to help. If we do not hear from you and you do not make payments towards your arrears, we will move through the stages of our arrears policy. This could mean that we take you to court and you could even be evicted from your home. It is important to remember that if you are evicted, you still have to pay back any money that you owe. Our aim is for you to stay in your home and to help you find ways to pay your rent. If you have a problem, we can help. We just need to know about it. So please let us know straight away – the earlier the better. What other help is available? You can get independent advice and help. National Debtline A helpline that provides free, confidential advice on how to deal with debt problems. Phone: 0808 808 4000 Website: www.nationaldebtline.co.uk Consumer Credit Counselling Service Free and confidential advice on everything from budgeting to practical plans to help manage debt. Phone: 0800 138 1111 Website: www.cccs.co.uk Citizens Advice A service that helps people sort out their legal, money and other problems by providing free, independent and confidential advice. Website: www.citzensadvice.org.uk Pay your rent regularly when it is due. Make sure your Housing Benefit claim is up to date, and return any review forms on time. Tell us, and the council’s Housing Benefit team, about any changes to your circumstances. Let us know as soon as you think you may have a problem paying. 9Making homes, helping people Your Tenancy Your tenancy agreement is an important legal document. It tells you about your rights and responsibilities. This section answers some of the questions you may have about your tenancy. I am a new tenant – what is my ‘starter tenancy’? A starter tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy that normally lasts for 12 months. This gives you time to show you are a good tenant and neighbour. If you keep to the terms and conditions, we will give you an assured tenancy. If you do not keep to the terms and conditions, we may extend your starter tenancy (up to another six months) or end your tenancy. We will visit you at least twice during the first year. If you are having problems, let us know straight away and we will do our best to help. If you are already our tenant and you have moved through a transfer or mutual exchange, you will keep your existing type of tenancy. I am already a tenant – what kind of tenancy do I have? If you were a tenant before 1 April 2009, you are likely to have an assured tenancy. If you were originally a tenant of Rother, Swale or Hastings councils or Lansdowne Green, you may have other rights which are set out in your tenancy agreement. If you are an Avenue or Casa tenant, you may have a different tenancy agreement (see box on opposite page) with different rights. If you are not sure what kind of tenancy you have, just ask us. We will be pleased to help. 10 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Keep your tenancy agreement safe. Ask us if you are not sure about your rights and responsibilities. Types of tenancy Starter or ‘probationary’ – 12 month tenancies for new housing association tenants. Assured – most housing association tenants have this type of tenancy which has no time limit. Assured guaranteed – if you were originally a tenant of Swale, Rother or Hastings Borough Councils you may have ‘preserved’ rights such as the right to buy. Secure tenancy – another form of tenancy that some ex-council or long-standing tenants may still have. Assured shorthold – six - or 12 - month tenancies used by Avenue and private landlords. Demoted tenancy – an assured tenancy can be ‘demoted’ (reduced) to an assured shorthold tenancy if tenants behave in an antisocial way. Non-secure tenancy – for Avenue residents placed in temporary accommodation by local councils. Types of tenancy Starter or ‘probationary’ – 12 month tenancies for new housing association tenants. Assured – most housing association tenants have this type of tenancy which has no time limit. Assured guaranteed – if you were originally a tenant of Swale, Rother or Hastings Borough Councils you may have ‘preserved’ rights such as the right to buy. Secure tenancy – another form of tenancy that some ex-council or long-standing tenants may still have. Assured shorthold – six - or 12 - month tenancies used by Avenue and private landlords. Demoted tenancy – an assured tenancy can be ‘demoted’ (reduced) to an assured shorthold tenancy if tenants behave in an antisocial way. Non-secure tenancy – for Avenue residents placed in temporary accommodation by local councils. Can you come into my home? You have the right to live in your home without us interfering unless we need access to do emergency repairs, or service your gas appliances and you have not allowed us in. Even if it is an emergency, we will always try to contact you first. Please try to make sure that we have up-to-date contact details for you. How long can I stay in my home? If you have an assured tenancy, you can live in your home as long as you want. You must keep to the terms of your tenancy agreement and respect the rights of other tenants and neighbours. You must live in the property as your main home. You do not have to leave unless we get a court order. We will usually only get a court order if you have broken your tenancy agreement conditions or the property is no longer suitable for you. If you are worried, contact us and we can advise you. These ‘grounds for possession’ are set out in the Housing Acts of 1985, 1988 and 1996. If you are worried about losing your tenancy, please talk to us. Or you can get help from an advice agency. Please see useful contacts. If you have an assured shorthold or non-secure tenancy, your tenancy will normally last for six months. However, either you or we can give two months notice to end the tenancy at any time. For information about how to end your tenancy, see page 35. 11Making homes, helping people Repairs and improvement This section tells you how we keep our homes well-maintained. It explains how to order a repair, and what your responsibilities are for maintaining your home. How do I report a repair? Contact us in any way – see the back cover for a list of alternatives. If you have access to the internet you can report your repair on our website. What do I do in an emergency? In an emergency, call us. An emergency repair is anything which: ¦ puts the health, safety or security of people at immediate risk, or ¦ can badly affect the structure of a building. We aim to complete emergency repairs within 24 hours. If we cannot do this (for example, because we need to order a part) we will make your home safe and tell you when we will return to complete the work. Examples of emergency repairs ¦ Total loss of water ¦ Burst water main ¦ Dealing with the effects of flooding ¦ Severe storm damage ¦ Total loss of electricity supply (not caused by power cuts) ¦ Major fault with electricity supply ¦ Unsafe electrical fittings ¦ Problems with the security of your windows and your front or back door ¦ If you are elderly or vulnerable, no heating between November and April. 12 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Who is responsible for repairs? You must not neglect or damage your home. You are responsible for keeping it well-decorated. You also have to arrange some repairs. Here, we set out our guidelines on what repairs you – and we – are responsible for. However, your tenancy agreement may be slightly different. If you are in any doubt, your tenancy agreement will apply. Our responsibilities We must keep the structure and outside of your home in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order. This includes: . drains, gutters, outside pipes and the roof . outside walls, outside doors, window sills, window catches, sash cords and window frames, including any painting and decorating needed outside . inside walls, floors, ceilings, doorframes, but not painting and decorating inside . chimneys, chimney stacks and flues, but not including chimney sweeping . front paths, steps or other access points we own . garages and stores that are part of the property, and . boundary walls and fences, but not those you share with neighbours. We must keep in working order any installations we have provided for supplying water, gas or electricity, and for heating, hot water and sanitation. This includes: . basins, sinks, baths, toilets, flushing systems and waste pipes, but not plugs, chains or toilet seats . electric wiring, including sockets and switches, and . central-heating systems, gas and water pipes, water heaters, showers and storage heaters, fireplaces and fires that we have fitted. If you are not sure whether a repair is your responsibility, please contact us and we will be happy to tell you. You must let us know about any repairs that need doing and let us in to do them. We can force entry if we need to do an emergency repair, but we will take reasonable steps to contact you first. 