Waterloo Group Policy Tenancy Management

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1 Waterloo Group Policy Tenancy Management

2 Scope of Policy This policy sets out the Group s approach to tenancy management. It covers the type and length of tenancies granted, how the Group will tackle tenancy fraud and rights of succession. Applicability The Policy Applies to all members of Waterloo Housing Group. 1. Policy Statement 1.1 This policy aims to set out the Group s approach to tenancy management using the tools available to us. The policy aims to ensure that we comply with all current legal and regulatory expectations and details of how we will work to sustain tenancies and prevent unnecessary evictions. 2. Context 2.1 The context in which this policy is set is the revised Regulatory Framework for Social Housing in England from April 2012, which follows the 2011 Government consultation Implementing Social Housing Reform: Directions to the Social Housing Regulator and the passage of the Localism Act The policy also takes account of other recent changes such as the introduction of Affordable Rents and the Group s response to this. 3. Aims & Objectives 3.1 This policy aims to outline the overall Group approach to tenancy management, including the following issues: The types of tenancies members of the Group will grant How we will determine which type of tenancy to grant Where tenancies are granted for a fixed term, the length of such terms (see also Waterloo Group Policy - Properties Let at Affordable Rents). The circumstances in which another tenancy may or may not be granted on the expiry of a fixed term The ways in which a tenant or prospective tenant may appeal about the length or type of tenancy offered, or against any decision not to grant another tenancy at the expiry of a fixed term The advice and assistance we will give to tenants to enable them to find alternative accommodation should we decide not to grant another tenancy Our approach to taking account of the needs of those who are vulnerable, and the need to ensure the sustainability of communities Our approach to granting discretionary succession rights, taking account of the needs of vulnerable household members

3 How we will support and promote mutual exchange services (see also Waterloo Group Policy-Mutual Exchange) 3.2 We will ensure that this and all our related tenancy management policies reflect current legal and regulatory expectations and best practice. We will keep them under review to ensure they take account of the priorities outlined in local authority tenancy management strategies developed in areas where we operate. 4. Policy Outline 4.1 The types of tenancies granted The types of tenancies granted by members of the Group for general needs tenants (including sheltered housing)are as follows: Periodic assured or secure lifetime tenancies as appropriate Fixed term tenancies for at least five years unless there are exceptional circumstances as outlined in 4.2 below, in addition to any prior probationary period (subject to 4.2. below). Such tenancies will only be used for properties let at Affordable Rents, in accordance with the agreement entered into with the Homes and Communities Agency (see Waterloo Group Policy - Properties Let at Affordable Rents for more information) Starter/probationary tenancies will also initially be offered for new general needs tenancies. 4.2 Where a fixed term tenancy is to be granted, it will be for five years unless there are exceptional circumstances where a tenancy for a period of no less than two years (rather than five years) should be granted-see below in relation to homes let under the Group s Empty Homes Programme however. This will be to ensure the type of tenancy is compatible with the purpose of the accommodation, and reflects the efficient use of the property. These circumstances are primarily as follows: Some housing that is aimed at providing support for a limited period of time, or where the customer s needs are likely to be reviewed or change significantly within a shorter period than five years (excluding CAT 1 and 2 accommodation as outlined in 4.3 below) Homes let under the Group s Empty Homes programme will be let to reflect the length of the Group s remaining lease. 4.3 In the circumstances specified below existing vacant social homes will normally continue to be let as periodic assured or secure tenancies (as appropriate). The rent will be a social rent set in accordance with rent influencing regime guidance contained within the regulator s Rent Standard Guidance unless regulatory approval is sought on occasions for disposal of these homes (please also see Waterloo Housing Group Affordable Rent Decision Making Policy):

