Home Assistance Policy 2014/2018

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1 Cheshire West & Chester Council Strategic Housing and Commissioning Home Assistance Policy 2014/2018 Visit: cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk

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3 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/ Contents Introduction 3 Why do we need this policy? 5 Housing conditions in Cheshire West and Chester 7 The strategic policy context and our priorities 8 How we will achieve our priorities 9 Resource implications 10 Monitoring outcomes and service standards 10 Policy development and review 10 Equality and diversity 10 Appeals and applications for assistance outside the policy 11 Comments, compliments and complaints 11 Types of assistance available Decent Homes Loan 12 Home Safety Grant 13 Group Repair Loan 13 Group Repair Grant 14 Empty Property Assistance 15 Empty Property Grant 15 Empty Property Loan 16 Conversion Grant 17 Landlord Accreditation Grant 18 Disabled Facilities Grant 19 Relocation Grant 20 Discretionary Loan and Grant 21 The application process Making an enquiry 22 Approval of application 22 Loan administration 23 Payment of grants and loans 24 General conditions of assistance Fees and charges 26 Requests for extension of time 26 Revisions after loan or grant approval 26 Repayment of grants and loans 27 Additional conditions where the council has nomination rights 27 Appendix A Outcome monitoring and service standards 29 Appendix B Decent Homes Standard 30 Appendix C Home assistance risk assessment scoring 31 Appendix D Works eligible for Disabled Facilities Grant 32 Appendix E Definition of a disabled person 33 Appendix F Glossary of terms 34 Page

4 03 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/2018 Introduction The Housing Act 2004 places a duty on local authorities to consider housing conditions in their areas and to take action as appropriate. It is the Government s view that it is primarily the responsibility of home owners to maintain their own property. However, the Government is also committed to improving housing quality across all tenures and fully accepts that some home owners, particularly the elderly and most vulnerable, do not have the necessary resources to keep their homes in good repair. Local authorities have an important role to play by providing help in these cases. The Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) Order 2002 provides the flexibility for councils to provide assistance in a way which best suits local circumstances. Cheshire West and Chester Council wishes to ensure that the quality of residential accommodation in the borough is as high as possible across all tenures. There have been many studies linking poor and unsuitable housing to ill health. The Home Assistance Policy sets out the types of financial help available from the council for home owners and private sector landlords to help improve property condition and also to provide adaptations for residents with disabilities. It also includes information on the condition of the private sector housing stock in Cheshire West and Chester, the national and local policy context, application procedures, eligibility criteria and conditions of assistance. The assistance available under this Policy since 2009 has resulted in significant positive outcomes for many residents in the borough in respect of improved living conditions and health.

5 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/ Policy achievements Adaptations for residents with disabilities The council is required by law to provide Disabled Facilities Grants for essential adaptations to the home such as: stairlifts, adapted kitchens, level access shower facilities and ground floor bedrooms and bathing facilities. Each year, one in three people over 65 experience a fall. A hip fracture costs the NHS and Social Services on average 28,000. Adaptations make homes safer, reduce demand for NHS and residential care services, and reduce home care costs. They increase the dignity and independence of residents and importantly provide relief for carers. Since 2009 we have completed 887 Disabled Facilities Grants, including 110 grants for children, investing 8.6 million. Research indicates that this investment could save the NHS in the region of 4 million over a 10 year period. In 2012/13, 96% of customers agreed that the adaptations greatly improved their quality of life and 78% of customers assessed the service as very good. Decent Homes Equity based Decent Homes Loans are available to fund essential repairs and improvements for home owners. Grants are available for urgent works, larger group repair schemes, and to accredited landlords for small scale improvements. Since 2009 we have: Funded the replacement of 49 flat roofs in serious disrepair, to properties in Little Sutton and Willaston, through a combination of grant and loan assistance. Approved 103 Decent Home Loans for home owners, with over half to residents over 60. Approved 19 Home Safety Grants for urgent works. Improved 81 private rented properties through Landlord Accreditation Grant. Made 5,315 properties more energy efficient through the installation of cavity wall and loft insulation and invested 40,000 in the Cosy Loan scheme for obsolete gas boiler replacement for vulnerable households. Empty Homes There are approximately 2,400 long term empty residential properties in the borough. Grants are available to help owners bring empty properties back into use and to convert obsolete commercial premises to provide much needed residential accommodation. Since 2009 we have: Brought 87 long term empty properties back into use supported by Empty Property Grant. Provided 57 new units of accommodation through the conversion of obsolete commercial properties in the borough. The Council has nomination rights to these properties for five years at an affordable rent. Policy update To continue this work, the Home Assistance Policy has now been extended to March 2018, with minor amendments. The strategic approach to housing renewal and the types of assistance available under the Policy remain broadly the same. The main changes are: The strategic policy context and private sector housing stock condition information has been updated following a new survey completed in Owners of long term empty properties, who are willing to let their property at an affordable rent to tenants nominated by the council, can now apply for a Decent Homes Loan to carry out repairs and improvements. Where the council nominates tenants to properties, additional conditions have been added to protect the council s interests.