13Making homes, helping people Repairs and improvement Your responsibilities You are responsible for: . repairing damage caused by you, members of your household or visitors, including broken glass . replacing locks and lost keys . replacing doorknobs, letter boxes and so on . replacing broken toilet seats . unblocking sinks, baths and toilets . replacing sink and bath plugs and chains . replacing electrical plugs and fuses . replacing light bulbs and fluorescent strips (except in shared areas like stairwells in blocks of flats) . filling minor cracks in plaster . repairing paths in back gardens . repairing existing fences which you share with neighbours . replacing shared fences with an appropriate alternative when they cannot be repaired . sweeping chimneys . testing smoke alarms in line with manufacturers’ instructions, and replacing their batteries . replacing clothes lines (unless they are shared) . repairing items you have installed yourself . repairing your own electrical appliances . repairing TV aerials (unless they are shared) . doors, handles and hinges inside the property, and cupboard catches . fixtures or fittings you have provided, including extra security measures, and alterations . keeping your home in a good decorative condition and not allowing it to become shabby through deliberate damage or neglect, and . taking reasonable care of all specialist adaptation equipment. 14 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk How do I know my gas boiler is safe? We carry out a free service each year to make sure that gas appliances in your home are safe. It will take around an hour. The engineer will: ¦ service the boiler ¦ check any other gas appliances for safety, and ¦ check any immersion heater for safety. By law, you must allow us into your home to carry out the yearly service or other maintenance on gas appliances and flues. Even if you don’t use gas, but have gas pipes in your property, these have to be checked. This is to make sure you are safe from possible carbon-monoxide poisoning, fire or explosion. If you refuse to allow us in, we may have to force entry or apply to the courts for possession of your home. Any legal costs will be your responsibility. You are also responsible for servicing and safety checks for any gas appliance that you own or have installed yourself. Can you charge me for work you do? If you ask us to do jobs that are your responsibility such as changing locks or replacing glass in windows, we will help if we can. We will charge you the cost of putting right any problems you cause through neglect, misuse or deliberate damage. This could be caused by you, a member of your household, visitors or guests. We may consider replacing glass in windows if it was broken by someone harassing you or vandalising your home and the police have given you a crime reference number. Will you make improvements to my home? We aim to make sure that all our homes are maintained and modernised to a good standard. We have a long-term programme to work our way round all our properties to do the work that is needed. If you would like to know when work is planned for your home, give us a ring. If we are planning work in your home, we will consult you about it and give you at least 25 days’ notice before the work begins. 15Making homes, helping people Repairs and improvement Can I make my own home improvements? Yes. With our written permission you can make certain improvements including fitting a new kitchen, building a patio and putting up a satellite dish. Gas fires and other gas appliances must be fitted and maintained by an engineer who is on the Gas Safe register. Electrical fittings or installations must meet relevant safety regulations. Your tenancy agreement says that before you start this kind of work, you must tell us in writing what you want to do and you must not start work until we have written back to give the go-ahead. In some cases you may also need Building Control or planning permission from your local council. It is your What can I expect from workers? We have a code of conduct that all our contractors sign up to. It sets out what you can expect when they carry out work in your home. You’ll find a summary in our Service Standards leaflet. The main things workers should do are: ¦ keep appointments that they make with you ¦ show identification before entering your home ¦ explain what the work will involve and how long it is expected to take ¦ carry out all work in a professional way and in line with health and safety regulations ¦ make sure that your home is left clean, tidy, safe and free from rubbish at the end of each working day, and ¦ treat you and your family politely and with respect. If you would like to see a copy of the full code of conduct, please call us and we will send a copy to you. Please let us know if any of our contractors don’t come up to the standard you should expect of them. responsibility to find out and get any permission you need before you start. 16 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk 17Making homes, helping people Am I allowed to keep gas canisters or other dangerous substances? Only if you have an oxygen or gas cylinder for health reasons. Please let us know as we have to let the fire and rescue service know about it. We do not allow you to have any other gas or paraffin heaters, flammable liquids or gas cylinders in your home as they are a serious fire risk. If you need more heating, please tell us. Keep clear all stairs, corridors, doorways and landings – don’t block them with bin bags, bikes, pushchairs or pieces of furniture. Fire-safety tips Fit a smoke alarm and test it regularly. We may be able to help if you do not have one. Take care when cooking. Plan an escape route in case there is a fire inside your home. If you live in a block of flats, make sure you know the fire-safety action plan. If you don’t, ask us for details. Check that everything is turned off before you go to bed. Don’t overload sockets. Cigarettes – put them out, right out. Use candles carefully. Ask for a home visit from the fire and rescue service. Is your home gas safe? The gas appliances we provide in your home will be safe as long as you help us keep them that way. We carry out a free service each year using engineers on the Gas Safe register (used to be known as CORGI). We will contact you to arrange an appointment. Please help us to keep you safe by keeping your appointment. See page 15 for more details. If you smell gas: turn off your gas supply immediately do not turn electric switches on or off do not smoke do not use any naked flames, and once the gas has been turned off, open the windows and doors to let in plenty of fresh air. Call National Grid immediately on 0800 111 999. What should I do if I think I have asbestos in my home? It is not always easy to tell if you have asbestos in your home as many building materials used up until the 1990s contained asbestos. These included some bath panels and floor tiles. In most cases asbestos poses a very low risk, but do not disturb or damage anything that you think might be asbestos. As long as it has not cracked, split or flaked, it is best left alone. Always be careful if you are doing any DIY. If you think there is damaged asbestos in your home, please contact us immediately. We will tell you what to do. Safety first 17Making homes, helping people Am I allowed to keep gas canisters or other dangerous substances? Only if you have an oxygen or gas cylinder for health reasons. Please let us know as we have to let the fire and rescue service know about it. We do not allow you to have any other gas or paraffin heaters, flammable liquids or gas cylinders in your home as they are a serious fire risk. If you need more heating, please tell us. Keep clear all stairs, corridors, doorways and landings – don’t block them with bin bags, bikes, pushchairs or pieces of furniture. Fire-safety tips Fit a smoke alarm and test it regularly. We may be able to help if you do not have one. Take care when cooking. Plan an escape route in case there is a fire inside your home. If you live in a block of flats, make sure you know the fire-safety action plan. If you don’t, ask us for details. Check that everything is turned off before you go to bed. Don’t overload sockets. Cigarettes – put them out, right out. Use candles carefully. Ask for a home visit from the fire and rescue service. Is your home gas safe? The gas appliances we provide in your home will be safe as long as you help us keep them that way. We carry out a free service each year using engineers on the Gas Safe register (used to be known as CORGI). We will contact you to arrange an appointment. Please help us to keep you safe by keeping your appointment. See page 15 for more details. If you smell gas: turn off your gas supply immediately do not turn electric switches on or off do not smoke do not use any naked flames, and once the gas has been turned off, open the windows and doors to let in plenty of fresh air. Call National Grid immediately on 0800 111 999. What should I do if I think I have asbestos in my home? It is not always easy to tell if you have asbestos in your home as many building materials used up until the 1990s contained asbestos. These included some bath panels and floor tiles. In most cases asbestos poses a very low risk, but do not disturb or damage anything that you think might be asbestos. As long as it has not cracked, split or flaked, it is best left alone. Always be careful if you are doing any DIY. If you think there is damaged asbestos in your home, please contact us immediately. We will tell you what to do. Safety first Compliments, comments and complaints We want to hear your compliments, comments or complaints about our service. If you want to tell us something about our service, please contact us. We will respond within 10 working