4 Properties that are potentially difficult to let, including many flats (e.g. high rise blocks, some three bedroomed flats) Properties that have a high service charge Properties that require substantial major work improvements All properties classed as Category 1 and Category 2 accommodation will be retained as social rent. Other properties with support systems outside the CAT 1/CAT2 definition will be considered on an individual basis When it is necessary to move a vulnerable tenant from a home that is currently charged a social rent (for example, due to domestic violence or on a police recommendation). The property that they transfer to will be charged at a social rent. When a tenant in a property charged a social rent is being decanted (due to a redevelopment/regeneration scheme or a major works programme). Any property they transfer to will be let at a social rent. Any other circumstance where the tenant of a property currently charged at a social rent is being asked to move by the Group. The property they transfer to will be charged at a social rent. There may be circumstances where a particular property, or a group of properties, is excluded from conversion to Affordable Rent for a period of time. This decision may be due to the need for positive intervention to ensure social and economic sustainability in the community. Any such interventions will be agreed by the Group Head of Programme and Performance/Director of Operations for the respective association. 4.4 Where those who are existing social housing tenants choose to move to another social rented home, members of the Group will offer a tenancy with no less security of tenure when they move. This does not apply however where an existing tenant chooses to move to accommodation let at an Affordable Rent. In this case the property will usually be let on a five year fixed term basis and we will make the transferring tenant aware of this prior to them taking up the tenancy in question. In this case the tenant would need to sign a statutory Form 8 because their tenure would be reduced. This prescribed form of notice must be served before an assured tenancy can be replaced by an assured shorthold. 4.5 Properties let at an affordable rent will (subject to 4.2 above) be let as fixed term tenancies for new tenants and will be set in accordance with regulatory requirements. They will in all cases be for a minimum of five years, (save as referred to in clause 4.2) and will be preceded in many cases by a 12 month probationary tenancy (unless they have previously held a social tenancy with a Group member or another registered provider which was conducted satisfactorily and without breach). We will advise all new tenants who are offered an affordable rent tenancy of the fact that it is a fixed term tenancy and what this means for them in terms of tenancy conditions.

5 4.6 Expiry of fixed term tenancies Detailed procedures have been developed to support this policy. In summary, we will not normally renew a fixed term tenancy beyond its fixed term period in the following circumstances: Where to do so would breach the Group s charitable status. In these cases, we will look to work with tenants to find alternative housing at the end of the fixed term period if an assessment of their household need and income determines that this would be appropriate. Where a fixed term tenant is under occupying a property let to them we will look to work with them to find accommodation of an appropriate size at the end of the fixed term Where a serious breach of tenancy has been identified during the review process, providing that reasonable action to rectify the breach commenced as soon as the Group became aware, and it is reasonable and proportionate to seek possession Where the tenant refuses to engage in the review process Where the property is part of our Empty Homes Programme. We have maximum leases of six years and we must return the property to the landlord with vacant possession at the end of this lease period. In all cases we will ensure that at least six months notice is given where there is not to be a renewal of the affordable rent tenancy. 4.7 Other than in the circumstances outlined in 4.6 above, at the expiry of the fixed term of the tenancy it will normally be renewed for a further fixed term period, where the existing customer wishes this. This is aimed at ensuring that the needs of people who are vulnerable, whether due to their age, disability or illness, and the needs of households with children is taken into account. We aim to ensure that through this approach the sustainability of communities is maintained. 4.8 Advice and assistance We will provide appropriate advice and assistance through our housing management teams, which will include liaison with appropriate partner agencies, to enable customers to find suitable alternative accommodation in all cases where a decision is taken not to renew an affordable rent tenancy at the end of a fixed period, as outlined in 4.6 above. Further detailed procedures outline how this process will operate. See Waterloo Housing Group Procedure - Properties Let at an Affordable Rent. 4.9 Appeals Tenants and prospective tenants will have a right of appeal through the Group Procedure for Properties Let on Affordable Rents in all cases where it is decided not to renew a tenancy, or where a customer wishes to appeal against the length of fixed term or type of tenancy offered.