6 05 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/2018 Why do we need this Policy? The national context The condition of the private sector housing stock and the suitability of accommodation to meet residents needs are important for a number of reasons. The health impact of poor housing conditions There have been many studies linking poor housing conditions with ill health and injury. In 2011, The Living Well at Home Inquiry reported that the NHS spends 600 million every year treating people because of poor housing conditions. The Office for National Statistics reports that nationally, there were 24,000 excess winter deaths in 2011/12. The vast majority of these deaths are in the over 75 age group. The key diseases that cause an excess of deaths during the winter period are cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Many people suffering ill health live in cold and damp homes. Poor housing conditions can also contribute to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Making homes affordable to heat can reduce the impact of cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and can have a positive effect on the mental health of residents. Accidents in the home The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents report that every year in the UK, more than 5,000 people die in accidents in the home and a further 2.7 million people report to accident and emergency departments seeking treatment for injuries. The main causes are due to falls, fire and smoke inhalation. Over 1,200 people over the age of 75 die each year because of a fall at home. The average cost to the State of a fractured hip is 28,000. Falls leading to hip fractures cost the NHS 726 million per year. The Housing Act 2004 introduced the Housing Health and Safety Rating System to address these issues. It identifies and evaluates the risks to health and safety in residential accommodation. Recommendations can then be made to eliminate or reduce the risks identified. The most common hazards are excess cold, damp and mould growth, falls, entry by intruders, and fire. Helping residents to deal with health hazards in the home caused by poor housing conditions reduces the burden on the NHS and Social Care services. Demographic and economic issues By 2036, there will be 2.3 million people over the age of 85. An increase of 184 per cent. Rural areas will see a noticeably greater increase in numbers of older people. By 2026, 75 per cent of older households will own their homes. Whilst many older people have considerable equity in their homes, many also live in the worst housing conditions and have low incomes. Helping older residents on low incomes release equity in their homes for repairs will help them remain in a safe and healthy home and reduce the burden on the NHS and social care services. Health and care needs Current trends suggest that living longer means living longer with ill health. By 2041, the numbers of older disabled people will have doubled.

7 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/ per cent of people aged 80 plus report living with a long term illness or disability, and 1.5 million have a condition requiring specially adapted accommodation. By 2025, more than 1 million older people are likely to be living with dementia. Unsuitable housing is often the reason why an older person must go into residential care. Postponing entry into residential care by adapting a home saves 28,000 per person. The combined effect of the above will mean greater demand for safe, accessible and suitably adapted housing. Helping residents by providing relatively modest grants for housing adaptations can help people live safely and independently at home, reducing the burden on the NHS. Housing adaptations also reduce the need for home care visits. Housing shortage The impact of welfare reform and the reduced access to home ownership is increasing demand for private rented accommodation. Empty residential properties and obsolete commercial premises are a wasted resource. The housing stock can be increased by providing incentives for owners to bring empty properties back into residential use or to convert obsolete commercial premises to provide residential accommodation.

