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Below is a list of some Frequently Asked Questions. If you can't find the answer to your question, you can send us a question by clicking here to be taken to the Ask A Question page.

Why should I get involved?

We want to talk to our residents to gauge ideas and opinions as to how we can improve our services in a way that is most suitable. Our residents feed back on many aspects of Two Castles’ work and find getting involved in future plans very interesting.

Two Castles Housing Association also offers training for residents who want to get involved in longer term projects, training that can be added to a CV or undertaken just for fun. Getting involved is a fantastic way to meet other residents and make new friends!

Who is allowed to take part?

Any Two Castles resident can get involved. We want to hear from everyone - from residents with particular religions or beliefs to young people, to those with disabilities and those with different sexual orientations. This is so that we can check that our services are the best that they can be for everyone.

How can I get involved?

There are lots of different ways which we hope will offering a solution to suit everyone.

Please click here for more information.
 

Will I get paid?

However, we do offer shopping vouchers in return for residents who do customer service tests for us.

This is because these residents have to be trained and make a firm commitment to do this work.

For more information about customer service testing, follow this link and select "Level 4: Service improvements and testing"

My scheme is not on the list. Does this mean we wonít have any works done?

This means there are no works planned for your scheme in the next five years. We will publish new plans every two years so if your kitchen is due in six years it will not appear until we publish it next time.

How long do I have to stay involved for?

Some residents have been involved in different activities for more than 5 years, others prefer to dip in and out of involvement.

The best way to make sure you hear about all the opportunities, so you pick the ones that interest you and suit your availability, is to put your name on the Residents’ Panel mailing list.

If you find that you no longer wish to be involved, you can ask for your name to be removed from the list any time. Why not give it a try?

Who is in charge of Resident Involvement at Two Castles Housing Association?

Clare Galland, Involvement & Equality officer at Two Castles, coordinates most of our resident involvement activities, but residents can contact staff in their local Two Castles office about it.

For details of your nearest Two Castles office, please click here.
 

When can I start?

Any time! Residents can contact Clare Galland or their local Two Castles office to talk through the best option for getting involved for them.

Will I have to travel?

Most of our meetings are currently held in Carlisle, Newcastle, or somewhere in between. However, our staff will be happy to organise alternative events at a more convenient location for you, or to help you with transport. Please get in touch with Clare Galland and we will do our best to enable you to take part.

At what time of day are meetings normally held?

There are lots of opportunities to get involved at various times of day. Our Residents' Conference was held during the day in 2009, but discussion groups and special meetings can be held at various times of day.

How do I apply for housing?

There are many methods of applying for our housing. Details of how to apply and any criteria you may have to meet can be found on our website by clicking here to visit the 'Applying for a home' page.

How much is the rent?

Rents for rented accommodation are set in line with government regulations and will vary depending upon the local authority, the number of bedrooms and the value of the property. Rent for other types of accommodation is set out in your leasehold agreement. Depending upon your type of accommodation you may also have to pay a service charge for items charged we buy on your behalf and then recover from you e.g. gardening, communal heating and lighting, window cleaning etc. For more information please contact our area offices.

Can I still have my carer if I move into a Two Castles Housing Association property?

Yes. Many residents receive support from home carers and support workers to help them maintain their tenancy within the development.

Can I have visitors?

Yes, you can have visitors, although you are responsible for their behaviour.

Can my family have keys?

Yes. You are provided with three sets of keys when you become a tenant. We recommend that you pass a set to your family as key holders, so that we can contact them in the event of an emergency.

Can I keep pets in my home?

Yes. You can keep domestic pets in your home as long as you receive prior written permission from us, and as long as keeping the pets do not contravene any laws such as the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Residents are responsible for the behaviour of any pets owned by themselves, anyone living in their home or anyone visiting their home. For more information, you should contact your area office.

Can I redecorate my home?

Yes. You may decorate the internal areas of your home to your own individual tastes and style.

If you have any further queries regarding the above, please contact our Maintenance Department at the relevant area office.
 

Can I have an electric scooter in my home?

We will try to accommodate you wherever possible. Some of our schemes are more difficult than others due to the nature of site. You must obtain permission from your local office before bringing the scooter onto the development. We will not normally refuse permission without good reason, but you must nevertheless obtain permission. In most circumstances the scooter must be kept in your own home and charged using your own electricity. To obtain permission, or to find out more, contact your local office.

