Frequently Asked Questions

What is rent-flex?

Rent-flex is a new scheme designed to help you plan for the year ahead and create a personalised rent payment plan.

You can select how much rent you want to pay in each month, so you pay less at those times of the year when money is tight and slightly more when things are that little bit easier. You still pay the same total amount of rent over the year, but how you pay it is flexible.

We can also offer extra help and support if you need this. For example, we can ask your Housing Association to check you are getting any benefits you may be entitled to, or to provide some tips on how to cut the cost of water and fuel bills.

Once you are on rent-flex we will stay in touch with you by e-mail to ask how you are doing. If your circumstances change then you can revise your rent-flex plan and we will do our best to help with any problems.

How will being on rent-flex help me?

We’ve piloted the scheme with other tenants, and they used it in a variety of ways.

Some people flexed their rent payments down early on in the year so that they were able to pay off an existing debt. This saved them money because they were no longer being charged interest.

Others paid a little more on their rent each month to save ahead for times when they knew money would be tight – for example during the school holidays or at Christmas. This meant they could then take a month break from paying the rent at those times.

How you choose to flex your rent is up to you. Only you know when you need the flexibility most and rent-flex puts you in control.

We can also offer extra help and support. If you need to talk to someone to help you plan your year ahead or are struggling at the moment, then tell us in your answers to our questionnaire on the platform. We can arrange for someone from your Housing Association to help you.

What does it cost?

Nothing. Not a penny. Rent-flex is completely free. Our costs to set up the scheme have been paid for by charities and the Housing Associations operating rent-flex are committed to maintaining it as a free service.

Do I have to sign up?

Not at all. Rent-flex is completely voluntary. If you don’t need the additional flexibility that rent-flex offers then you don’t have to sign up.

How much can I flex?

The digital platform can be used to create a rent-flex proposal which suits you. There are no strict limits on how much flexibility you can choose. However, it is important to be realistic and you need to be sure that you can afford the payments in those months where you are paying more than you usually would.

If your plan looks like it might not be manageable – for example, if you are proposing to pay nothing at all in many months and very high amounts in some others – then your Housing Association may need to talk things through with you. If they do they’ll get in touch directly with you after you have submitted your proposal.

Do I have to take my flex period all at once or can I spread it out over the year?

It’s entirely up to you when and how to flex your rent. Everyone is different, and you know your own circumstances better than anyone else.

So long as your plan is realistic, and you can afford the payments in the months when you are paying more rent than usual it should be fine.

But if your plan looks like it might not be manageable – for example, if you are proposing to pay nothing at all in many months and very high amounts in some others – then your Housing Association may need to talk things through with you.

Who is behind rent-flex?

Quite a few of us! The rent-flex project has been led by the Centre for Responsible Credit Ltd, which is a not-for-profit research company.

They have been leading a group of other agencies to bring rent-flex to life. Those agencies include brand and marketing experts Well Thought Ltd., and our software developers DjangoHouse.

And, of course, your Housing Association has been involved in the design of the rent-flex scheme too. We are now trialling rent-flex with Optivo and others will be getting involved soon.

How can I check you are legit?

You can have a look at the information about rent-flex on your Housing Association’s own website.

www.optivo.org.uk/rent-flex 

Why have I been invited?

Because you meet the eligibility criteria we have set for the scheme. We can offer rent-flex to anyone who is not getting full Housing Benefit and who doesn’t have too high a level of pre-existing rent arrears.

How secure is my data?

Very. The digital platform has been built by our software experts, DjangoHouse. and uses the latest in data encryption and security standards. We never share your data without your consent.

I can’t find my tenancy reference number, what should I do?

You can find your tenancy reference number on your rental contract and on letters and e-mails sent to you by your Housing Association.

If you are an Optivo Housing Association tenant then you can also log onto Myaccount and you will find your tenancy reference number at the top of all your rent statements. Or you can call 0800 121 60 60 and Optivo will take you through some security questions after which you will be able to ask the adviser for your tenancy reference number.

I don’t have my National Insurance number, what should I do?

You can find your National Insurance number on your payslips or any correspondence you have had about social security benefits. Please check there first.

If you still can’t locate it then you can contact www.gov.uk/lost-national-insurance-number which provides advice on what to do. The website also provides you with information concerning how to obtain a National Insurance Number if you have never had one.