8 07 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/2018 Housing conditions in Cheshire West and Chester The evidence base and strategic approach for this Policy is sourced from the private sector stock condition survey completed in Chester West and Chester Council has undertaken a comprehensive assessment of private sector housing conditions across the whole area. The stock condition survey has been conducted in accordance with national guidelines and comprised a random sample of 3,000 dwellings. Full property inspections were carried out including internal and external assessments. With the exception of disrepair, housing conditions are generally better than the national average for private sector housing. Some of the key statistics from the headline findings report include; Private sector housing stock comprises 124,528 dwellings, containing 120,778 households, and a population of 284,689 persons. Housing in the borough is more modern construction than the national average: 28% constructed pre 1945, 82% post The oldest housing is found in urban wards, and in particular some Chester wards. 81% of private sector homes are in owner occupation. 16% are privately rented. Rates of private renting are below the national average but have been increasing since There are greater concentrations in urban wards and in particular some Chester wards. 2,227 dwellings have been empty for six months or more. 28% of households are headed by a person over % of households are in receipt of a means tested benefit and are economically vulnerable. 20% of all private sector dwellings are non-decent (24,854 dwellings) comparing favourably against a national average of 25%. (See appendix B for Decent Homes Standard definition). However, rates of disrepair remain significantly above the national average and are increasing. 13% of homes in the borough (16,133) fail the repair requirement of the Decent Homes Standard, compared to 5.5% nationally. The current economic climate has depressed the housing market and consequently the level of home improvements. 54% of households living in non-decent homes have completed no repairs or improvements in the past five years, and only 24% plan to do so in the next five years. Non decent housing is more prevalent in rural areas, pre 1919 housing, converted flats and in the private rented sector. The cost to address non-decent private sector homes in the borough would be 152 million, averaging 6,140 per non-decent home. A Category 1 hazard was found to be present in 7.5% of private sector dwellings (9,313 dwellings) compared to 16.4% nationally. Excess Cold accounts for 79% of these hazards and 13% relate to Falls on Stairs and Steps. 22% of all private sector households (26,224 households) are classed as vulnerable households. 28% of vulnerable households (7,337 households) live in non-decent homes. Younger and older households are particularly affected. 19.8% of households (23,979 households) are in fuel poverty and spend greater than 10% of their annual income on fuel. Elderly and private rented households are particularly affected. There were 170 excess winter deaths in Cheshire West and Chester in 2011/12. The average SAP rating for private sector housing in the borough is 63, which compares favourably to the national average of 55. In summary, the key findings from the report are those relating to vulnerable households living in non-decent housing, the increase in property disrepair and the extent of fuel poverty. Highest levels of non-decency where found in rural wards, pre 1919 housing stock, converted flats, and in the private rented sector. Based on this evidence, and through the implementation of this Policy, the council intend to target funding to vulnerable households in areas where housing condition problems are greatest. This approach is in accordance with the Government s sustainable communities policies and reflects the national agenda.

9 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/ The strategic policy context and our priorities This Policy is informed by, and contributes to, the delivery of a number of strategic and corporate priorities as follows: The West Cheshire Sustainable Communities Strategy was developed by the Local Strategic Partnership and launched in It identifies the following key priority: Improving access to good quality and affordable homes. Our ambition is that housing provision will meet the needs of local people and all homes will meet the Decent Homes Standard. Our directorate priorities This Policy contributes to the following Growth and Prosperity Directorate priorities: Enterprise and business. Economic infrastructure. Enabling behaviours. Good quality housing lays the foundations for growth, helps our residents to thrive and prosper, and makes the borough an attractive place to live and work. Strategic Housing and Commissioning objectives Strategic Housing and Commissioning is part of the Growth and Prosperity Directorate. The strategic objectives of the service include: Access - ensuring access to good quality affordable housing. Quality - improving standards in private housing and promoting high quality design standards in new housing. Choice - providing a choice of affordable housing to meet the needs of residents. The Strategic Housing and Commissioning Service has produced a Statement of Local Housing Priorities which includes priorities relevant to private sector housing and to this Policy which are as follows: To establish programmes of intervention for private sector housing in line with the findings of the private sector stock condition survey. Developing initiatives to target action on vulnerable households living in non-decent homes. To reduce the health effects of poor housing conditions through a combination of advice, financial assistance, and enforcement action where appropriate, ensuring that residents live in safe, warm, and comfortable homes. To target the wasted resource of long term empty homes in the Borough. Additional private sector housing priorities are: Increasing the proportion of homes that meet the decent homes standard and working with all stakeholders and service providers to encourage this standard of provision in all sectors. Assisting vulnerable and lower income home-owners to achieve the decent homes standard through the provision of equity or low cost loans, and small scale grants. Improving the energy efficiency of dwellings by assisting and promoting householders to take up a range of energy saving measures provided by a range of agencies. Assisting elderly and disabled residents to achieve independent living through the provision of disabled facilities grants, thereby reducing the burden on the NHS and social care provision. Increasing the supply of affordable housing by offering financial assistance for the improvement and conversion of empty residential properties, and obsolete commercial buildings, to be brought back in to use as homes. Achieving a well maintained and managed private rented sector through a Landlord Accreditation Scheme by encouraging the professional development of landlords through incentives, education, and advice.

