Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Service Delivery

These are the answers to the questions Melville staff have been asked most frequently since coronavirus arrived in the UK. If you have a question that we've not answered here please get in touch.

General Queries

1. Is your office still closed?

In line with government guidance, our office at the Dalkeith Corn Exchange has been closed to visitors throughout the pandemic. However following discussions with staff and a consultation exercise with Melville tenants, we will be reopening from Tuesday 5 October (2021).

Initially the office will be staffed three days a week, Tuesday to Thursday on a trial basis, with visits by appointment only. To arrange an appointment please contact us in the usual ways.

All services will remain available five days a week, however on Mondays and Fridays this will largely be by phone, online or through home visits.

Paying Rent and Money Problems

1. When the office reopens will I be able to pay my rent in person again?

There are loads of ways you can pay your rent. These include by phone (either directly to us or through allpay), online, by text or by bank transfer using:

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Now that the office is open once again you can make an appointment to come in and make a payment using a debit card, however we are no longer accepting cash payments at the office. You can continue to make all forms of payment at shops displaying the PayPoint logo.

2. Would you consider suspending rent payments for a short period?

Unfortunately we can't afford to do that. We don't receive any funding from the government to run the business and are wholly reliant on rents to keep operating. Suspending rent payments, even for a short period, would have a serious financial impact on the organisation.

We do have services and support available to help anybody struggling with their rent. For more information, contact your housing officer on 0131 654 2733 (option 4).

3. What should I do if I’m struggling to pay my rent?

Anyone who is struggling to pay their rent, for whatever reason, should contact their housing officer and we will do what we can to help.

If you are receiving Housing Benefit, get in touch with your council’s Housing Benefit office and give them details of your new circumstances – your entitlement will change to take account of the new income levels. If you have other adults living in the house (non-dependants) and their income reduces this could also change your entitlement. Do remember to notify the council when your income increases again.

If you are receiving Universal Credit you should add notes to your journal to keep the DWP advised of your circumstances – e.g. tell them if you have been told to self-isolate, tell them if you cannot look for work as much because you have to look after children at home. If you have appointments at the Job Centre add a note in plenty of time to say if you cannot attend. Many appointments will now be carried out by phone. Make sure the phone number held in your Universal Credit online account is correct.

If you receive Tax Credits you should advise HMRC of any changes in income and working hours. You may need to claim Universal Credit especially if you do not claim any Housing Benefit. Doing this may give you additional benefits but be aware that submitting a claim will result in Tax Credits ending. You can use an online calculator to check before you switch claims.

If you are off work sick or self-isolating you should ask your employer if you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. If you are not entitled but have been working recently you can check if you are entitled to Employment and Support Allowance (new style) which relies on payment of National Insurance contributions. NHS24 should be able to give you a fit note to comply with the claims.

If you do not currently claim benefits and your income reduces you can claim Universal Credit – you can claim this whether in or out of work. This can give you additional income to help with household costs including rent. Find out more (including how to make an online claim). A separate claim can be made to your local council for help with Council Tax – contact your council for details – or check online. Please remember that if you receive an advance payment it may include an amount for rent. 

If you are in an urgent situation you can claim a crisis grant from your local council – see your council's website for more details.

4. Can I still use Melville’s advice services?

Yes. All of our advice services (Welfare benefits, Money advice, Tenancy support etc) are available. There is, however, likely to be more pressure on these services than usual so please be patient. You can call us to find out more. Independent advice is also available from organisations such as Citizens Advice Scotland.

5. Is there any help available with energy bills?

For help with your energy bills, or if you're struggling to top up a meter, you should contact your energy supplier.

Citizens Advice Scotland has an excellent guide explaining the help you may be able to get.

Repairs, Servicing and Home Improvements

1. What are you doing to ensure your trades people are not spreading the virus?

All of our contractors are carefully monitoring the health of their staff and anyone with symptoms will not be allowed to work.

2. Can I still report repairs as normal?

Now that COVID restrictions are easing we are once again delivering a full repairs service. Please be aware that it may take slightly longer to deal with new, non-emergency repairs as our contractors work through the backlog caused by lockdown. 

When making appointments our contractors will ask tenants if anyone in the household has any symptoms. Even where there are symptoms, operatives will do their best to complete repairs using suitable personal protection equipment.

Melville staff have also started carrying out inspections once again, subject to strict safety measures. 

3. Can I turn away a contractor if I’m not comfortable with them entering my home?

We would never expect any Melville tenant to allow anyone into their home if they’re not comfortable doing so. We are happy to reschedule any non-essential work for after the current public health crisis passes.

4. I’m due a gas service soon. Will that still be carried out?

Yes, servicing gas appliances is extremely important and Saltire will continue to carry out this work, employing necessary personal protection measures.

If you’re worried about the risk of infection from letting a workman into your home to carry out safety work such as gas servicing then you may refuse however we will need to arrange to have the service done at another time.

5. Will you still be carrying out routine testing for things like carbon monoxide detectors?

Testing work on both detectors and electrical systems has now restarted. Please allow access for this important work that is necessary for your safety and the safety of your home. It will be carried out using all necessary personal protection measures.

6. I’m due a new kitchen shortly. What’s happening with home upgrades?

Now that lockdown restictions have eased, home improvement work (covering kitchen, bathroom and central heating upgrades) has restarted, however there may continue to be some COVID-related delays. Contractors will be working hard to catch up on the work that they weren't able to carry out last year, as well as delivering this year's programme. If you're due a home upgrade we'll be in touch.

Estate Issues

1. What about reporting problems with my neighbours?

This can’t be done in person (either at our office or at your home), but it can still be done by phone, email or online.

Serious issues with your neighbours should always be reported however in these challenging times we would ask that everyone does their best to be a bit more understanding when it comes to minor issues such as noise.

2. What about issues with rubbish on my estate?

At times like these it’s more important than ever that we all look after the areas in which we live and we would ask all tenants to be considerate to their neighbours.

Local councils are carrying out general waste collections as normal and we do not expect this to change. Please continue to put your general waste bins out as normal but look out for any possible changes on your council’s website.

There is likely to be disruption to other services such as recycling and garden waste. Please check with your local council.

3. Will you still be carrying out estate walkabouts and inspections?

Yes. Now that lockdown restrictions have eased both estate walkabouts and inspections have restarted. If you have something to report please do so in the usual ways.

4. Grass cutting and other landscaping work on my estate hasn't been done for a while. Why not?

All grounds maintenance work should now be operating normally. If you have an issue in your area please let us know.

Other Services

1. Are there any services that are stopped at the moment?

All services suspended due to the pandemic have now resumed.

2. Will you still be continuing to send out information like your tenant newsletter?

Yes, we are continuing to send out our Voice newsletter. If you didn't receive your copy recently please let us know. 

For some tenants, particularly older ones, receiving information through the post is the only way of finding out what’s going on at Melville, so this remains a very important service however you can request to receive Voice digitally from now on if you would rather not get a paper copy through the post.

3. Where can I go for more help and information?

There are many sources of useful help and advice on coronavirus.

1. For local information on the impact of coronavirus your council is a good place to start. Find out more from Midlothian Council or see what help is available in your community.

2. If you've been hit financially by coronavirus you can find out more about claiming benefits at:

3. There are a number of organisations that provide excellent mental health support. A good place to start is Health in Mind.

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