Policy reference number: POL-HOU-ALL&LET
Version number: 6
Date applies from: 02/02/16
UNCONTROLLED IF PRINTED
1) Aim of policy
1.1. City West provides a range of quality, affordable property throughout west Salford for people in housing need for a wide range of reasons.
1.2. We seek to make the allocation of our properties sustainable by matching the properties available to the needs of the individual household as identified in their application and other information provided by the customer. The overarching aim of the policy is to make the best use of the stock available (under our Right People, Right Homes, Right Choice Strategy), meet housing need where possible and create sustainable communities throughout west Salford.
1.3. We will promote choice for applicants by participating in local and national lettings schemes where appropriate and seek to identify and remove barriers for customers seeking access to our housing. We will aim to offer the simplest allocation scheme to reduce uncertainty for current and future customers. Where necessary, we will take positive action to address the housing needs of vulnerable customers and groups facing specific housing difficulties.
1.4. We aim:
· To ensure that properties are let in accordance with, legal and regulatory requirements and with the minimum rent loss;
· To meet housing need by providing access to good quality, affordable housing;
· To maximise customer choice and mobility;
· To make the best use of our stock;
· To make sustainable allocations contributing to sustainable neighbourhoods across West Salford, having particular regard to affordability as the provisions of the Welfare Reform Act take effect.
2.1. This Policy sets out the framework through which we will allocate properties. Customers have the right to request a review of any allocations decision relating to them made under this policy.
2.2. Waiting List
2.2.1. City West will participate in a joint waiting list for social housing in Salford which will be administered through a service level agreement by Salford City Council (SCC) on behalf of City West. Under the service level agreement and in line with the transfer agreement, City West will advertise a minimum of 50% of properties which become available for re-letting through Salford City Council’s HomeSearch system. This will assist the local authority in the discharge of its statutory duties and will help provide a range of housing options to households presenting to the Council for re-housing. Properties advertised this way will be allocated according to Salford City Council’s allocations policy in force at the time, although City West will retain the final decision whether to grant a tenancy.
2.2.2. In addition, City West will advertise a number of properties through national lettings schemes such as HomeHunt and RightMove. We will ensure that membership of such schemes are open to all and households will be advised to search for City West properties through Salford’s HomeSearch, HomeHunt and RightMove as part of our housing options advice. In effect therefore, the national schemes will also hold a waiting list as a tool for allocating City West homes. Should the need arise, City West will also develop and maintain its own waiting list. The maximum proportion of properties advertised through HomeHunt will be determined by the proportion of properties to be advertised through HomeSearch as agreed with Salford City Council in a Service Level Agreement (currently 50%).
2.2.3. City West will sometimes allocate properties outside these lettings schemes. Examples of when this would be appropriate include to meet emergency re-housing needs, when existing customers swap homes (mutual exchange) and where decants or temporary moves are required for works to be carried out.
2.3. Local Lettings Policies
2.3.1. Local lettings policies (LLPs) will be established for specific estates or categories of accommodation in order to remedy specific neighbourhood management issues or where a neighbourhood would benefit from more direct intervention from City West in order to create a more balanced community that promotes sustainability. These policies will form part of the neighbourhood plan for a neighbourhood, will be evidence based and established following consultation with residents and other relevant stakeholders.
2.4. Access to housing
2.4.1. We will provide accommodation to households according to criteria developed in consultation with customers. Generally, access to our accommodation is open to all, but there are a few groups we will not offer accommodation to:
• Households excluded by law from holding a tenancy;
• Households that do not meet the ‘Right to Rent’ requirements under s.22 of the Immigration Act 2014;
• Applicants who, either as a tenant of City West or another landlord have previously acted in a manner which would have seriously breached the terms of our tenancy (for example, rent arrears, anti-social or criminal behaviour). We will comply with current legislation when making these decisions.
2.4.2. In order to identify such behaviour, we will take up references before offering accommodation. We will consider failure to provide references as equal to providing poor references for the purpose of deciding whether to grant a tenancy and the provision of false information in references as obtaining the tenancy by false statement and would seek to recover possession through the County Court. We will not refuse re-housing to ex-offenders, but we will seek to re-house appropriately, and on the basis of robust risk assessment, with the advice and assistance of probation services and other support agencies.
2.5. Successful tenancy plans
2.5.1. We will work with all new customers before signing them up to a tenancy with us to identify any support needs they might have to sustain their tenancy. From the information provided we will agree with each household a successful tenancy plan setting out how we will work with them to achieve this.