10 09 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/2018 Related council strategies that contribute to achieving the priorities outlined above, and to which this Policy contributes are: Empty Homes Strategy which aims to tackle the problems caused by long term empty properties in the borough. Affordable Warmth Strategy which aims to reduce fuel poverty, increase energy efficiency in the borough and reduce the impact of excess cold on health. How we will achieve our priorities Advice and advocacy The council offer advice to home owners and private tenants on all aspects of housing issues on a daily basis. Information is also available on our website We are also targeting activity to vulnerable households living in areas with the highest levels of non-decent housing. Information and advice is also available from West Cheshire Healthy Homes, our Home Improvement Agency. The council works in partnership with West Cheshire Healthy Homes who provide a service targeted to older and disabled homeowners, helping them with repairs, adaptations and improvements so that they can remain at home in safety, security and warmth. The Agency can assist applicants applying for grant or loan assistance, or having work carried out privately. They also offer help and advice on obtaining funding for work including, grants, savings, welfare benefits, loans, equity release and charitable funding. In addition, they provide complementary services such as a Handyperson Service, offering small home safety repairs, security measures, and energy efficiency advice. Their advisory service is free and they can offer confidential advice and support on how to access the various services and organisations in the borough. To assist landlords, we hold regular Landlords Forums, training events and have introduced a Cheshire wide Landlord Accreditation Scheme. Financial Assistance We aim to provide financial assistance, where appropriate, to those who are unable to fund property improvements themselves. The emphasis is on enabling home owners to release the equity available in their homes on an equity share basis, where the council will benefit from any increase in property values in the longer term, but would also share the risk with the householder of any decrease. Since the council is not primarily a lending institution, it does not wish to impose loan terms which would guarantee its profit or investment, which may discourage applicants. The equity share loan is particularly suited to older and vulnerable residents of the borough, who may have significant equity in their properties, but do not have sufficient income to make regular loan repayments or carry out improvements themselves. Over time, loans are repaid allowing resources supporting the Policy to be recycled by the council. Loan packages should be easy to understand, affordable, and most importantly non-threatening to customers. Therefore loans offered by the council do not carry the threat of repossession. To encourage take up of loans the council will not impose any additional administrative charges for processing applications and will fund these from existing revenue resources Grant assistance is available for low value improvements where incentives will assist with broader strategic objectives, and also for households where the offer of a loan is not appropriate or there is a serious risk to the health, safety and welfare of the occupants. Enforcement of housing standards The council will always attempt to improve housing conditions through the offer of advice, negotiation, agreement, and the offer of incentives where appropriate. Enforcement action is a last resort and will only be taken if resolution through these methods has not been possible. However, the council will not hesitate to take action to protect the health, safety and welfare of occupants when appropriate. For further information please refer to the Private Sector Housing Enforcement Protocol, which can be viewed on the

11 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/ council s website Key to the overall approach is focussing intervention through: Client based schemes - targeting vulnerable, older, and disabled people living in the poorest housing. Tenure based schemes - improving and encouraging the private rented sector. Theme based schemes - tackling issues such as empty homes and energy efficiency. Area based schemes - supporting neighbourhood initiatives. Resource implications Generally, the council will resource the policy through a combination of the following: The allocation received from the Department of Communities and Local Government for Disabled Facilities Grants. A proportion of its own resources through the Housing Capital Programme. These resources will usually be decided on an annual basis by the council as part of its budget setting process. The emphasis on the provision of loans will enable the council to recycle a proportion of the funding available for housing renewal. The award of any financial assistance by the council in accordance with this policy is discretionary (with the exception of Disabled Facilities Grants) and is subject to the availability of adequate financial resources. Monitoring outcomes and service standards The outcomes achieved, and service standards associated with this Policy will be monitored and reported on our website, as detailed in appendix A. Policy development and review The Home Assistance Policy was considered by the council s Executive Committee and approved for formal adoption in Prior to adoption, the general public and a wide range of stakeholders were consulted and their comments were taken into consideration in the formulation of the Policy. In 2011, the Policy was subject to further consultation and was revised to run to 31 March The Policy has now been extended to 31 March 2018, with minor amendments. The strategic approach to housing renewal and the types of assistance available under the Policy remain broadly the same. During the life of the Policy, further research will be undertaken to identify specific ways to improve private sector housing within the borough. The Policy will be reviewed and revised accordingly. This Policy has been carefully drafted so that changes to policy delivery, which do not affect the broad thrust of the strategic direction, can be accommodated without a formal re-adoption process. The council will advise members of the public of any amendments to the policy, via press releases and/or the council s website as appropriate. Equality and diversity This Policy produces significant positive outcomes for vulnerable groups, particularly older people and those with disabilities. It reduces inequalities experienced by these groups in respect of health, housing and income. An Equality Analysis has been carried out as part of this Policy s development and can be viewed at This will be updated during the course of this Policy. We aim to continuously improve the quality of our services for our residents and are committed to giving an equal service to all members of the public regardless of race, colour, nationality, ethnic origins, gender, gender reassignment, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion or belief, social or economic status, or political beliefs. We have arrangements in place to help people who may have difficulty accessing our services. We can help with translation, interpretation and provide information in a variety of formats such as large print, Braille and audio. For more information about access or equality, contact: Strategic Housing and Commissioning, Council Offices, 4 Civic Way, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire CH65 0BE. Tel: Strategic Housing and Commissioning, Council Offices, The Drumber, Winsford, Cheshire CW7 1AH. Tel: Or gov.uk