days and let you know You can make a compliment, comment or complaint either direct to a member of staff or by contacting us. Our contact details are on the back cover of this handbook. How can I make a suggestion? We want to hear your ideas or comments. There may be something you want from us or need our advice about. You may also have suggestions about ways we can do things better. We will get back to you to offer help if you need it. If you put forward an idea about improving our services, we will consider your suggestion - and let you know what happens. what we plan to do as a result. We want to hear your compliments, comments or complaints about our service. ¦ Compliments - tell us when we get things right and when we should congratulate staff. ¦ Comments - help us with ideas for improving our services. ¦ Complaints - tell us when we are getting things wrong and help us sort them out and make changes for the better. If you want to tell us something about our service, please contact us. We will respond within 10 working days and let you know what we plan to do as a result. How can I say ‘thank you’? Please feel free to compliment us when you have a good experience of one of our services. We will pass on your compliment to the relevant staff members. We may also use it as an example for other staff to learn from. 18 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Who can make a complaint? Anyone can make a complaint to us, including people applying for housing, members of the public and other people on your behalf. What do I do if I am not happy about the service I’ve received? Tell us and we will try and sort it out straight away. If we don’t get it right, we will record your concern as a formal complaint. This means that we will meet with you to agree a course of action and confirm it in writing. You can appeal to senior staff and a complaints panel if we don’t stick to our word. You can make a complaint about anything you are not happy about. This could be: ¦ where we have not done something we promised ¦ where you feel we have been rude or behaved badly, or ¦ where we have not met the standards you expect. If you are not sure what you should expect from us, please see our service standards. These are listed in a separate leaflet and on our website. If your complaint is about one of our staff, a manager or senior member of staff will contact you to discuss it. There are some things that we will aim to deal with outside the complaints procedure. ¦ Complaints about the behaviour of neighbours or other people in your area. We will deal with this as a report of antisocial behaviour (see page 32). ¦ Complaints about things that happened more than six months ago. ¦ A claim for compensation where you are making, or should be making, an insurance claim. ¦ Any matter that is covered by legal action between us. If you need advice, please contact us. We welcome complaints because they help us put things right for you. Your complaint also tells us where things are going wrong, and how we can improve our services. 19Making homes, helping people Compliments, comments and complaints Can I get help to make a complaint? Yes. Please ask a member of staff to help. Or you can ask someone else to make a complaint on your behalf or to represent you. This could be a Support Worker, Citizens Advice, a friend or family member. When we receive a complaint from someone acting on your behalf, we will contact you to check you are happy for them to deal with the complaint on your behalf. What can I do if you cannot sort out my complaint? The independent Housing Ombudsman Service deals with complaints against landlords and agents and other housing disputes. If you have a complaint that you feel we have not dealt with properly, the Ombudsman can give you advice and may be able to take up your case. They can tell us that we have to pay compensation or apologise if our own complaints procedure does not sort out your problem. They normally expect you to have gone through all three stages of our complaints procedure before they get involved. 81 Aldwych London WC2B 4HN Phone: 0300 111 3000 Textphone: 020 7404 7092 Website: www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk Email: info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk If you use Casa Support If you have a complaint about Casa Support, you may be referred to a number of other independent agencies. For details, ask your Support Worker or give us a ring. 20 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Making homes, helping people 21 What difference will it make? We cannot keep improving our services without involving residents at every level and taking action. Staff at all levels of the organisation – from bottom to top – regularly review what customers are telling us about services and we make changes as a result. We aim to let you know what happens through our newsletter, through local meetings and through our Area Panels. We also publish a resident involvement impact assessment every year which gives more detail. Getting involved Getting involved is a great way to meet new people, learn new things and do something worthwhile. You’ll also help your local community - and help us improve our services. This section gives you information on ways you can get involved and how we can support you. What support can you give me? We want everyone to have the chance to get involved. If you come to meetings or events we can help with:  childcare costs  the cost of paying a carer if you need help  the cost of paying a carer to take your place if you look after someone at home, and  travel to and from meetings and events. We also provide training and advice. Some people go to conferences and seminars and report back to local residents. We will agree with you what support you would like and what we can offer. Spring 2010 news&views If you have difficulty in understanding this document or need it in another format, including Braille, large print, audiotape, interpretation, signed interpretation or translation into another language, please contact us. Tel: 0800 121 60 60* or 01795 434 606**Email: contactus@amicushorizon.org.uk *Calls free from a BT landline, charges from mobiles and other networks may vary. **If you are calling from a mobile, it may be cheaper for you to dial 01795 434 606. Calls may be recorded and monitored for quality and training purposes. Out & about Recipe Yummy colcannon WIN Spring wordsearch Win £25 in vouchers Spring 2010 news&views If you have difficulty in understanding this document or need it in another format, including Braille, large print, audiotape, interpretation, signed interpretation or translation into another language, please contact us. Tel: 0800 121 60 60* or 01795 434 606** Email: contactus@amicushorizon.org.uk *Calls free from a BT landline, charges from mobiles and other networks may vary. **If you are calling from a mobile, it may be cheaper for you to dial 01795 434 606. Calls may be recorded and monitored for quality and training purposes. Out & about Recipe Yummy colcannon WIN Spring wordsearch Win £25 in vouchers Spring 2010 news&views If you have difficulty in understanding this document or need it in another format, including Braille, large print, audiotape, interpretation, signed interpretation or translation into another language, please contact us. Tel: 0800 121 60 60* or 01795 434 606**Email: contactus@amicushorizon.org.uk *Calls free from a BT landline, charges from mobiles and other networks may vary. **If you are calling from a mobile, it may be cheaper for you to dial 01795 434 606. Calls may be recorded and monitored for quality and training purposes. Out & about Recipe Yummy colcannon WIN Spring wordsearch Win £25 in vouchers What is the best way for me to get involved? That depends on you! Different types of involvement need different levels of commitment from you. For example, filling in a survey takes 20 minutes. Joining an Area Panel will mean going to at least six meetings a year - and doing background reading as well. We want as many residents as possible to be involved, however much or little time they have. We will always offer training to help you join in with the activities you find most interesting. You’ll find lots more information on our website. But we really want you to contact us – we’ll be happy to help. 22 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Get involved in your neighbourhood Take part in a neighbourhood inspection. Join a residents’ group or association. Become a neighbourhood representative. Get involved in community projects through People for Action (PfA). Volunteer to work with young people or on environmental projects. Join a quality forum and: meet every three months or so choose the forum that suits you (some focus on different service areas – for example repairs or antisocial behaviour, and others bring residents together in a local area), or meet with like-minded residents – for example in some areas we have groups for young or older residents, disabled residents, black and ethnic-minority residents or gypsies and travellers. Become an Area Panel member to: represent residents’ views have a say in how we run our services. Three steps to getting involved 1 Let us know that you are thinking about getting involved. 2 Our Resident Involvement team will talk to you about the different options. 