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Hjaltland rents to rise by £3.40 a week

HJALTLAND Housing Association (HHA) has decided against increasing its rent by more than inflation in an effort to minimise the impact on its tenants.

The association has capped the increase at the basic four per cent instead of adding on its usual extra 0.5 per cent to cater for additional costs.

It means that tenants on average will pay around £3.40 a week extra in rent from 1 April.

A Facebook campaign had been launched against the proposed four per cent rent increase, saying it was too much following a three per cent rise last year at a time when many people’s wages have not increased accordingly.

The four per cent raise went out to consultation with tenants, but only five per cent of respondents said it was too high.

The matter had been raised on behalf of concerned constituents by Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, as well as councillors including Lerwick North member John Fraser.

Hjaltland chief executive at Bryan Leask told Scott in a letter that the cost of materials increased markedly over the last year – insulation, for example, went up by 66 per cent – and this reinforced the need for a rent rise above inflation.

Brexit and its uncertain effect on the economy has also had a negative impact, he said.

But Leask said the association recognised the financial impact above-inflation increases can have on tenants and he added that the association would rather find ways to reduce costs instead of placing the burden on its customers.

In a press release, Leask said tenants could contact their housing officer if they feel they will struggle to pay rent.

“The association’s policy is to increase its rents each year by inflation + ½ per cent to cover the cost increases that we continue to face,” he said.

“Whilst I understand that any increase in rents will have a financial impact on our tenants, the decision taken by the management committee to limit this to inflation only will hopefully minimise its effect.

“We are continually working to find ways to deliver our services in a more effective and efficient manner while continuing to offer the high level of service our tenants have come to expect.”

Housing manager Phillip Morrison-Gale added that the association needed to remain financially viable while also catering for its tenants.

“As an association we don’t want to be increasing our rent any more than we need to, but unfortunately as many businesses are, we see an above inflation increase in our operation costs, so we’ve tried to minimise the impact as much as possible to our tenants,” he said.

“I suppose any increase is always going to be received as bad news, but we’ve tried to mitigate the impact as much as possible on tenants, while continuing to remain a financially viable organisation.”