Make a payment
All you need to know about rents and service charges including what they're for and how they're calculated
- Service charges
What is my rent used for?
Your rent is used to manage, maintain and improve your home, strengthen your community and help fund the building of new homes.
How is my rent charged?
Your rent is charged on a weekly basis and is due weekly in advance.
This year payments are due from 3 April 2023 to 31 March 2024
If you choose to pay fortnightly, your payment will need to cover the current week and week following. You can also pay monthly in advance. We check your account at the end of each week.
What are the dates for the rent year?
Our rent year runs from 3 April 2023 to 31 March 2024.
There will be 52 weeks during this period.
How many rent payments are there in the year?
If you pay weekly, we ask you to pay your rent for the whole year over 50 weeks so that you will have two rent-free weeks.
If you pay your rent by monthly Direct Debit your rent for the year is paid in 12 equal instalments.
However you pay, the total for the year will be the same.
When are the rent-free weeks?
The ‘rent-free weeks’ will be the weeks starting 25 December 2023 and 25 March 2024.
Will I still get my free week if my rent account is in arrears?
If you are in arrears, have a court order or have another arrangement in place to clear arrears, you will still be expected to make payments during the rent-free weeks.
When a property is first let, how does PCH set the rent?
When PCH sets the rent for your home it will either be set at a 'social rent' or at an 'affordable rent'. Affordable rents are set higher than social rents.
What is a social rent?
A social rent is based on a Government formula which takes into account the number of bedrooms, together with local wages and the open market value of the property.
PCH social rents are about 50% cheaper than renting the same property from a private landlord.
What is an affordable rent?
An affordable rent is higher than social rent and is usually charged on properties developed since 2010, but is still around 20% to 30% cheaper than renting from a private landlord.
We set our affordable rents using Government guidance which says they can be charged at up to 80% of the rent for equivalent property let by a landlord in the private market (inclusive of any service charges).
Why is my rent going up?
Like all social landlords, we follow the Government’s guidance on the rents we charge each year.
Our social rents are amongst the lowest in the country and although any increase is difficult, PCH works hard to make sure they remain affordable for local people.
From April 2023, we will be increasing most of our rents by 7% following the Government’s guidance for social landlords.
Normally rents would have gone up by the rate of inflation plus 1%, so rent increases would have been 11.1% higher.
However, this year the Government has capped the rent increase at 7% to help residents facing increased cost of living pressures.
We need to charge an increased rent to help us meet the increased costs involved in keeping our homes in good repair, making any necessary improvements, and building more affordable homes, so that we can meet the needs of local people both now and in the future.
We know that your home is important to you, and we make sure that your rent goes back into providing good quality affordable housing and supporting the communities we work within.
You have told me my rent is changing from an affordable rent to a social rent, what does this mean?
Over the last 10 years, most of our older homes built before 2010 have been relet at an affordable rent. A small proportion of this rent contributes money to help support PCH in building much needed new homes for rent.
Affordable rents are higher than the equivalent social rent for the property with the additional rent being used to help fund building for new homes.
Over the last 3 years we have been steadily reducing this type of affordable rent as the amount of money the Government has allowed us to raise to build new homes will be met by March 2023.
As a result, if you were being charged an affordable rent for a home like this, we will automatically move your rent to the equivalent social rent for the property.
This will either be lower than you are paying now, or your rent will increase at a lower percentage than the 7% increase set by Government and applied to most of our other residents.
This also means you will be charged separately for service charges (where applicable) which can go up or down depending on the actual and estimated costs.
Up until now you may have experienced up to three years of annual reductions in your rent as outlined above.
From next April 2024, your rent will be subject to an annual increase within the guidance set by the Government, and this will be subject to approval by PCH’s Board.
What if I fall behind with my rent or service charges?
We understand that you might be worried about your rent, especially with the cost-of-living pressures at the moment.
Residents still need to continue paying their rent, but if you’re struggling, it’s important that you let us know as soon as possible so we can try to help.
The sooner we know, the sooner we can work to find a solution for you.
If you need help, please contact the Income Recovery and Financial Inclusion Team as soon as possible on Freephone 0800 028 0350 or (01752) 388121.
Money worries, especially debt, can have longstanding effects on your health, as well as having wider implications for you and your family. We work with several agencies that can help you resolve your problems in complete confidence.