3 We will keep you informed about how you can get involved in the activities that you find interesting. Getting involved Tell us about our services Let us have your comments (you can do this online as well as by e-mail, post or phone). Take part in a survey – about a service you have received or a new service or policy. Become a member of the Your View panel which comments on new policies and strategies. Become a mystery shopper - help us check whether or not we are meeting our service standards. 22 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Get involved in your neighbourhood Take part in a neighbourhood inspection. Join a residents’ group or association. Become a neighbourhood representative. Get involved in community projects through People for Action (PfA). Volunteer to work with young people or on environmental projects. Join a quality forum and: meet every three months or so choose the forum that suits you (some focus on different service areas – for example repairs or antisocial behaviour, and others bring residents together in a local area), or meet with like-minded residents – for example in some areas we have groups for young or older residents, disabled residents, black and ethnic-minority residents or gypsies and travellers. Become an Area Panel member to: represent residents’ views have a say in how we run our services. Three steps to getting involved 1 Let us know that you are thinking about getting involved. 2 Our Resident Involvement team will talk to you about the different options. 3 We will keep you informed about how you can get involved in the activities that you find interesting. Getting involved Tell us about our services Let us have your comments (you can do this online as well as by e-mail, post or phone). Take part in a survey – about a service you have received or a new service or policy. Become a member of the Your View panel which comments on new policies and strategies. Become a mystery shopper - help us check whether or not we are meeting our service standards. 23Making homes, helping people What is our governance structure? Our governance structure is the way the residents and other volunteers oversee what we do by regularly meeting staff and Board members. They do this by joining an Area Panel, the Residents’ Council or the Strategic Board. Area Panels Residents’ Council Strategic Board If you would like to be on an Area Panel, let us know. We will give you more information about how to put your name forward. If you are elected, you must be able to go on training courses and spend time preparing for regular meetings. If you have a disability, we will support you. What they do Represent tenants and leaseholders in the area Influence our decisions Set local priorities Monitor local services Get issues sorted out locally Make decisions and recommendations Increase resident involvement What they are There are nine Panels across Sussex, Kent and London. Each Panel is made up of eight residents and four independent members. The Panels meet about six times a year. What it is Made up of 18 residents – two from each Area Panel. Meets about six times a year. What it does Tells staff and the Board members what tenants and leaseholders are saying Questions decisions made by staff and Board members Monitors our services What it does Sets strategies Makes big decisions Manages the Chief Executive What it is Made up of eight independent experts and four residents. Meets about six times a year. 23Making homes, helping people What is our governance structure? Our governance structure is the way the residents and other volunteers oversee what we do by regularly meeting staff and Board members. They do this by joining an Area Panel, the Residents’ Council or the Strategic Board. Area Panels Residents’ Council Strategic Board If you would like to be on an Area Panel, let us know. We will give you more information about how to put your name forward. If you are elected, you must be able to go on training courses and spend time preparing for regular meetings. If you have a disability, we will support you. What they do Represent tenants and leaseholders in the area Influence our decisions Set local priorities Monitor local services Get issues sorted out locally Make decisions and recommendations Increase resident involvement What they are There are nine Panels across Sussex, Kent and London. Each Panel is made up of eight residents and four independent members. The Panels meet about six times a year. What it is Made up of 18 residents – two from each Area Panel. Meets about six times a year. What it does Tells staff and the Board members what tenants and leaseholders are saying Questions decisions made by staff and Board members Monitors our services What it does Sets strategies Makes big decisions Manages the Chief Executive What it is Made up of eight independent experts and four residents. Meets about six times a year. 24 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk How can I be a good neighbour? Get to know your neighbours. Try and be considerate. Keep the noise down – especially late at night and early in the morning. Let them know if you are planning a party or noisy DIY. Be a responsible pet owner. If you are a dog owner, make sure your dog does not bark or whine and annoy your neighbours. If you have children, make sure that they do not cause a nuisance when playing outside. Make sure that your visitors come and go quietly without annoying neighbours. Remember that your tenancy agreement makes you responsible for all members of your household – and your visitors. See page 32 for advice on what to do if you have a nuisance neighbour. In and around your home We are all entitled to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of our homes. This section tells you what you need to know about living in your home and neighbourhood. Can I keep a pet? If you are thinking about getting a pet, please check your tenancy agreement – it will tell you if you need to get permission from us. If you have a pet that causes a nuisance, you will not be allowed to keep it. It is an offence to keep dangerous dogs or other animals. If we have agreed that you can keep a dog, you must keep it under control and clear up after it on walks. One reason for this is that dog mess contains a bacteria which can cause blindness. If you let your dog foul the area, you can be fined up to £1000 by your local council. We will also withdraw your permission to keep your dog and can take action to have you evicted. If you have visitors with dogs, please encourage them to keep them under control. If you see anyone allowing their dog to foul your area, please contact your local council and let us know as well. 24 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk How can I be a good neighbour? Get to know your neighbours. Try and be considerate. Keep the noise down – especially late at night and early in the morning. Let them know if you are planning a party or noisy DIY. Be a responsible pet owner. If you are a dog owner, make sure your dog does not bark or whine and annoy your neighbours. If you have children, make sure that they do not cause a nuisance when playing outside. Make sure that your visitors come and go quietly without annoying neighbours. Remember that your tenancy agreement makes you responsible for all members of your household – and your visitors. See page 32 for advice on what to do if you have a nuisance neighbour. In and around your home We are all entitled to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of our homes. This section tells you what you need to know about living in your home and neighbourhood. Can I keep a pet? If you are thinking about getting a pet, please check your tenancy agreement – it will tell you if you need to get permission from us. If you have a pet that causes a nuisance, you will not be allowed to keep it. It is an offence to keep dangerous dogs or other animals. If we have agreed that you can keep a dog, you must keep it under control and clear up after it on walks. One reason for this is that dog mess contains a bacteria which can cause blindness. If you let your dog foul the area, you can be fined up to £1000 by your local council. We will also withdraw your permission to keep your dog and can take action to have you evicted. If you have visitors with dogs, please encourage them to keep them under control. If you see anyone allowing their dog to foul your area, please contact your local council and let us know as well. If you live in a block of flats Who is responsible for shared entrances? If you share an entrance hall, stairs, rubbish areas, walkways or paths with other residents, you share responsibility for keeping them clean and clear. In some blocks of flats, we provide a cleaning service to shared areas which you pay for through a service charge. There should be a list in your entrance hall saying what cleaning should be done. It will usually include: ¦ window cleaning to shared windows ¦ dusting handrails and sills ¦ sweeping and mopping floor areas. We carry out regular checks to make sure the cleaning is being done properly. Let us know if there is a problem. How do I know I am safe in my block of flats? A door-entry system may be fitted to your block of flats. This helps to keep you and your neighbours safe. It also helps to prevent vandalism by keeping strangers out. Always make sure the main door is closed when you are coming and going. Never let anyone in unless you know they are entitled to be in the building. If you see anyone vandalising property, contact the police immediately. We work closely with the fire and rescue service. We carry out fire risk assessments in all our blocks of flats and take action to keep them safe and free from fire dangers. Smoking is not allowed in shared areas, including lifts and corridors. If there is a fire in your block of flats, please follow the fire-safety plan. Please check with us if you do not know what the plan is. Keep all stairs, corridors, doorways and landings clear – don’t block them with bin bags, bikes, pushchairs or pieces of furniture. 