12 11 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/2018 Appeals and applications for assistance falling outside the policy Although this policy will be the primary consideration in determining applications for assistance, all such applications shall be dealt with on an individual basis, based on the merits of each particular case. The council will not refuse to consider an application that falls outside this policy. It is recognised that there will always be exceptional circumstances and these cases will be considered by a Senior Management Panel. Any person wishing to make an appeal against a decision made under his Policy, or make an application for assistance outside this Policy, should initially write with full details to the Senior Manager, Strategic Housing and Commissioning, Council Offices, 4 Civic Way, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0BE. Comments, compliments and complaints Cheshire West and Chester Council is committed to providing high quality and accessible services. We welcome any queries or suggestions about this policy. You should set out any comments in writing to the Senior Manager, Strategic Housing and Commissioning, Council Offices, 4 Civic Way, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0BE. Or us at: The council s Comments, Compliments and Complaints scheme sets out our policy and procedures for dealing with all sorts of customer feedback. Where you believe the council has failed to provide the level of service expected, a complaint can be made through this procedure via the website at Or you can contact us by letter or telephone at: Cheshire West and Chester Council Solutions Team HQ 58 Nicholas Street Chester CH1 2NP Telephone

13 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/ Types of assistance available The conditions and eligibility criteria applicable to the financial assistance available under this Policy are summarised in the tables below. For more detailed information, please refer to the section: General conditions of assistance. Please refer to the glossary in appendix F for definitions of the terms used in this section for example, equity loan, owner s interest, or category 1 hazard. Decent Homes Loan An equity loan to cover works which bring the property up to the Decent Homes Standard (appendix B). For example, works to: remedy serious disrepair to the fabric of the dwelling, provide modern kitchen and bathroom facilities, improve heating systems and insulation, remove any serious hazards which could affect the health and well-being of the occupier such as dampness, dangerous stairs or defective electrical wiring. Eligibility Criteria Applicant has an owner s interest Applicant must have sufficient free equity in their property to cover the loan Property non-decent or has category 2 hazards significantly above the average for the age of property Applicants, who following a test of resources, are able to contribute less than 75% towards the eligible cost of works Conditions Property must be occupied by the applicant or a family member as their main residence On completion, the property must meet the Decent Homes Standard and have no significant hazards The council s legal charge is secured at the Land Registry No further financial assistance for five years from the completion date. (except for Disabled Facilities Grant) Property must be covered by building insurance until the loan is repaid Amount Maximum of 40,000 and minimum of 1,000, subject to a test of resources The council takes a share of the property value, proportional to the cost of the works, as a percentage of the property s unimproved value Loan is repaid on sale or transfer unless to a person who occupied the property at the time of application. Only one succession allowed. Any further sale or transfer will require repayment Voluntary early repayment may be made at any time

14 13 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/2018 Home Safety Grant A grant available to home owners to carry out urgent repairs where there is a serious risk of harm to the occupiers. For example: serious electrical faults, structural collapse, inadequate heating. Only available where the offer of a Decent Homes Loan is inappropriate due to lack of available equity or where timescales are an issue Eligibility Criteria Applicant has an owner s interest Category 1 hazards present (Bands A and B) Conditions Grant must be repaid if applicant moves within five years A local land charge is secured against the against the property Amount Maximum 5,000 subject to test of resources assessment Group Repair Loan Initiated by the council who organise works to repair and improve the external fabric of a group of properties so they are in reasonable repair and structurally stable. For example: replacement roofs, external cladding, or structural works such as underpinning. It can be used in conjunction with a Group Repair Grant Eligibility Criteria Owner occupier Loan to cover owner s contribution, or eligible works in excess of the maximum grant level All property owners in the block/scheme agree to participate The council organises and supervises works Conditions Property must be occupied by the applicant or a family member as their main residence until the loan is released Property meets Decent Homes Standard on completion of the works The council s legal charge is secured at the Land Registry Amount Maximum 20,000 loan Minimum 1,000 Available as a repayment or interest only loan. Interest to be charged on the loan at Bank Base Rate (variable)