Will the terms of my tenancy change?

The terms of your tenancy are within your tenancy agreement. The rights you have are either rights given to you by law or contractual ones and these cannot be changed without consulting you.

I am having problems with my neighbours, what can I do about it?

Neighbour problems, anti-social behaviour and harassment take place in various forms. They can range from a barking dog, loud music or worse still, violence. If you experience problems please contact your Housing Officer to ask for help and advice.

Normally we will ask you first if you have tried to sort things out, for example by asking your neighbour to turn their music down. We will tell you what you need to do, what evidence we may need and how we can take action. We promise to take your problem seriously and thoroughly investigate.

Where we cannot help you we will tell you why and how else you might solve the problem.
 

How do I report a repair out of hours?

You can report an emergency repair by either phoning your local office or by phoning 0845 543 6417 for our out of hours emergency repairs call out service.

How quickly will you do my repair?

We have three categories of repair: Emergency - should be carried out within 24 hours. Urgent: - should be carried out within 7 days. Non urgent should be carried out within 28 days. Details and examples of these three types of repairs can be found on our website under your home/repairs/ when will my repair be done?

Can married couples/same sex couples apply?

Yes, we have a variety of accommodation suitable for couples. As an Association we do not differentiate housing needs based on marital status or sexual orientation. As a couple we would ask you to sign a joint tenancy agreement.

Will you need to know my financial circumstances?

Depending upon the type of home you choose, we may need to confirm that you’re able to afford the charges and will request that you sign an agreement to pay. We will treat all personal information as strictly confidential.

How long will I have to wait to get an offer of a home?

There may be a short registration period before we actively consider an application. We can make exceptions in emergencies. The time depends on the type of home you need.

I am interested in getting home contents insurance

We work in cooperation with the Northern Housing Consortium to promote an affordable home contents policy. Please speak to your housing officer for further information.

I'm finding it difficult to keep up with paying my rent. What should I do?

Contact us now, so that your situation does not get serious. We deal with rent arrears in a firm, but fair way. It may be that we can agree an arrangement to repay an agreed amount of arrears over a longer period, rather than all at once.

For further information on what to do if you are in arrears please click here.

Can we pay our rent online?

Currently our website does not allow for this. However we are looking to add this facility in the near future. However, we do have a range of other methods.

Please click here to see more information on how to pay your rent.

Can you smoke in the house and are there any restrictions for visitors?

Smoking in your own home is permitted. Smoking is not allowed in communal areas such as lounges, corridors etc. Visitors are expected to observe any restrictions in force.

Is Two Castles Housing Association the same as the council?

No, we are an independent Registered Provider who works closely with councils in order to house those in need.

Do you have any homes to buy?

We offer many shared ownership schemes for people who cannot afford to buy their own home outright. They must be in housing need and be unable to afford an outright purchase. You buy a share of a property and pay rent to a housing association on the remaining share that you do not own. In most cases you can buy further shares of the property until you own the whole property. Some rural properties are restricted so that you can only ever own 80%. For more information on the scheme please click here to read about Shared Ownership.

How do I apply for a transfer if I already live in a Two Castles Housing Associations home?

For a transfer within Two Castles please contact your local area office. For a transfer outside of Two Castles, either contact your local area office or if a Common Housing Register exists in the local authority area in which you live, you should apply to the local authority then you can be considered for vacancies in all the participating landlords' properties.

I am homeless or threatened with homelessness - can Two Castles Housing Association help?

Yes we work closely with the local authorities and other agencies to prevent you becoming homeless, or where you are homeless, to assist you.

How can I check what is happening with my repair?

Contact the Property Services team at our offices.

What does my rent include?

Apart from paying to live in your house, (your rent) we MAY include a service charge for communal services, for example a charge for any heating and hot water provided by communal systems. This will be shown separately from your actual rent, but you make one payment to us made up of both rent and service charge.

Can I buy part of a house?

If you live in rented accommodation you cannot, given current law, buy a part share of your home. As a tenant in rented accommodation you may have the right to buy your entire home from us under the current law. For further information please contact your local area office. You can buy part of a home under our home ownership scheme, please click here for more information on home ownership.

Are mutual exchanges possible - can I swap homes?