25Making homes, helping people In and around your home Can I have a mobility scooter? Scooters can be a real lifeline, but very few buildings were designed with them in mind. If you are not sure about getting a scooter, please talk to us and we will try and find a solution. Please do not leave your scooter in a shared area unless we have given you written permission. What about collecting rubbish and recycling? Different areas have different arrangements for collecting rubbish and recycling. Your local council can give you details. If you have large items or furniture that you do not need, there may be a local recycling project or your local council may be able to help. Or you can contact us for advice. How do I report litter or dumped rubbish? Contact us and we will work with your local council to sort the problem out. We may charge you for clearing up any rubbish you dump. When we have to pay to clear rubbish that is dumped on our estates, we may have to pass the cost on to all tenants through a service charge. There are fines of up to £10,000 for people caught dumping rubbish so it’s important to contact us. If you are going away If you leave your home for more than a few days, such as going on holiday, please remember to: ¦ turn off the water mains stop tap (this could prevent flooding while you are away), and ¦ save money by turning your heating off or down. If you plan to leave your home for more than six weeks, you must let us know in writing. If we think you have abandoned the property, we may begin proceedings to take back your home. Who is responsible for my gas, electric and water bills? You are, unless you live in a block of flats which has a shared heating system. Before you move in to your home, we will test your gas and electric installations. You must arrange your own gas, electric and water supplies and pay all charges. Each property now has an energy performance certificate which shows whether your bills are likely to be low or high. If you live in a block of flats, you will pay through a service charge for some shared costs, such as: ¦ electricity and gas for lighting and heating shared hallways and stairs ¦ running costs of shared lounges, kitchens and laundry rooms in some housing schemes for older people, and ¦ heating in your flat if there is a shared heating system. 26 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk How do I get connected for TV, phones and the internet? You will need to make arrangements with telephone and internet service providers to get existing phone lines connected – or to install a line if there is not one already. If you live in a house, you are responsible for providing your own TV aerial. If you live in a block of flats, there may be a shared TV aerial that you can connect to. You must get written permission from us before you get a satellite dish installed. In some areas you may also need to get permission from your local council. You must have a TV licence if you watch or record television programmes. You need to renew your TV licence each year. What is council tax? Council tax pays for local council, police and fire services. You are responsible for the council tax on your home. Please contact your local council to confirm your address and to see if you are eligible for a discount. How do I register to vote? To vote in an election, you must register your name and address with your local council. Do I need insurance? We strongly recommend that you arrange your own home contents insurance policy. This insures your furniture and belongings against fire, theft, vandalism or water damage. We do insure all our properties for their full replacement value and also hold an indemnity policy to protect us from claims from other people. This insurance does not cover the cost of damage to your own belongings. Who is responsible for my neighbourhood? We may be responsible for some of the paths, grassed areas, street lights and roads on our estates. It does depend on the area, so if you are in doubt about who is responsible, contact us and we will see how we can help. Where can my children play? We provide some equipped play areas, but we believe that children need to be able to safely run around and play in their neighbourhood. We know that in some areas this can lead to conflict between older and younger residents, and we will do what we can to sort this out. We regularly inspect our equipped play areas and have a programme for replacing and updating them. Please let us know straight away if your local play area is damaged. Our People for Action (PfA) community development team support youth activities in many areas, and if you would like to get involved, we will be happy to tell you more. 27Making homes, helping people In and around your home Who does the gardening? If you have your own garden, you must keep it neat, tidy and clear of rubbish. If you cannot manage your garden and you do not have anyone to help you, please let us know. In some areas, we may be able to put your name forward to receive help. Around some blocks of flats where gardens are shared, we provide a gardening service which tenants pay for through a service charge that is added to the rent. If you do not pay a service charge, you share responsibility with other residents for keeping the gardens neat, tidy and clear of rubbish. What about trees? You may be responsible for trees and shrubs in your garden - please check your tenancy agreement for details. Please don’t plant trees close to buildings as the roots may cause damage or subsidence. If you feel that a tree or bushes in your area are dangerous or need trimming, please let us know. We will contact your local council if it is not our responsibility. Where can I park? Parking can cause neighbourhood problems, so please be considerate and follow this advice: Only park on the street or in proper parking spaces – not on grass areas, paths or verges. In some areas there are street-parking restrictions and you may need to apply to your local council for a parking permit. If you have a severe problem walking, you may qualify for the Blue Badge Scheme. Contact your local council for details. You must not park cars, commercial vehicles, caravans, boats or trailers in your garden or on our land without our written permission. We may arrange for vehicles that are untaxed or appear abandoned to be taken away to be scrapped. There may be some garages in your area for rent – please contact us to find out. How do I report graffiti and vandalism? Contact us. We will remove all graffiti on our property as soon as possible after we have been told about it. We will give priority to removing racist, sexist or other particularly offensive graffiti. We aim to remove this type of graffiti within 24 hours of it being reported. We take action where we can against people who cause damage. 28 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk What will you do to improve my neighbourhood? Creating places where residents can enjoy a great quality of life can be more than just about the local environment. Our staff and People for Action (PfA) teams work closely with residents and other organisations to improve our neighbourhoods. This can mean: supporting residents and community groups supporting community centres helping develop youth activities working with the police, social services and voluntary organisations supporting learning, training and employment projects setting up local lettings schemes or other housing initiatives, and regeneration and redevelopment schemes. We target our action on neighbourhoods that are most in need. We put together plans and projects after consulting local residents and partner organisations. What are neighbourhood inspections? Every three months, residents can get together with their Housing Officer to carry out a neighbourhood inspection in estate areas. We would like you to come on these walkabouts to make sure we know about problems and check that we are taking action. During each walkabout we give a score to every aspect of the area. Our senior managers and the Area Panels will review these scores. Some of the problems on estates are the responsibility of a local council or another landlord. We will report any problems to them and they will take further action if necessary. We publish the dates of inspections in the newsletter – or just give us a ring and we will give you all the details. Have a good idea about how to improve the area you live in? Skate ramp Community garden Better lighting Alley gates and other security measures Tree planting Sculpture or art project Park bench Fencing Anything else? If you have an idea to make your area a better place to live, please tell us. Your Area Panel has a budget