ASPIRE HOUSING POLICY

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1 ASPIRE HOUSING POLICY TENANCY MANAGEMENT POLICY (Outline Statement) APPROVED BY: Caroline Baggaley Date: DATE OF LAST FORMAL REVIEW New Policy FORMAL REVIEW OF POLICY COMPLETED BY: KEVIN DAVIES Neighbourhood Services Manager DATE NEXT FORMAL REVIEW REQUIRED 2015 FORMAL REVIEW FREQUENCY 3 Yearly RECORD OF REVIEWS AND AMENDMENTS New policy. RELATED PROCEDURES Please see appendix contained in the document. OFFICERS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ADMINISTRATION OF THIS POLICY Neighbourhood Services Manager, Neighbourhood Services Team WHO WAS CONSULTED DURING THE WRITING OF THIS POLICY? HMT, Tenancy and Estate Service Improvement Group. Other service heads and senior management team (zone 10). 1

2 Brief Policy Summary Tenancy Management Policy Aspire Housing aim to deliver excellent services and will use feedback from residents, research Best Practice and respond to Regulatory Guidance and advice in order to achieve continual improvement. Aspire Housing will comply with all relevant legislation, regulatory codes and Guidance to ensure effective management of our tenancies. This policy outlines our principles and approach to tenancy management and clarifies the services provided, the required standards, performance monitoring arrangements & consultation arrangements. We recognise that we operate in a community within which there is a wide social diversity and are committed to providing equal opportunities and valuing diversity. We aim to treat all customers fairly, with respect and professionalism. 2

3 ASPIRE HOUSING TENANCY MANAGEMENT POLICY (Outline Statement) Contents Page Page Number 1. Introduction 4 2. Outline of Service 6 3. Policy Statement 7 4. Performance Monitoring Responsibility Equality and Diversity Consultation and Review Scheme of delegation Associated Documents 19 3

4 1. INTRODUCTION 1.1 Aspire Housing is committed to supporting and developing sustainable communities through the provision of an efficient and effective tenancy management service. 1.2 We recognise the importance of effective tenancy management in providing homes and neighbourhoods where people aspire to live, and understand that well managed tenancies can provide a positive impact on the wider community. 1.3 Our approach to tenancy management is to support our customers to successfully sustain their tenancies. We are committed to ensuring good tenancy relations are maintained, however, where there is a clear breach of the tenancy agreement we will take appropriate action including ending the tenancy if necessary. We will provide sufficient support to enable the tenant to remedy any breach. 1.4 We will ensure that all our tenants are aware of their rights and responsibilities and the service they can expect from Aspire Housing. Our landlord duty will be exercised in compliance with relevant legislation, regulation & statutory guidance and the tenancy agreement. 1.5 The purpose of this policy is to outline our principles and approach to tenancy management. The policy reflects the content of Aspire Housing s tenancy agreement and tenancy conditions. 1.6 Aspire Housing will ensure the services are planned, effectively resourced and comply with its legal requirements as a landlord. Any services tendered will be accordance with the Company s standing orders and financial regulations. 1.7 Aspire Housing reserves the right to add, modify or alter the services provided, subject to consultation with residents, in the interests of good tenancy management, for the benefit of residents or in order to demonstrate value for money. 4

5 1.8 Aspire Housing will consult, listen and respond to residents and work in partnership with relevant agencies to help promote social, environmental and economic well-being within its communities. 1.9 Aspire Housing will meet the requirements of the Homes and Communities Agency (formerly the Tenant Services Authority) national standards and the requirement for local standards in operating this policy. The most relevant standard in this case is the Neighbourhood and Community standard. 5

6 2 OUTLINE OF THE SERVICE 2.1 The policy sets out the principles that Aspire Housing will follow in the management of its tenancies. The specific areas covered are:- Tenancy agreement Using the property New tenancy visits Sustaining tenancies Tenancy audits Tenant improvements and alterations Keeping pets and livestock Lodgers Subletting Tenancy name changes Succession Mutual exchanges Assignment Unauthorised occupants Abandoned properties Gardens Parking within the boundary of properties Anti-social behaviour 2.2 This policy will be supported by a range of more detailed policies that will be specific to certain aspects of tenancy management. These related policies are indicated on page Aspire Housing has detailed procedures and service standards, which will also support the practical implementation associated with the core aspects of our Tenancy Management Policy. 2.4 Aspire Housing will work in partnership with Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, Staffordshire County Council and other agencies to resolve issues where any enforcement action may be required 6

