Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Service Delivery

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

General Queries

1. Why have you closed your office?

Following government guidance, Melville’s office at the Dalkeith Corn Exchange was closed to the public for the safety of staff and visitors. We intend to continue delivering as many core services as possible remotely.

2. When do you think the office will reopen?

At the moment this is impossible to predict. All we can say is that we will reopen as soon as it’s safe to do so and, in the meantime, we will continue to provide almost all services remotely.

Paying Rent and Money Problems

1. While Melville is closed, what should I do about my rent?

Tenants must continue to make every effort to pay rent. While the office is closed, Melville staff continue to work and provide most services as normal. This includes taking rent payments over the phone.

You can also continue to make payments in most of the usual ways. These include by phone (either directly to us or through allpay), online, by text or by bank transfer using:

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Paypoint logoUnfortunately, while we’re closed, you won’t be able to make payments at the office however you can continue to make payments 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) remain available but not for face-to-face visits. 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?

Following the move into the third phase of the Scottish Government’s transition out of lockdown we are gradually restarting our full repairs service, delivered by Novus, with all necessary health and safety measures in place. You can now report repairs through our website once again, however please be patient. Novus have a backlog to work through so newly reported repairs may take a bit longer than normal.

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?

Kitchen replacement work has now restarted. If you’re due a new kitchen our contractor will be in touch to explain the strict health and safety measures they’ll be taking, however if you’re not comfortable letting workmen into your home then please let us know and we’ll reschedule the work for a later date.

Coronavirus means that there has been disruption and delays to our planned maintenance programme (which, as well as kitchens, covers things like bathrooms, and central heating systems) for the coming financial year, however we will do our best to catch up over coming months.

Bathroom upgrades have not yet restarted, as the contractor's staff remain furloughed. This work is unlikely to begin again before November unfortunately.

Central heating replacements also remain suspended, although Saltire hope to restart this work before the end of September. We usually try to avoid leaving customers without heating during the winter months and anyone due a new heating system who doesn’t want to be without heat for a day or out of their house for a day in the winter, can postpone until the spring.

7. I’m in the high risk group so have been told not to leave my house but I have pay as you go gas and electric meters. How can I top them up when they run out?

Gas and electricity suppliers have agreed an emergency package of measures to ensure vulnerable people do not get cut off because they can’t get out to top up meters. Contact your supplier to find out more or visit the Energy Networks Association.

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, and with the schools closed, we would ask that everyone does their best to be a bit more understanding when it comes to minor issues such as noise.

2. Can you do something if my neighbour isn’t following the lockdown rules?

We would urge everybody to follow the rules in order to keep as many people as possible safe and healthy, and to reduce the time we all have to stay in lockdown. Serious breaches can be reported to Police Scotland using the 101 number.

3. 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.

Special uplifts have also been suspended in Midlothian and elsewhere. Please hold on to bulky items until the situation eases. Do not leave them outside. In special cases we might be able to carry out uplifts but there will be a charge for this service which will be more than you would pay your local council.

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

As lockdown eases, we are gradually restarting services like estate walkabouts, however these will be in public areas only. This now includes common stairs and gardens where necessary. Please let us know if there are any external areas you’d like us to have a look at.

For the time being we won’t be going inside homes.

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

We use Midlothian Council for much of our grounds maintenance work. During the lockdown period they've had to suspend most grounds maintenance work (they’ve recently resumed some grass cutting although not large, open spaces) in order to focus on the delivery of critical services but will resume work as soon as it's safe to do so.

Other Services

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

Yes, unfortunately there are. We have suspended all transfers for the time being as we’re not able to carry out any home inspections. As soon as we’re able, we’ll start these up again.

We’ve also had to suspend our carpet tile project and we won’t be giving out paint until the office reopens.

2. Is it still okay to use one of your ecars?

Now we are coming out of lockdown, non-essential travel is once again permitted, and using one of the 5 electric vehicles is an excellent alternative to using public transport or a non-electric car.

All 5 cars are thoroughly cleaned every two weeks with anti bacterial cleaning agents, and have much less exposure to germs than public transport (although you might want to wipe down surfaces before and after use).  If using one of the vehicles please make a special effort to keep them tidy, avoiding leaving things like rubbish, food and tissues in the cars.

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

Yes, we sent out the Spring issue of Voice in mid May. If you didn't receive your copy 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.

4. 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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