for improvements – so we may be able to turn your idea into reality. What will you do to improve my neighbourhood? Creating places where residents can enjoy a great quality of life can be more than just about the local environment. Our staff and People for Action (PfA) teams work closely with residents and other organisations to improve our neighbourhoods. This can mean: supporting residents and community groups supporting community centres helping develop youth activities working with the police, social services and voluntary organisations supporting learning, training and employment projects setting up local lettings schemes or other housing initiatives, and regeneration and redevelopment schemes. We target our action on neighbourhoods that are most in need. We put together plans and projects after consulting local residents and partner organisations. What are neighbourhood inspections? Every three months, residents can get together with their Housing Officer to carry out a neighbourhood inspection in estate areas. We would like you to come on these walkabouts to make sure we know about problems and check that we are taking action. During each walkabout we give a score to every aspect of the area. Our senior managers and the Area Panels will review these scores. Some of the problems on estates are the responsibility of a local council or another landlord. We will report any problems to them and they will take further action if necessary. We publish the dates of inspections in the newsletter – or just give us a ring and we will give you all the details. Have a good idea about how to improve the area you live in? Skate ramp Community garden Better lighting Alley gates and other security measures Tree planting Sculpture or art project Park bench Fencing Anything else? If you have an idea to make your area a better place to live, please tell us. Your Area Panel has a budget for improvements – so we may be able to turn your idea into reality. 29Making homes, helping people Supporting you This section tells you more about how we can help if you are disabled or need support. Call us and see what we can do to help. Can I move to a sheltered scheme? If you are getting older and would like your own self-contained flat in a retirement scheme, we can help. Our sheltered housing schemes offer peace of mind in quiet and pleasant surroundings. Most schemes have a Lifeline system in each flat, and Support Workers visit many schemes. Housing staff also visit for regular coffee mornings or meetings. There may be social activities for those who want to join in. We can help with the whole process of moving if you want. If you give up a large house, you may even qualify for an incentive payment. Is there someone I can call for help or support? There may be. ¦ In some areas we can put people forward to receive support in their home. Support Workers can help with everyday problems such as money worries, or getting medical help or personal care. ¦ Lifeline services in some areas provide special phones with alarm pendants. These give peace of mind to people who are worried about their health or safety at home. These services, and who provides them, vary from area to area. Just ask us and we will tell you if there is help you can get. 30 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk How do I get aids or adaptations fitted in my home? If you or a member of your household is ill or has a disability, we will try to help you to stay comfortably in your home. We may be able to install grab rails, handrails, lever taps, banisters, window-winders or other minor adaptations within a couple of weeks at no cost to you. We may also be able to help with grants to pay for bigger items such as a walk-in shower, ramps or in some cases even a stairlift. Contact us and we will be happy to help. How do I get aids or adaptations fitted in my home? If you or a member of your household is ill or has a disability, we will try to help you to stay comfortably in your home. We may be able to install grab rails, handrails, lever taps, banisters, window-winders or other minor adaptations within a couple of weeks at no cost to you. We may also be able to help with grants to pay for bigger items such as a walk-in shower, ramps or in some cases even a stairlift. Contact us and we will be happy to help. How do I get involved? We want disabled residents of all ages to get involved, as you can help us make our services accessible to everyone. For example, we will help with carers’ costs or transport to and from meetings, which we hold in accessible venues. If meetings aren’t your thing, you can give us your views by phone, post or email. One of our Resident Involvement staff will be happy to talk through the options. Is decorating or gardening too much for you? Let us know. In some areas, we may be able to put your name forward to receive help. 31Making homes, helping people 32 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Antisocial behaviour Preventing and tackling antisocial behaviour is a priority for us. This section tells you what to do if you have a nuisance neighbour, or if you suffer harassment or domestic abuse. We publish a separate antisocial behaviour statement and have policies which go into more detail. How do I get help? Contact us in any way. Our contact details are on the back cover of this handbook. What is antisocial behaviour? Antisocial behaviour can involve: intimidation and harassment violence or threats of violence noise nuisance such as loud music or shouting late at night rowdy, loutish behaviour and drunkenness dealing or taking drugs hate crime – targeting people because of their ethnic background, sexuality or religion domestic abuse or violence from a partner, parents or children nuisance caused by dogs and other pets graffiti vandalism dumping rubbish abandoned vehicles, and other behaviour that causes problems. 32 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Antisocial behaviour Preventing and tackling antisocial behaviour is a priority for us. This section tells you what to do if you have a nuisance neighbour, or if you suffer harassment or domestic abuse. We publish a separate antisocial behaviour statement and have policies which go into more detail. How do I get help? Contact us in any way. Our contact details are on the back cover of this handbook. What is antisocial behaviour? Antisocial behaviour can involve: intimidation and harassment violence or threats of violence noise nuisance such as loud music or shouting late at night rowdy, loutish behaviour and drunkenness dealing or taking drugs hate crime – targeting people because of their ethnic background, sexuality or religion domestic abuse or violence from a partner, parents or children nuisance caused by dogs and other pets graffiti vandalism dumping rubbish abandoned vehicles, and other behaviour that causes problems. What should I do if my neighbour is causing problems? You may be able to solve the problem yourself by talking to your neighbour. See if you can find a way to sort the problem out – for example agreeing times when children can play. Try not to shout or lose your temper with your neighbour as this can make the situation worse and could lead to action being taken against you. Try to think how you would like to be spoken to if you were in the wrong. If the problem is serious, contact us for help. If you think you are in immediate danger, contact the police. What action will you take? Except in very serious cases, our starting point is to see if we can help sort things out without legal action. For example, we can refer people to mediation or send warning letters. Mediation is where an independent person helps both sides discuss the problem. It is free and often helps sort the problem out. We will discuss all options and work with you to decide which action is best to take. We will investigate the case, including talking to the people you have said are causing the problem. We will take the best course of action we can using the information we have. What if my problem is more serious? If you are a victim of crime or serious antisocial behaviour, such as racial harassment, we may be able to take legal action straight away. There are a number of types of legal action we can take, where we have clear evidence to show a court that there is a serious problem. We will discuss, with you, referring the case to the police where a crime has been committed. If you want to take legal action yourself, we can support you. 33Making homes, helping people Antisocial behaviour What if I am suffering from abuse from someone in my home? Domestic abuse means threats or acts of harassment or assault by someone living with you. It can also include mental, physical or sexual abuse. If you are a victim, don’t suffer in silence. Domestic abuse is a crime and we will support you. Please contact us straight away. What can I do if I am being harassed because of my race, nationality, religion, sex or sexual identity or disability? Can you move me away? We aim to sort out cases and keep you in your home. In very serious cases, the courts may allow us to evict the person causing the problem. However, we will consider moving you to a new property if you want to move and there is a serious threat to your safety. 