15 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/ Group Repair Grant Initiated by the council, who organise works to repair and improve the external fabric of a group of properties so they are in reasonable repair and structurally stable. For example: replacement roofs, cladding or structural works such as underpinning. It can be used in conjunction with a Group Repair Loan. Eligibility Criteria Applicant has an owner s interest All property owners in the block/scheme agree to participate The council organises and supervises works Conditions Property must be occupied by the applicant or a family member as their main residence, or available for letting, for five years A local land charge is secured against the property Repayable if applicant breaches occupation condition Amount Subject to a test of resources assessment Minimum 50% of eligible costs Maximum grant 40,000

16 15 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/2018 Empty Property Assistance There are approximately 2,400 long term empty properties in the borough. Grants and equity based loans are available to help owners bring empty properties back into use by contributing towards the cost of works to improve the property to the Decent Homes Standard (appendix B). For example: works to remedy serious disrepair, provide modern kitchen and bathroom facilities, improve heating systems and insulation, and to remove any serious hazards which could affect the well-being of the occupier such as dampness, dangerous stairs or electrical wiring. There are three types of assistance available: Empty Property Grant, Empty Property Loan and Conversion Grant. Empty Property Grant Eligibility Criteria Residential property vacant for at least 18 months and must be non-decent Can include conversion from a commercial premises to residential unit for owner occupation Limited to properties in Council Tax bands A,B,C, and D Applicant must have an owner s interest The owner must intend to either occupy or let the property. Empty Property Grant is not available to facilitate the sale of a property Conditions If the property is to be rented, the landlord must join the Cheshire Landlord Accreditation Scheme on completion of the works Property must meet Decent Homes Standard and be occupied before payment of grant can be made Works must be completed and property occupied within 12 months of grant approval Non repayable unless occupation condition breached There are additional specific conditions where the council has nomination rights. See section: General conditions of assistance Amount Level 1: 50% of cost of eligible works up to a maximum 2,000 available to owner occupiers and private landlords Level 2: 50% of cost of eligible works up to a maximum 10,000 available to private landlords who guarantee to let at an affordable rent (Local Housing Allowance rate), and allow the council to nominate tenants for five years

17 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/ Empty Property Loan Eligibility Criteria Applicant has an owner s interest The property must have been empty for 18 months Applicant must have sufficient free equity in their property to cover the loan Property non-decent or has category 2 hazards significantly above the average for the age of property Conditions Landlord must join the Cheshire Landlord Accreditation Scheme on completion of the works Landlord must guarantee to let at an affordable rent (Local Housing Allowance rate), and allow the council to nominate tenants, for 5 years No further assistance for 15 years from the completion date On completion, the property meets the Decent Homes Standard and has no significant hazards The council s legal charge is secured at the Land Registry Property must be covered by building insurance until the loan is repaid Amount Maximum of 40,000 and minimum of 1,000 The council takes a share of the property value, proportional to the cost of the works, as a percentage of the property s unimproved value Loan is repaid on sale or transfer of the property or breach of loan conditions Voluntary early repayment may be made at any time

18 17 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/2018 Conversion Grant For conversion of long term empty property or obsolete commercial premises to provide new units of private rented residential accommodation Eligibility Criteria Dwelling/premises vacant for at least 12 months Planning permission has been granted for the conversion Applicant has owner s interest New units are of a type and size identified by the council as required to meet housing shortage within particular areas of the borough Conditions Landlord must join the Cheshire Landlord Accreditation Scheme on completion of the works Landlord must guarantee to let at an affordable rent (Local Housing Allowance rate), and allow the council to nominate tenants, for 5 years No further grant assistance for 15 years from the completion date Property must meet Decent Homes Standard and be occupied before payment of grant Works must be completed and property occupied within 12 months of grant approval Not repayable unless an occupation condition is breached There are additional specific conditions where the council has nomination rights. See section: General conditions of assistance Amount 50% of cost of eligible works up to a maximum of 10,000 per self contained unit of accommodation provided. Maximum of 50,000 per scheme