If you are one of our tenants, one of the Council’s, or another housing association and you have a secure or assured tenancy agreement, then you qualify for a home exchange. For more information speak to your local office.

Does Two Castlesí provide sheltered housing?

We run 18 sheltered housing schemes. These enable just over 600 rented homes to be provided for older residents to enjoy their independence, with the added security of knowing that help is available if and when they need it. To qualify you need to be aged 55 or over.

How do I keep track of my rent payments?

We will record your payments on our computer each time you pay. We send you a statement twice a year which shows what rent you have paid. You can also ask for a statement at any other time. You should also keep a check on payments yourself. Keep any receipts you are given and check your bank statements.

What if I pay my rent late or have financial difficulties?

You are breaking the conditions of your tenancy agreement if you pay your rent late. If you have money troubles, please contact us and we will tell you what to do and give you advice. For further information please click here to find out about help if you are in arrears.

Will you let me know about anything that affects me?

Yes. We must, by law, consult you on certain matters. In addition, we are committed to keeping you informed about most other things that we do. We do this in a variety of ways: personally, by letter, through our residents' magazine Fanfare, by scheme or through residents’ representatives.

Can I pay my rent by cash at your office?

Can I have a satellite dish?

You should write to us and ask for permission - the reply will depend on where you live and building restrictions. It is important to check with your local planning office before you write to us.

Where am I on the waiting list?

It is difficult to answer this question as the waiting list changes daily as new applicants are added to the list. It will depend on your circumstances and the area and type of property that you are waiting for. We should give you an idea of how long you might wait when you apply to us. Some schemes have very few properties and vacancies. We may ask you to extend your choices to improve your chances of being housed quicker.

How do I complete my Housing Benefit form?

If you need any advice on how to complete the form please contact your local area office.

Do I have the Right to Buy my property?

If you have a 'secure' tenancy you may have the Right to Buy your property - a secure tenancy is a tenancy granted before 15 January 1989.

However, there are some exclusions. If you require any further information regarding the Right to Buy scheme you can contact your area office who will be happy to help with further information and advice.
 

How much notice do I have to give when I wish to leave my property?

Your tenancy is a legal agreement. This means that by law, you must give us one month’s notice. If you don't, you will still be liable for the rent and the condition of the property, even though you may already have left the premises.

In order to end your tenancy with us, you will need to do the following:

1. Write to us advising that you wish to end the tenancy.

2. Make sure you give a month’s notice.

3. Allow time for your Housing Officer to come and check that the property is in good order (this could save you from being re-charged for any repairs we have to carry out before we can re-let it).

4. Carry out any work that you have agreed with your Housing Officer.

5. Make sure you return all keys promptly on the agreed day (if you don't we may charge a fee for the additional time).

6. Let us know your new address.
 

I can smell gas - what should I do?

Contact The National Gas Emergency Service immediately on their emergency number - 0800 111999.

Someone has broken my window

It is the tenant's responsibility to replace the glass in broken windows - you should be able to claim through your house insurance. It is advisable to report the incident to the police and keep the crime reference number for your insurance company.

There may be circumstances where we can arrange for a contractor to carry out the work, but we will charge you for this. You may be able to pay us in installments.

I have lost my keys!

We do not have spare keys to individual properties. You are responsible for arranging and paying for a locksmith. It is advisable to get several quotes first - locksmiths are listed in the Yellow Pages.

Once you have had your locks replaced it is a good idea to leave a spare key with a trusted friend or relative - just in case it happens again! We cannot hold keys for you.

Can I apply to take in a lodger?

You cannot take in a lodger without our prior written consent. We would not unreasonably refuse to give consent, but we may refuse it, for example, if you are asking for an unreasonable rent or deposit, or if the property would be over crowded.

How can I apply to sublet?

Under the terms of our tenancy agreements you are not allowed to sub-let the property, however if you wish to take in lodgers you must contact your housing officer as you must have our permission in writing.

Can I apply for succession to a tenancy?

There are 3 levels of priority for someone to inherit a tenancy after a death:

Level 1: A joint tenant, a spouse or co-habitee (provided the house was their only or principal home at the time of the death, and in the case of the co-habitee they had also lived in the house for 6 months).

Level 2: A member of the deceased’s family over 16 years of age (provided the house was their only or principal home at the date of the death). Family in this context means parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, stepchild or adopted child.