2.5.2. Where we consider, as part of the pre-tenancy assessments, that a household will not be able to sustainably afford (either due to the level of household income, or due to the financial capability of the customers) the tenancy, we will work with the household to improve their situation, but ultimately reserve the right not to allocate the property to them.
2.6. Housing for older people
2.6.1. City West provides specialist accommodation for older people with support needs through sheltered housing. Sheltered housing units have been specially designed with the needs of older people in mind and are usually flats or bungalows. The support needs are met by on site staff or a care on call service. Customers applying for sheltered accommodation will require a separate assessment to establish eligibility.
2.6.2. To promote independent living, sheltered housing is also available to people under 55 years of age with disabilities (physical or other) who have support needs and a support plan.
2.6.3. Sheltered housing excludes extra care sheltered housing which has its own selection process. Sheltered homes will not be made available for general needs lets.
2.7. Adapted properties
2.7.1. In seeking to make best use of our stock, where a property is suitable for use by customers with a disability, either by design or adaptation, we will seek to allocate this to a household needing that specialised accommodation.
2.7.2. We also will seek to meet the housing needs of people with disabilities by adapting a proportion of other suitable properties that become available.
2.8. Furnished Tenancies
2.8.1. City West recognise that not all new customers are able to furnish their homes when they take on a tenancy with us. We will ensure that a range of options are available for customers to access low cost furniture, including working with partner organisations such as the Mustard Tree. Some options may need to be paid for through an additional weekly charge which we will work to ensure is an eligible charge for benefits purposes.
2.9. Tenancy Mobility
2.9.1. We recognise that the housing needs of a household may change over time and the accommodation originally provided may no longer be suitable. For example, properties may become unaffordable because of changes in benefits. City West will provide a range of options for customers wishing to move to more suitable accommodation, including moves into specialist accommodation to maintain independent living. These options will include assignment and mutual exchange. City West will provide a Rightsizing offer which will facilitate tenancy moves to meet overcrowding or under-occupation needs.
2.9.2. City West will monitor the proportion of lets made to existing customers and will from time to time adjust the numbers of properties made available to this group to ensure alignment with the transfer agreement commitment that a minimum of 10% of all lets will be internal transfers. Regular reviews of the volume of transfers will ensure that this minimum is not overly exceeded, thus maintaining an appropriate balance between social and commercial responsibilities and wider neighbourhood sustainability.
2.9.3. All offers will be dependent on the availability of suitable properties and a good history of meeting conditions of tenancy.
2.10.1. Succession is a legal term used when a person takes over a tenancy after the death of the tenant. Under the terms of the Housing Act 1988, there is a statutory right of succession to a spouse, civil partner or partner, living in the property as his/ her only or principal home at the time of the tenant’s death. However City West Housing Trust also operates a discretionary policy extended to people who would not be entitled to succeed under Housing Act 1988.
2.10.2. We recognise that the circumstances in which applications to succeed arise are likely to be emotional and stressful. City West staff will approach all enquiries in a sensitive and supportive manner and manage such requests through our Succession Procedure.
2.11. Affordable rents
2.11.1. City West will implement affordable rents for a proportion of our properties as agreed by our Board and in line with the aspirations of both our Tenancy Policy and Salford Council’s Strategy.
2.12.1. Currently, all new tenants to City West will receive an Assured Shorthold Tenancy for an initial period of 12 months after which it will normally be converted into an Assured Tenancy, but may be extended in accordance with the terms of the tenancy agreement.
2.12.2. City West will also allocate flexible tenure tenancies as appropriate and in accordance with City West’s Tenancy Policy, which will support Salford City Council’s tenure strategy as published from time to time.
2.13. Letting to employees, former employees, board members and their relatives
2.13.1. In addition to meeting the requirements of this Policy and our Allocations Procedure, all lets to employees, former employees, board members and their relatives must meet the requirements set out in National Housing Federation’s Code of Governance.
3) How the policy will be delivered
3.1. This policy will, on approval, be communicated to staff via the intranet. It will be published on the internet site for customers and stakeholders and news stories will draw attention to its publication.
3.2. If staff become aware that there are problems with effective operation of the policy or the associated procedures, they should report this to the responsible officer for the policy. This feedback will be incorporated into the policy / procedural review process.
4) Related Procedures
4.1. The following procedures need to be followed to implement the policy:
• Adapted Properties Procedure;
• Allocations Procedure;
• Assignment Procedure;
• Changes to Tenancy Procedure;
• Compliments, Comments and Complaints Procedure;
• Local Lettings Procedure;
• Mutual Exchange Procedure;
• Succession Procedure;
• Transfer Procedure.