19 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/ Landlord Accreditation Grant A grant to provide assistance to accredited landlords who require support to improve their privately rented property. The grant may be used for: energy efficiency measures to reduce fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions, compliance with the Decent Homes Standard, or for fire safety measures in houses in multiple occupation (HMO) Eligibility Criteria Applicant has an owner s interest One grant approval per accredited landlord per financial year Conditions Landlord must be a member of the Cheshire Landlord Accreditation Scheme Grant works must be completed within 3 months of the approval date. On completion, the property must meet the Decent Homes Standard and the terms of the Cheshire Landlord Accreditation Scheme. Grant may be repayable to the Council if within the first year the property is sold, remains unoccupied, or if the landlord leaves the accreditation scheme Amount 50% of eligible costs up to maximum grant of 2,000

20 19 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/2018 Disabled Facilities Grant A mandatory grant to provide adaptations to enable a disabled person to live independently at home. Eligible works include: improving access to the home and garden, adaptations to allow access to essential facilities within the home. For example, stairlifts, level access showers, ground floor bedroom and bathroom extensions, and kitchen alterations. See appendix D and E for definition of eligible works and disabled person Eligibility Criteria Referral by Adult Social Care and Health Occupational Therapist confirming that work is necessary and appropriate Adaptation is the most satisfactory course of action subject to a reasonable and practicable assessment Work costs in excess of 1,000 Available across all tenures Registered Providers are expected to meet the cost of adaptations for their tenants up to the value of 15,000. The Council will meet the full cost of schemes in excess of this amount Separate arrangements apply for council tenants. Contact Plus Dane Housing Group for further details Conditions As set out in the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 Repayment of grant may be required if the applicant moves within 10 years of the completion date Repayment will only be required if it is reasonable to do so having considered all relevant factors Amount repayable is the amount of grant paid above 5,000, up to a maximum repayment of 10,000 Amount Maximum of 30,000 Subject to a test of resources (unless application in respect of a child)

21 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/ Relocation Grant To help a disabled person move to a more appropriate property where their existing home is unsuitable for adaptation. The grant covers expenses such as removal costs and connection of services as well as bridging any affordability gap between the value of the applicant s existing home, and the purchased property. Eligibility Criteria Referral by Adult Social Care Occupational Therapist Property is unsuitable for adaptation, or it is more cost effective to move rather than adapt Available to owner occupiers and private rented tenants (not registered provider or council tenants) Conditions Property must be occupied by the applicant as their main residence, for a period of five years Purchased property must have no category 1 hazards present No further grant assistance for 15 years from the completion date (except Disabled Facilities Grant) Amount Maximum 20,000 available to bridge affordability gap, subject to test of resources Maximum of 2,000 available for removal expenses, subject to test of resources Availability dependent on circumstances of each case

22 21 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/2018 Discretionary Loan and Grant Available as a top-up in connection with Decent Homes Loans and Disabled Facilities Grants where the works exceed the maximum loan or grant limit. Also available for repair or adaptation works which fall outside the eligibility criteria of other types of assistance contained in this policy. For example, additional works recommended by an Occupational Therapist that are not covered under the Disabled Facilities Grant criteria, or households not eligible for a Decent Homes Loan (such as tenants with a full repairing obligation). Eligibility Criteria Available to owner occupiers and private rented tenants in connection with a Disabled Facilities Grant. (not registered provider or council tenants) Owner occupiers only for all other cases Decisions will be made by a Senior Management Panel Conditions For applicants who cannot obtain funding from other sources Conditions requiring repayment of grant if the applicant vacates or sells the property may be applied dependent on the details of each individual case. Loan repayment conditions will be as for Decent Homes Loans Amount Dependent on the details of each individual case