6 Where a tenant or prospective tenant is dissatisfied with the decision reached in the appeals process they will have the right to complain through Waterloo Housing Group Feedback Policy - Complaints, Comments and Compliments and related Procedure Discretionary succession rights Section 17 of the Housing Act 1988 grants a statutory right of succession to a tenant's spouse, person living with them as their spouse or a person living with them as their civil partner. A landlord can also include in a tenancy agreement express rights for other persons to succeed and where such an express clause is contained in the tenancy agreement, that right is a statutory right. The Group's tenancy agreement contains express rights and the Group's approach can be summarised as follows: On the death of a tenant: (i) (ii) Any surviving joint tenant(s) will become the tenant by succession; or Their husband or wife, a person living with them as their husband or wife, their civil partner or a person living with them as their civil partner, as long as they occupied the home as their only or principal home at the time of the tenant s death will become the tenant by succession as long as they were not a successor as defined in the Housing Act 1988; or (iii) Where the tenant has no husband or wife, no person living with them as their husband or wife, no civil partner or no person living with them as their civil partner, then a member of their family who has lived with them at the Premises as their only or principal home throughout the 12 months before the tenant died will become the tenant as long as they were not a successor as defined in the Housing Act In this clause a member of the tenant s family means their parent, grandparent, child, stepchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece, whether by blood or marriage / civil partnership. The law only allows one succession of each tenancy. If there are two or more members of the tenant s family who qualify to be granted a new tenancy, they can either agree who will get it or we will decide to whom we will offer the tenancy. We will advise who the successful claimant was to everyone who makes such a claim Allocations and mutual exchange Members of the Group will co-operate with local authority partners strategic housing functions and their housing duties, including the needs of those who are homeless. We will ensure we meet our obligations in nominations agreements, and will participate in choice-based lettings schemes where we have homes. More specific supporting policies will outline our approach to allocations, taking account of issues such as

7 common housing registers, common allocations policies and local lettings The Group s aim is to ensure that tenants have as many options to increase mobility as possible. We recognise that mutual exchange is a key way of helping tenants to exercise this choice. We will support tenant mobility by signing up to one or more internet based mutual exchange services, to provide tenants with information and advice, and to enable them to register an interest in exchanging without payment of a fee (for more information please Waterloo Group Policy - Mutual Exchange) 4.13 We will ensure that we promote our approach to tenancy management to tenants and prospective tenants, and that this takes account of the needs of those with support needs, who are otherwise vulnerable, or who do not speak English as a first language Tackling Tenancy Fraud Members of the Group will endeavour to ensure that homes continue to be occupied by the tenant s they were let to for the duration of the tenancy period, subject to 4.11 above in relation to participation in mobility schemes. We recognise that tenancy fraud is a serious issue and will take steps to tackle this (please also see Waterloo Group Policy - Anti- Money Laundering and Waterloo Group Policy - Tenancy Fraud) Tenancy Support Members of the Group will work to ensure that we support tenants to maintain their tenancy and avoid unnecessary eviction. We will do this through liaison with appropriate partner agencies to provide support, and through promotion of social and financial inclusion initiatives Responding to the needs of Vulnerable Customers We aim to ensure through the approaches outlined in this policy how we will address the needs of vulnerable customers, and work to maintain the sustainability of communities. We recognise the importance of ensuring both that affordable housing is used to best effect, whilst providing sufficient stability and support to those who need this. Our approach is outlined in more detail in the related Group Vulnerable Persons Policy. 5. Equality & Diversity 5.1 We are committed to fairness and equality for all regardless of their colour, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, age, religion or belief, family circumstances or offending history, as referred to in our relevant Group policies. Our aim is to ensure that our policies and procedures do not create an unfair disadvantage for anyone, either directly or indirectly. 5.2 An equality impact assessment has been conducted which indicates no

8 negative impact on any person with a protected characteristic as a result of implementing this policy. 6. Monitoring and Review 6.1 The next policy review is scheduled for March 2014 and then every two years thereafter. 7. Associated Documents / Policies 7.1 List of documents/associated policies/publications. HCA Affordable Homes Framework HCA Revised Tenancy Standard Waterloo Housing Group Lettings Policy Waterloo Housing Group Affordable Rent Policy and Procedure Waterloo Housing Group Policy and Procedure for Undertaking Market Rent Valuations Waterloo Housing Group Affordable Rent Decision Making Policy Version: Final Release date: June 2014 Next Review date: June 2016 Document type: Final Policy Approved by: GMT EIA Completed Yes (where required): Customer consultation: Through Local Boards (where appropriate) Employee Handbook N amends: (where required)

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