I’m having problems verifying my rent account information, what should I do?

The rent-flex platform checks your name, tenancy reference number, and National Insurance Number that you provide to us against the information provided to us by your Housing Association.  Only after all of these details match can we upload your rent account information.

If you are having problems, then first check that the information you have entered is correct.  For example, you may have mis-typed your tenancy reference number or National Insurance Number.

If that doesn’t solve the problem, then you will need to contact your Housing Association to make sure that you have been invited to take part in rent-flex and that the information they have on their system is correct.  Please get in touch with them by e-mailing rentflex@optivo.org.uk

You can also ask us to check on the system at this end to see if there are any obvious errors, by e-mailing us at:

helpdesk@rent-flex.org

My rent account information or Housing Benefit entitlement doesn’t look right, who can I talk to?

The rent account information and Housing Benefit entitlement on our platform is uploaded from the records held by your Housing Association.

If you are aware of a recent change in your Housing Benefit entitlement then please contact your Housing Association to inform them of this, and they will update your rent account details to take account of your new entitlement. This might mean that you have to be invited back to join rent-flex the following month once the information has been updated on the system.

If you think your Housing Benefit entitlement is wrong but you haven’t yet raised this with your local authority you should do that first.

If your rent account balance looks wrong, this could be because you have recently made a payment on the account and it isn’t showing on the rent-flex system. Get in touch with the Income Team and they can advise you.

If you are an Optivo tenant call 0800 121 6060 and select to speak to the Income Team for rent account queries only.

I’m in rent arrears, how does rent-flex take account of these?

If you are in rent arrears, these are added to the amount of rent that you have to pay over the full year ahead.  So you include these in the flexible payment plan. That way, provided you maintain payments in line with your rent-flex plan you will be out of arrears after one year.

If you are struggling to maintain payments against your plan then you can come back to reschedule it and submit a new proposal at any time.

We will check the payments that you make against your plan and let you know how you are doing every month.

If you find that things get too difficult then you can always set your payment plan back to twelve equal monthly instalments and talk to your Housing Association to agree a manageable amount to pay off your arrears each month. 

I’m struggling to create my rent-flex plan, who can I talk to?

Your Housing Association is there to help. They have people you can talk to about planning the year ahead, and they can also help make sure you are getting any benefits you may be entitled to:

www.optivo.org.uk/contactus.aspx

Please indicate that you need help with “Money Guidance” and we can direct you to the Financial Inclusion Team.

If you need it, Optivo can also help if you need to improve your digital skills. If you would like to get in touch, please e-mail Nathalie at digitalskills@optivo.org.uk

I need some help with my existing budgeting or money problems, what should I do?

Your Housing Association is there to help. They have people you can talk to about planning the year ahead and they can also help make sure you are getting any benefits you may be entitled to.

www.optivo.org.uk/contactus.aspx

Please indicate that you need help with “Money Guidance” and we can direct you to the Financial Inclusion Team. 

I’ve submitted my rent-flex proposal, what happens next?

Your rent-flex proposal has been sent to your Housing Association and they will review this within the next five working days.

If you haven’t heard back within that time, please contact us at rentflex@optivo.org.uk and we’ll check to see what is happening.

What happens if my circumstances change and I can’t afford the payments in my plan?

We know that a lot of things can change in a year! If you are finding things tough you can come back and revise your rent-flex plan on-line.

When you submit a new proposal that will go to your Housing Association and alert them to any problems you may be having. They will then be in touch with you to see how they can help.

So if you want to go back to paying your rent in equal instalments change your proposal on the platform and send it in.

Alternatively, you can speak to Optivo by calling them on 0800 121 6060 and asking to go through to the Income Team.

I’ve received my rent-flex agreement, but need help understanding it. Who can I talk to?

Please talk to your Housing Association about this.

You can speak to Optivo by calling 0800 121 6060 and asking to go through to the Income Team.

I pay my rent by Direct Debit. How can I be sure my Housing Association will only take the payments as agreed in my plan?

When your Housing Association approves your rent-flex plan they will make sure they amend any Direct Debits you have set up with them.