Level 3: A carer over 16 years of age who is providing or has provided care for the deceased or a member of the deceased’s family (provided the house was their only or principal home at the date of the death and they had given up their only principal home before the death).

The order of priority for succession starts with qualifying people in level 1, then level 2 and lastly in level 3. If more than one person qualifies under any level, they decide between them who should be the new tenant. If they cannot agree, we will make the decision.

If anyone wishes to succeed a tenancy, they should notify us within 28 days of the death. We will process their request in accordance with the qualifying criteria outlined above.
 

How can I carry out alterations to my house?

As a tenant you generally have the right to carry out both internal and external alterations and improvements to your home and garden. You are first required, however, to seek our approval.

What is Right to Repair?

The right to repair applies to all rented properties. If you wish to know more about this, please contact the maintenance department at your area office.

Please click here to be taken to the contacts section of our website.

What are the qualifying repairs?

There are a number of qualifying repairs which can be quite detailed. You will need to discuss with our maintenance department.

Why I can not apply for a house in some areas like the lake district?

In some areas where we provide housing, particularly in rural areas, there are government restrictions as to who is eligible for housing. These are known as S106 or local occupancy restrictions. They are designed to protect rural and other communities by ensuring there is housing for local people. They are also designed to prevent homes being sold to people as holiday homes. These types of occupancy restrictions vary from property to property as well as between local authorities. Your housing officer will discuss this further with you if it is causing you concern.

What do I do if I want to make a complaint?

We take all complaints very seriously, and have a procedure to deal with complaints that are made by anyone about the service that we provide. For more information please click here to take a look at our complaints section on the website.

How do I make a suggestion/comment or compliment about a service?

We want to make sure that our services meet both our published standards and your needs as residents – so your feedback is important to us.  You can either contact your local office or use the form provided on this website.

Please click here to view the contacts section of our website.

Please click here to go to the feedback form.

Level 1: Any time feedback

Involves: no regular commitment, only a few minutes of time and has a small amount of influence on Two Castles' decision making.

Residents can tell us their views and suggestions, good or bad, as necessary. This can be done in a number of ways:

Through our feedback form on this website
By contacting Clare Galland on (telephone) 0191 2692629 or (email) clare.galland@twocastles.org.uk
By popping into their local Two Castles housing office and speaking to staff
Writing to us at our head office
Two Castles Housing Association values and encourages resident feedback, whether positive or negative. Please click here to visit our complaints page or click here to visit our compliments page.

We also hold a Residents' Conference every two years where we provide information, distribute resident awards (as voted for by our residents) and conduct a resident survey to encourage feedback.

To download a PDF file with details of the Two Castles Residents' Conference 2009, please click here.
 

Why is the number of properties due for works on my scheme less than the total number of properties on my scheme?

This is because some properties might have already had a component replaced as a one off and out of sequence. We try to avoid this, although it is not always possible.

You refer to components Ė what does this mean?

We monitor the condition of between 25-30 main components in each property to identify planned works. A component means items like roofs, kitchens, bathrooms, windows, doors and heating systems.

How do you decide when something needs replacing?

The decision is based on combination of factors including age, normal life cycle and the condition. This helps us to make sure that homes with the most urgent work needed are dealt with first. The Board has also made energy efficiency works such as new heating systems a priority.

My neighbours have had works but I have not. When will mine be done?

If you feel others on your scheme have had works done and you have been missed then please let us know. We have surveyed a 20 per cent sample of properties on every scheme and know this to be 90 per cent accurate so please let us know if you think we have missed you.

Why canít you set fixed replacement dates for things like kitchens and bathrooms?

A lifecycle for a component can only be a guide and the actual performance of components is influenced by a number of factors including manufacturing quality, installation workmanship, weathering, environmental impacts, servicing cycles, and human impact through use.

How do you ensure the information you have is kept up to date?

We survey at least 20 per cent of all properties every year and all properties within a five year period. This allows us to monitor the condition of properties and adjust our programmes to ensure that homes are maintained to an appropriate standard.

My home was built less than 15 years ago. Why do you not do any planned works?

We do not normally undertake any major planned maintenance to a property less than 15 years old. This is because normal component life cycles should not require replacement in this period. Properties will receive responsive repairs and some cyclical maintenance during this time.