7 3 POLICY STATEMENT 3.1 Tenancy Agreement Aspire Housing will communicate the terms and conditions of tenancy to all tenants during the sign-up process to make sure that they are understood. All our new tenants will also be required to sign a pretenancy good neighbour agreement. We will ensure all our tenants receive a copy of the Tenancy and Good Neighbour Agreements and issue a tenancy handbook We will monitor that our tenants are keeping to the terms of their tenancy agreement and will take prompt and appropriate action to resolve any breaches of the tenancy conditions. 3.2 Using the Property We require our tenants to use the property as their only or principal home and not use it for immoral or illegal purposes. We will take prompt action to end the tenancy of those tenants who fail to comply with these requirements We require our tenants and those living with them to take reasonable care to prevent damage to their home both internally and externally. Action will be taken where any misuse of the property occurs Tenants must not allow their home to become overcrowded. If an increase in the size of the family results in overcrowding, then we will provide advice on housing options to help the family move to a more suitable property We will not normally refuse permission for a tenant to run a business from their home provided permission is sought beforehand. We will not give consent to any trade or business activity that is likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance to neighbours Action will be taken should any business be conducted without permission or where it is causing a nuisance or an annoyance to neighbours. 7

8 3.3 New Tenancy Visits A new tenancy visit will be carried out following the commencement of a new tenancy and the timing and frequency of these visits will depend on the individual support needs of the new tenant. The key aim of the visit will be for the Neighbourhood Officer to establish a good relationship with the tenant and provide advice on any services which the tenant may require. The visit will also provide an opportunity to reinforce the tenant s responsibilities to neighbours and wider community. 3.4 Sustaining Tenancies Aspire Housing will ensure that tenancy sustainment underpins the delivery of our services. We are committed to supporting tenants who are at risk of losing their homes and will provide targeted help when they become vulnerable We will carry out a pre-tenancy risk assessment to identify potentially vulnerable or financially excluded customers so that early intervention can ensure that the property allocated is appropriate to the prospective tenant s need and to ensure any relevant support requirements can be put in place before occupation We will offer a range of pre-tenancy courses to prospective tenants aged which will provide practical knowledge to ensure that young people can cope when they first move into their Aspire home Aspire Housing will work closely with key statutory and voluntary agencies and ensure it has appropriate assessment and referral processes in place to identify the support needs of our current tenants. We will be proactive in referring and signposting our tenants to agencies with the relevant expertise to assist them so that they can maintain their tenancy. 3.5 Tenancy Audits Aspire Housing is committed to undertaking regular tenancy audits in order to maintain accurate and up-to-date tenancy records and also engage with our customers. 8

9 3.5.2 The visit will allow us to confirm legal occupation and proactively identify incidents of unauthorised occupation, overcrowding, underoccupation and identify tenancies where additional support is needed We will give reasonable notice to tenants prior to the audit visit. Where access to the property is refused or denied, Aspire Housing will take appropriate legal action to ensure access is gained to carry out the audit. 3.6 Tenant Improvements and Alterations Aspire Housing recognises that tenants may wish to alter or improve their home at their own expense. Tenants must first obtain written consent from Aspire Housing and we will not unreasonably refuse permission. Should we refuse permission then we will give the reason for doing so in writing We may make our consent conditional upon the works being carried out to a certain standard. The tenant will also be responsible for obtaining any planning or building regulation approval from the Local Authority Failure to seek consent or comply with our conditions will be treated as a breach of tenancy and could result in legal action including repossession Tenants will be responsible for repairing and maintaining all improvements and alterations they have installed. Aspire Housing may request that the property is restored to its original condition by the tenant upon termination of the tenancy and will charge the tenant reasonable costs if this is not carried out prior to vacation Where improvements were started after 1 st April 1994 and the tenant terminates their tenancy, we will inform them which improvements qualify for compensation and how to go about making a claim. There will be no entitlement to compensation if written permission was not obtained prior to carrying out the work. 9