Once they have amended your Direct Debits you will receive a letter confirming the payment amounts and dates. These should be the same as on your rent-flex plan. If you haven’t received this letter or have a query about the dates and payment amounts then please contact your Housing Association. Call Optivo on 0800 121 6060 and ask to speak to someone in the Income Team.

What further contact can I expect from you over the year?

The rent-flex team will only ever contact you by e-mail. You can expect to hear from us once every  month.

We will let you know if your payments are being made in line with your plan.  We may ask you to come back and create a new rent-flex plan if anything affecting your rent liability changes. For example, if there is an annual rent increase or you are getting Housing Benefit and your entitlement has changed.

We will also contact you if it looks like you are struggling to make the payments in your plan.  In most cases, you will be able to reprofile your plan to help you get back on track. But if you are really struggling, we might need to ask you to contact your Housing Association so they can make sure you are getting all the help you need.

The e-mails you receive from us will come from donotreply@rent-flex.org.

The monthly e-mail will ask you to answer a few questions just so we know whether your circumstances have changed at all, and to help us  gain some insights into how our community of rent-flexers are using the scheme.

Your answers are really important to us, as they will help us understand what difference the scheme is making and how we could improve it.

You may also be contacted separately by your Housing Association over the year.

Finally, you might be contacted by IFF Research who are evaluating the scheme for us and who are keen to talk to people about their experience of using rent-flex. Any information you provide to IFF Research is confidential, so it is really important that you let them know of any problems you have had as well as any benefits that being on rent-flex has delivered for you.

I’ve lost my log in details, what should I do?

If you have lost your password we can send information to help you reset your password to the e-mail address you used when you set up your rent-flex account. Click here to start the process.

I want to leave rent-flex. How can I cancel my plan?

If you want to go back to paying your rent in equal monthly instalments, then you can amend your rent-flex plan to do that on our platform.  Log into your account and create a new proposal with all of the months set back to equal instalments.

We will then send that to your Housing Association and they will be in touch to provide any help and support you may need. If you have underpaid in some months whilst on rent-flex then you may be in rent arrears. Your Housing Association will talk this through with you and come to an agreement for you to pay these back.  They can also the suspend your rent-flex account if that is what you want to do.

If I leave rent-flex what happens if I have been underpaying on my rent?

You may be in rent arrears if you have been underpaying on rent-flex and then leave the scheme part way through the year. Your Housing Association will contact you about how much rent you need to pay and how to repay any arrears on your account. They will take your circumstances into account and make sure any agreement with you is affordable.

I’ve received a phone call or e-mail from IFF Research, who are they?

Rent-flex is a new scheme and we are testing out how it is working. We are working with IFF Research to find out more about how people are using rent-flex and whether they have experienced any problems.

It would be very helpful if you could spend time talking to them so we can get your views.

I’ve got problems keeping to my plan, who can I talk to?

We know that a lot of things can change in a year! If you are finding things tough you can come back and revise your rent-flex plan on-line. When you submit a new proposal that will go to your Housing Association and alert them to any problems you may be having. They will then be in touch with you to see how they can help.

What will happen when the rent-flex trial ends?

It depends on how rent-flex has been working. If the trials are successful then we expect to see rent-flex continue and you will be able to flex your rent again next year.

We will be reviewing how things are going on a regular basis and will let you know about the future of rent-flex as soon as we can.

If I want to pay more than my plan can I do this to build a credit on my rent account?

Adding a few pounds to your regular rent each month is an easy way to build up savings so you can flex your rent down later in the year. So long as it’s included in your rent-flex plan that’s no problem.

But if you want to build up your savings further it’s best to put your money into a savings account where you can earn some interest.

What happens if my Housing Association doesn’t agree to my rent-flex proposal?

There may be occasions when your Housing Association thinks you might struggle to maintain your plan. This could be because your proposal involves underpaying a lot early on and paying more than might be affordable later in the year. Alternatively, your Housing Association might feel that you would benefit from some additional support before going onto rent-flex.

In these circumstances your Housing Association will work with you to get you rent-flex ready and to make sure that your plan is realistic.

I got an e-mail inviting me onto rent-flex, but I can’t log into your site.

The invitations to our site expire after one month and we delete your invitation from our system. We do this to protect your data and make sure that when you do log in your rent account information is up to date.

You will need to ask your Housing Association to send out another e-mail invitation to you and make sure you create a rent-flex account within one month of receiving that.