Our teams can also help with applications for benefits, advice on Government support available to help with cost-of-living rises and energy costs, and other financial aid that you may qualify for, as well as debt advice.
Last year we supported hundreds of people to resolve their debt problems, access benefits they were entitled to, or source financial support.
If you are worrying about money and paying your rent, please contact us as soon as possible.
How can I get help with my rent and service charges?
If you have a low income and do not get any help to pay your rent at present, you may be entitled to Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.
If you are of pension age and would like to make an application for Housing Benefit you can do this online at https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/benefitsandgrants/housingbenefit or by contacting Plymouth City Council on 01752 668000 or by speaking to our Income Recovery and Financial Inclusion Team on Freephone 0800 028 0350 or (01752) 388121.
If you are of working age you will need to apply for Universal Credit which replaces a range of working age benefits and Tax Credits to simplify the system and make work pay. To find out if you can make a claim, and for the latest information, visit, www.gov.uk/universal-credit or speak to our Income Recovery and Financial Inclusion Team on Freephone 0800 028 0350 or (01752) 388121.
I am receiving Housing Benefit. Do I need to reapply?
If you receive housing benefit now, you do not need to reapply.
You will receive a letter from the Housing Benefit Office that will tell you your new benefit entitlement and the revised amount you should pay each week.
If you receive housing benefit now and live outside of Plymouth, you do not need to reapply but you do need to let your local Housing Benefit Office know how much your new rent is going to be.
They will then let you know your new benefit entitlement and the revised amount you should pay each week.
Before receiving Universal Credit.
If you start claiming Universal Credit there will be a delay of around a month before your regular payments arrive, known as the waiting period - as Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears. We advise keeping 4 weeks' rent credit on your rent account to provide a financial cushion.
I am receiving Universal Credit. Do I need to reapply?
If you receive Universal Credit and there are any changes to your rent or service charges you need to report this change to the Department of Work and Pensions by logging onto your Universal Credit journal.
In April 2023, the DWP should put a 'to do' note on your journal asking you to update your housing costs.
This must be done before the end of your assessment period in which the change has occurred. If you do not have an update on your journal, you still need to tell the DWP your new housing costs, but you should not do this until 3 April 2023, or as soon after as possible.
Please report this change to the DWP on, or as soon after the 3 April 2023 as possible.
Paying By Direct Debit
Direct Debit is the best way to pay your rent.
Direct Debit is safe and easy which is why many our residents now choose to pay this way. If you set up a Direct Debit you are protected by the Direct Debit Guarantee. You can pay weekly, fortnightly, four weekly or monthly on any date you choose.
These payments should be made in advance in line with the terms of your tenancy agreement.
For more information or to set up a Direct Debit, contact us on Freephone 0800 028 0350 or (01752) 388121.
What is a service charge?
A service charge is a charge made for services we provide to your block or home that are not covered by the rent, such as caretaking, cleaning, grass cutting and communal lighting.
Service charges are needed to share the cost of providing services to areas used by residents. These are mainly for the communal areas and grounds but for some residents, service charges also include TV services and individual heating provided by a communal heating system.
What services are covered?
Services included in the charge could be things like:
- Window cleaning
- Bin cleaning
- Maintaining your building
- Looking after the area around your building
- Grass cutting
- Hedge trimming
- Cleaning stairwells
- Providing laundries
- Keeping the building clean, tidy and safe
- Shared on-site facilities, like community rooms
- Managing specialist equipment, like lifts
- Communal lighting
- The cost of managing and administering services like this
How do we work out service charges?
When we work out our service charges, we only charge you what it actually costs us to provide these services.
That means we do not make a profit from service charges.
They are there to make sure costs of providing services are fairly charged to those residents receiving them.
We operate a variable service charge system, which means we will only charge you the actual amount it costs us for the services you receive. We aim to provide services in the most reasonable and cost-effective way and to a standard acceptable to you, our residents. The same charges are made to all homes and residents who receive or benefit from them.
Why are you sending out a service charge statement?
The service charge statement shows you the difference between the actual costs, compared to what we originally estimated for the period October 2021 to September 2022. This period is called the ‘look back period’.
We then estimate how much your service charge will be for the following 12 months. By law, if we make this charge, we must make an adjustment when we know how much the services actually cost. We want to be open and transparent with you about these costs and the adjustment.