34 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk You can find our antisocial behaviour statement and other policies on our website, or contact us and we will be happy to give you a copy. Hate crime includes: ¦ physical attacks which can include physical assault, damage to property, offensive graffiti, neighbour disputes and arson ¦ threat of attack, which includes offensive letters, abusive or obscene phone calls, groups hanging around to intimidate and unfounded, malicious complaints, and ¦ verbal abuse or insults. For example, offensive leaflets and posters, abusive gestures, dumping rubbish outside homes or through letter boxes, and bullying at school or in the workplace. We will not accept any form of hate crime and take reports of it very seriously. Please contact us straight away. Moving home This section tells you what your options are for moving and how to end your tenancy. How do I end my tenancy? If you need to move out: ¦ depending on the type of tenancy you have, you have to write to us giving 28 days’ notice of the date you want your tenancy to end and tell us where you are moving to ¦ we will write back to you to confirm the date the tenancy will end (this will normally be a Sunday) ¦ you must pay your rent up to the date your tenancy ends, even if you move out before then, and ¦ you must pay off any rent arrears that you may have. You must return your keys to us before 12 noon on the Monday that your tenancy ends. If you do not, we will continue to charge you the full rent. If I move out, what must I do? You are responsible for clearing your home, removing any rubbish and leaving the home in a reasonably decorated and clean condition. You must not remove any fixtures or fittings. We will expect you to restore any original fixtures and fittings that you have removed without our permission. If we have to remove rubbish, or carry out repairs or replacements, we will charge you the cost. You must also remove all your belongings from your home. If you do not, we will charge you for clearing them and we will destroy them. You may be entitled to compensation if you have made improvements to your home with our written permission. We will be happy to advise you on this. 35Making homes, helping people Moving home How do I swap my home with another tenant? A ‘mutual exchange’ is when you swap your home with another tenant. You have the right to carry out a mutual exchange unless you have: ¦ a starter tenancy ¦ an assured shorthold tenancy ¦ a demoted tenancy ¦ a non-secure tenancy, such as a tenancy with Avenue, or ¦ a legal notice or court order for your rent arrears or antisocial behaviour. Both tenants who want to swap must have our approval. We usually agree to the exchange, but if we do say ‘no’, we will write to you within 28 working days of your request to tell you why. If you need advice, please contact us and we will be happy to help. Can you move me to a new home? You may need a new home because you have a disability or medical problem or you are a victim of serious antisocial behaviour. If this is the case, let us know straight away. If there is a very serious threat to your health or safety, we may be able to help you transfer to an empty property or – in an emergency – to temporary accommodation arranged with your local council. If you live in an area where there is a ‘choice-based lettings’ scheme (see below), the first step is to register. We understand how upsetting this situation can be, and we will be happy to help and advise throughout the process. There is a national scheme called Homeswapper for tenants across the country who want to do an exchange. You can register with the scheme and look at properties on the website at www.homeswapper.co.uk. We are registered on the scheme so it is free to join if you are one of our residents. 36 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk What is a ‘choice-based lettings’ scheme? Kent Homechoice and Sussex Homemove are examples of ‘choice-based lettings’ schemes. There are also schemes in London. They have replaced the old council ‘waiting lists’. If you would like more information about your local scheme, please contact us – we can help. Your checklist when you move to a new AmicusHorizon home If you move through exchange or transfer, you are responsible for checking the condition of your new home. You must be sure the property is at a standard that you are happy to move into and live in. If the property needs decorating or has any small repairs that need to be done, these will be your responsibility unless we have transferred you without you asking us to. If we inspect the property and find damage caused by anything other than general wear and tear, we will charge you, and not the previous occupier, for the costs. What are the advantages and disadvantages of private renting? Renting from a private landlord would give you more choice about where you want to live and what type of property you live in. You will probably have to pay a deposit and the first month’s rent upfront. Your tenancy will probably be an assured shorthold tenancy, which does not give you long-term security. Also, if you decided you wanted to come back to us, you would need to apply again through your local choice-based lettings scheme or your local council as a homeseeker. Avenue is part of AmicusHorizon. They manage properties on behalf of private landlords. If you decide you want to rent privately, they may be able to help. If you decide to move out and rent privately, think carefully about your rights. We suggest you get advice from Shelter, another advice agency, or your local council. Can I buy my home? If you were originally a tenant of Swale Borough Council, Rother District Council, Hastings Borough Council or Lansdowne Green, you may have the legal ‘right to buy’. This means that you can buy your home at a discount. If you are a new tenant, you do not have this right. But you may have the legal ‘right to acquire’ your home. This means that you may be able to buy it but will not get a discount. In some areas ‘shared ownership’ or other schemes may also be available. Our Shared Horizons team will be pleased to tell you about all the options. 37Making homes, helping people Confidentiality We keep safe the information we hold about you. This section explains more about how we store information, and your right to know what information we hold. What kind of information do you hold about me? Our computer system includes personal details such as your name and date of birth. It also includes information such as: ¦ details of rent payments you have made ¦ notes of the times you have contacted us and the reasons why ¦ details if you have been the victim or have been accused of antisocial behaviour ¦ information such as your communication needs, disability and ethnic background, if you have given it to us, and ¦ copies of letters and emails. If you have been our resident for quite some time, there may be a ‘paper’ file including copies of letters and other documents. We have scanned these and they are also on our computer system. Is your computer system secure? Our computer systems have security systems that protect them from being ‘broken into’ by anybody outside the organisation. We tell staff not to store confidential information on disks, memory sticks or laptops that are taken out of the office. Why do I have to answer security questions when I phone up? Most of our residents contact us by phone, and we need to make sure that callers are who they say they are. When you phone or visit us, we may need to ask you to give a password or answer security questions about yourself. We will do this before we release any confidential information to you. This applies to anyone you ask to talk to us on your behalf. 38 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Is the information you hold confidential? Only staff who need to see information about you can do so. Sometimes we need to work closely with other organisations such as local councils, social services and the police. We have rules in place that say what information we can share. Serious complaints against us are reviewed by Area Panel or Board members. If this is the case, the evidence they look at may include personal information. They are bound by a strict code of conduct. Can someone else talk to you for me? Yes. We can discuss your personal affairs with any person you ask to act on your behalf. We will normally ask you both to sign a simple agreement that confirms this. Is the information you hold confidential? Only staff who need to see information about you can do so. Sometimes we need to work closely with other organisations such as local councils, social services and the police. We have rules in place that say what information we can share. Serious complaints against us are reviewed by Area Panel or Board members. If this is the case, the evidence they look at may include personal information. They are bound by a strict code of conduct. Can someone else talk to you for me? Yes. We can discuss your personal affairs with any person you ask to act on your behalf. We will normally ask you both to sign a simple agreement that confirms this. Why do you ask me for information about my background and beliefs? We carry out our own ‘census’ which means we may ask you to give us details of your ethnic background, religion, sexuality or other sensitive information. We use this to analyse who is using our services and work out whether we can provide different or better services