23 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/ The application process How to make an enquiry for a Disabled Facilities Grant Those wishing to apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant should contact the council s Referral and Advice Team on Initially an assessment will be carried out over the phone to determine eligibility. Applicants may be asked to visit one of our independent living centres so that their needs can be assessed more fully, or they may be visited at home by an Occupational Therapist. Following this assessment, West Cheshire Healthy Homes, our home improvement agency, will help complete a financial information form about the applicant and their family. They will then calculate whether the applicant is eligible for a grant on the basis of the information provided. Disabled Facilities Grants are subject to a test of resources, unless the application relates to a child. This will be in accordance with Government regulations which are updated periodically. The applicant s property will also be inspected by a Technical Officer to see whether the works that the Occupational Therapist has recommended can be reasonably and practicably carried out. A Healthy Homes Check is also carried out at this time to ensure there are no other risks to the health and safety of the occupants or visitors to the property. The applicant will be informed in writing of any recommended property repairs and improvements, and advice will be given on any funding available to assist. How to make an enquiry for other types of financial assistance For other types of financial assistance, the first stage is completion and return of a preliminary enquiry form, or an application form, depending on the type of assistance required. Applicants will be required to provide income and savings details if appropriate and details of the problems they are experiencing including any photographic evidence which will help assess the priority of the case. Enquiries for Decent Homes Loans and Home Safety Grants are risk assessed on a points basis. Priority is given to vulnerable residents living in the worst conditions. See appendix C for further details. On receipt of the completed form, the applicant s details are checked against the qualification criteria for the type of assistance applied for and a test of resources carried out if appropriate. Applicants are then notified in writing of the number of priority points awarded and whether or not they are likely to have to make a financial contribution towards the cost of any works. For most types of assistance, the council, or West Cheshire Healthy Homes, will carry out a survey of the property to find out if it meets the Government s minimum standard for housing: the Decent Homes Standard (see appendix B for further information). We will check for any safety issues in the home using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) that may be a risk to the occupants or visitors to the property. The applicant will be advised in writing of any hazards found and provided with a list of recommended property repairs and improvements. An assessment to decide the most satisfactory course of action for dealing with the conditions identified is also completed. If the property meets the eligibility criteria, a schedule of repair works will be issued that when completed will improve the property to the Decent Homes Standard. The schedule will be accompanied by the appropriate grant or loan application forms. Where the Council provides assistance under the Home Assistance Policy, the standard for improvement works is the Decent Homes Standard. Decent homes are free from Category 1 hazards (HHSRS), free from serious disrepair, have reasonably modern facilities and a reasonable degree of thermal comfort. Such improvement works will also usually remove most Category 2 hazards, if present. Any remedial works will also include replacement of any key components that are likely to fail in the next five years, thus preventing the property becoming non-decent.

24 23 Cheshire West & Chester Council Private Sector Housing Home Assistance Policy 2014/2018 We will seek to remedy any other Category 2 hazards not covered that are significantly above the average. Such hazards may in the future become Cat 1 hazards, leading to non-decency, or result in harm to the occupant if allowed to deteriorate. Examples include roof repairs, works to prevent falls on the level, between levels, and stairs, damp and mould issues, electrical and fire safety works. It is anticipated that the majority of home owners and qualifying tenants will choose to employ the services of West Cheshire Healthy Homes, to assist with the completion of the necessary documentation and also to obtain contractors estimates through a formal tendering exercise. Fees charged by West Cheshire Healthy Homes for their service can be included in the application and in most case are fully funded by the grant or loan. Applicants are required to submit a minimum of two estimates from separate VAT registered contractors, to complete the necessary works. (Separate arrangements apply in respect of Group Repair Grants and Loans) If you are landlord or the owner of an empty property and wish to make an enquiry for Empty Property Grant, Empty Property Loan, Conversion Grant or Landlord Accreditation Grant, please contact: Strategic Housing and Commissioning, Council Offices, 4 Civic Way, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, CH65 0BE. Tel: Strategic Housing and Commissioning, Council Offices, The Drumber, Winsford, Cheshire, CW7 1AH. Tel: If you are a homeowner and wish to make an enquiry for Decent Homes Loan, or Home Safety Grant, please contact: West Cheshire Healthy Homes, Unit 2, Rossmore Business Village, Inward Way, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, CH65 3EY. Tel: and at: 21a Meridian House, 37 Road One, Winsford Industrial Estate, Winsford, Cheshire, CW7 3QG. Tel: Further information is available on the council s website: Approval of applications When we receive an application form, it is checked to ensure that all documentation received is complete and correct. A formal test of financial resources is then carried out if appropriate. For owner-occupiers and qualifying tenants applying for Decent Homes Loans Home Safety Grants, Group Repair Grants and Relocation Grants this will be in accordance with the legislation that governs the means test for mandatory Disabled Facilities Grants. These regulations are updated on a periodic basis. The council or West Cheshire Healthy Homes will also carry out a costing exercise to determine an eligible cost for the repair works and compare this to the contractor s estimates. Where additional non-eligible items of work have been included in the estimate, these are not considered for assistance. Similarly, where contractors costs or professional fees are considered to be excessive, the excess proportion of the costs will not be eligible for assistance. This process helps the council ensure value for money is achieved for the customer and public funds spent in the borough. Once we are satisfied that all the necessary paperwork is in order, we will write to the applicant advising whether or not the grant has been approved. For most types of assistance, works must be carried out within 12 months, by a contractor whose estimate was submitted with the application.

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