The estimate might be different from the actual cost due to things like changes in inflation or different products being used to provide services. Once we know the actual cost, we either add or deduct the difference from the estimated cost of the services for the next year (starting April 2023) to give your new service charge.
What is the ‘look back period’ and how does this work?
Every year in September, we look back over the previous year to see what it actually cost to provide services to you.
We look at the period from October in the previous year, to September in the following year, so we get a full 12 month’s costs.
We then check if it cost more, or less, than the amount we originally estimated.
If services cost more, we will add the difference onto your service charge for the next year’s services. If they cost less, we will deduct the difference from your service charge for next year’s services.
At the same time, we estimate costs for the coming year – which runs from 1 April – 31 March.
We send your service charge statement (covering October 2021 – September 2022) and your bill for the following year (covering April 2023 – March 2024) at the same time – this usually arrives in February along with your rent letter.
All annual charges start from April, unless a new service is introduced during the year.
Will I get a refund if I am owed money for the period October 2021 to September 2022?
If we overestimated your service charge for the look back period, any extra money you have paid will be taken into account by reducing your service charge for the year starting from April 2023.
Extra help this year
This year, PCH has taken a decision to absorb some of the extra costs of supplying services during the look back period to help support our tenants.
We are only doing this because of the unprecedented cost of living rises, and because we appreciate tenants may not have realised how much more the costs would be than the estimate.
Moving forward, this will not be an option again, so tenants will need to budget for this year’s charges (April 2023-March 2024), and be aware of further price increases that will be incorporated into the following year’s charges to come in April 2024.
How does the affordability cap work?
PCH has an affordability cap for some tenants who pay service charges.
This cap only applies to you if you were a tenant before April 2011, and is due to the introduction of variable charges. We have tried to keep this information as clear as possible but if you have questions then please contact your Housing Officer.
If this applies to you, we have adjusted the service charge so you will not pay any more than your ongoing charge at 2011, uplifted by inflation +1% +50p for each year since April 2011. The cap will be applied until all properties in your block pay the same service charge, after which the cap will no longer apply.
Why should I pay for a lift, laundry or door entry control in my block if I don’t use them?
If you live in a block of flats with communal services, everyone in the block has access to the facilities. Whether you choose to use it or not, all residents in the block share the cost of communal services and the cost is shared between all properties in the block.
I am in a block and I know someone in another block who pays a different amount for the same service. Why is this?
Each block, however similar, will have costs that can vary. For example, one block may have more flats than another, so the costs are shared among more residents. This makes the cost per resident lower. Some blocks have more grounds to maintain or larger courtyards to clean, so the service charge may be higher.
What is a management charge in my service charges?
There is a cost in running and managing the services provided to your block. These costs are covered by the management charge.
This includes calculating the charges and adjustments, managing the contracts, making payments to our providers, providing information and consulting with residents.
The management charge equates to 18p per service, per week, and is never more than 15% of the total cost of your service charges.
What is my Support Service Charge?
The Support Charge is a charge that tenants of sheltered housing accommodation pay, to cover the emergency care alarm and the support staff who manage the scheme and provide the support services.
Charges may be different for individual tenants, depending for example on whether tenants are eligible for funding by Plymouth City Council, eligible for benefits, or eligible for payment caps by Plymouth Community Homes.
If you live in sheltered housing and have queries about your Support Charge, your Housing with Support Officer is available and can provide further advice and support if you want to know more.
Why are service charges going up this year?
The cost of energy has increased significantly, and is expected to continue rising, so this will need to be reflected in your service charge.
Our charges are also affected by the increased rate of inflation, which is now around 10% and forecast to remain high, so the cost of goods, services, and wages PCH has to pay for has gone up.
The majority of our service charges will be increasing this year but we have worked hard to ensure the amounts remain affordable for our tenants.
More than two thirds of tenants will see an increase to their service charge of less than £5 a week, and 80% of all increases will be less than £7 a week.
This is in line with the increased costs for gas and electricity, as well as the rise in inflation, which impacts on the cost of providing services like caretaking and grounds maintenance.
Some service charges may increase more or less than the average amounts, depending on if their service charge includes heating or other services.
Tenants will see a breakdown of their individual service charge in the individual notification letters sent in February.