to fit the needs of our residents. You do not have to give us this information. Can I ask to have copies of information you hold about me? You have the right to ask us to give you copies of information held about you. We will do this within 40 days. There will be a £10 fee. You can make your request by letter or email, clearly explaining or listing the information you want. Unless they give their permission, we cannot give you information about other people or from other organisations – even if they have complained about you. 39Making homes, helping people 40 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk More about us Our business is made up of around 800 staff based across London and Surrey, Kent and Sussex. Our head office is at Croydon, and our other main offices are in Sittingbourne, Hastings and Battle. Our Chief Executive reports to a Strategic Board. The Strategic Board is led by our chairman, Lord Charles Falconer. The Board is made up of four residents and eight independent members. The independent members have backgrounds in legal services, accountancy, housing, human resources, government, housing development and general business services. The Strategic Board decides what we do. Residents help make decisions in nine Area Panels, and a Residents’ Council advises the Strategic Board. You can find out more about how residents get involved on page 21. Registered office Grosvenor House 125 High Street Croydon Surrey CR0 9XP As well as managing and maintaining homes, through our Homes and Communities and Asset Management teams, we provide other services. Response is the first point of contact for all our residents. Response is our customer service centre. We handle more than 50,000 calls each month. The centre brings together the highest levels of technology and customer service to provide a fast, professional and efficient service. It is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, reflecting our belief that quality customer service should not stop out of office hours. We sort out many of our callers’ questions or requests at the first point of contact. Response also handle calls on behalf of other organisations that want to provide a great service to their customers. We are a housing association providing affordable housing in the south-east of England. We own and manage 28,000 homes and provide a wide range of services. 40 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk More about us Our business is made up of around 800 staff based across London and Surrey, Kent and Sussex. Our head office is at Croydon, and our other main offices are in Sittingbourne, Hastings and Battle. Our Chief Executive reports to a Strategic Board. The Strategic Board is led by our chairman, Lord Charles Falconer. The Board is made up of four residents and eight independent members. The independent members have backgrounds in legal services, accountancy, housing, human resources, government, housing development and general business services. The Strategic Board decides what we do. Residents help make decisions in nine Area Panels, and a Residents’ Council advises the Strategic Board. You can find out more about how residents get involved on page 21. Registered office Grosvenor House 125 High Street Croydon Surrey CR0 9XP As well as managing and maintaining homes, through our Homes and Communities and Asset Management teams, we provide other services. Response is the first point of contact for all our residents. Response is our customer service centre. We handle more than 50,000 calls each month. The centre brings together the highest levels of technology and customer service to provide a fast, professional and efficient service. It is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, reflecting our belief that quality customer service should not stop out of office hours. We sort out many of our callers’ questions or requests at the first point of contact. Response also handle calls on behalf of other organisations that want to provide a great service to their customers. We are a housing association providing affordable housing in the south-east of England. We own and manage 28,000 homes and provide a wide range of services. A helping hand when you need it. Casa Support staff provide extra support to residents living in some areas. They can refer you to agencies such as social services. They will review your needs and, if you are eligible for support, agree a support plan with you and send you a handbook which will explain everything. Can one of our community projects help you? Our teams of community workers, support volunteers and community groups in neighbourhoods across London and the south east. Our aim is to build communities in which people can live happily and successfully. We have great experience in: creating opportunities for young people promoting learning, skills and development supporting parents with young children respecting the community supporting older people, and supporting people with disabilities. If you want to improve your local community, we want to hear from you - wherever you live. Specialists in managing property At Avenue we manage homes on behalf of private landlords. In some areas we provide temporary homes for people who otherwise would be homeless. If you have friends or relatives who are finding it difficult to get a housing-association home, Avenue may be able to help. 41Making homes, helping people More about us Helping people in London and the south east to own their home Shared Horizons, a part of AmicusHorizon, helps people into home ownership through part-buy, part-rent shared ownership. We try to provide as many high-quality homes as we can. We also help people buy their homes through the Right to Buy and Right to Acquire schemes (see page 37). In some areas we have a range of new and refurbished homes to let at affordable rents and for sale at low cost. Fresh Visions is a registered charity that has one simple aim – to support disadvantaged individuals and communities throughout London and the South East. Working closely with the Community Our work with people and communities throughout Kent, Sussex and South Development team, we support projects London sees us involved in all kinds of that work to promote: activities, from reusing furniture to urban ¦ community involvement dance workshops. We also join forces with ¦ new ideas, and many local organisations to share expertise and reach more people. ¦ the environment and long-term solutions which do not have a negative If you have an idea you think we can help effect on future generations. you with, let us know. 42 Telephone: 0800 121 60 60 or 01795 434 606 Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Your home checklist My Area Manager is: .......................................................... My Housing Officer is: ....................................................... Where the electricity meter is........................................... Where the fuse box is ........................................................ Where the gas meter is...................................................... Where the water meter is .................................................. (not all homes have meters) Where the water stopcock is ............................................ Day the rubbish is collected.............................................. Recycling collection day ................................................... Notes ................................................................................... ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. Your home checklist My Area Manager is: .......................................................... My Housing Officer is: ....................................................... Where the electricity meter is........................................... Where the fuse box is ........................................................ Where the gas meter is...................................................... Where the water meter is .................................................. (not all homes have meters) Where the water stopcock is ............................................ Day the rubbish is collected.............................................. Recycling collection day ................................................... Notes ................................................................................... ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. 43Making homes, helping people How to contact us Contact numbers: 0800 121 60 60 (calls are free from a BT landline) 01795 434 606 (This number may be cheaper than the number above if you call on a mobile phone.) Repairs hotline for Avenue residents: 0845 064 4000 (calls charged at a local rate from a BT landline) We may record and monitor calls for quality and training purposes. Website: www.amicushorizon.org.uk Email: contactus@amicushorizon.org.uk Fax: 01795 434 344 Post: AmicusHorizon PO Box 322 Sittingbourne Kent ME9 8PQ This handbook gives you general advice about your home and tenancy. We have done our best to make sure all the details are correct for all residents. However, your tenancy agreement may say something slightly different. If this is the case, the information in your tenancy agreement will apply. Thanks to the members of our resident editorial panels who helped us write this handbook. Making homes, helping people