10 3.7 Keeping Pets and Livestock Aspire Housing is happy to allow tenants to keep up to two domestic pets without prior consent as long as they are cared for and controlled properly. Domestic pets are defined as dog, cat, rabbit hamster, gerbil, mouse, fish, caged bird, non-poisonous reptile or non-poisonous insect or small amphibian (such as a newt). Written consent will be required to keep more than two domestic pets or for any kind of livestock such as horse, pig, goat, sheep, geese or ducks etc. Under no circumstances must an animal which is prohibited by law be kept Written permission will be required to keep a dog in flats or maisonettes where the front door opens into a corridor rather than outside. Assistance dogs will be exempted from this rule. We may not allow dogs to be kept in such accommodation if it may cause them harm or suffering or cause a nuisance or annoyance to neighbours Tenants will be responsible for the behaviour of their pets and if they cause a nuisance neighbours, damage property or cause other problems Aspire Housing will take appropriate action. 3.8 Lodgers Aspire Housing recognises that some tenants may wish to take in lodgers. Allowing tenants to have a lodger can help us to make better use of our housing stock. Family members will not normally be treated as being a lodger. Starter tenants do not have the right to take in lodgers We define a lodger as being: An occupant who, although has their own bedroom actually lives with the tenant. A lodger will not have sole use of any part of the property but may share some rooms (e.g. living room) with the tenant Our tenancy conditions do not require tenants to obtain our consent to take in lodgers as long as it does not cause overcrowding (as defined in part 10 of the Housing Act 1985). However, we do require the tenant to inform us if someone joins or leaves the household so we can keep an accurate record of who is residing in our properties. 10

11 3.8.5 Aspire Housing will hold the tenant responsible for the behaviour of their lodger(s). If they cause nuisance, damage property or cause nuisance to neighbours, we will investigate and take appropriate action against the tenant Lodgers will not be entered onto tenancy agreements nor have any rights of succession or normally be allowed to take over the tenancy. 3.9 Subletting Our tenancy conditions require tenants to obtain the written consent of Aspire Housings prior to subletting part of the property. Consent will not unreasonably be withheld as long as it does not cause overcrowding. Sub-letting the whole of the property will not be permitted. Starter tenants do not have the right to sub-let We define a sub-tenant as being: An occupant who has exclusive occupation of part of the tenant s home (e.g. a bedroom and lounge) and lives essentially independently Aspire Housing will hold the tenant responsible for the behaviour of their sub-tenant. If they damage property or cause nuisance to neighbours, we will investigate and take appropriate action against the tenant Sub-tenants will not be entered onto tenancy agreements nor have any rights of succession or normally be allowed to take over the tenancy Tenancy Name Changes If a tenant wishes to change their name on the tenancy because of a marriage, divorce, religious or family reason then Aspire Housing will require evidence of the change of name before amending our tenancy records All notifications of change of name should be submitted in writing. The following documentary evidence will be required; marriage certificate, divorce decree absolute, other legal notification or other suitable written evidence. 11

12 There is no legal requirement for us to add another person to an existing tenancy (such as a partner or close relative). However, we would consider granting a new joint tenancy on the terms of an assured tenancy but any protected rights may be lost Aspire Housing reserves the right not to process any name changes if an order for possession has been obtained or it is thought there is an intention to deceive or there is suspected fraud Succession In the event of the death of a tenant(s), we will ensure that we act as swiftly and sensitively as possible. We will comply with our legal requirements in respect of succession in accordance with our separate Succession Policy. We will only grant one succession and if the deceased tenant was themselves a successor no further succession will be permitted We will act sensitively and consider requests for new tenancies where these do not meet the criteria laid down in legislation providing it does not conflict with the Joint Allocations Policy Mutual Exchange Aspire Housing recognises that mutual exchanges can assist tenant mobility and is committed to it promotion and will actively participate in any suitable or relevant schemes We will assist tenants seeking alternative accommodation by way of a mutual exchange within its own stock and with tenants of other landlords such as a secure tenant of a council or assured tenant of another registered social landlord The written permission of Aspire Housing must be obtained prior to any exchange of homes. We will comply with the criterion laid down in legislation when making decisions on requests for an exchange and will not unreasonable withhold consent. We will notify all involved parties in writing of our decision within the statutory 42 days. If permission is not granted the full reasons for refusal will be supplied. 12

13 Where a mutual exchange takes place without the written permission of Aspire Housing then we will take appropriate legal action Assignment All secure and assured tenants have the right to assign their tenancy to someone who would have qualified to succeed to the tenancy in the event of their death. Starter tenants are not allowed to assign their tenancy. We will only grant one assignment and if the current tenant was themselves a successor or assignee no further succession will be permitted Transfers of a tenancy from joint to sole are still by way of assignment and will require the consent of both parties and Aspire Housing. In the event that both parties do not agree or one party does not sign the deed of assignment then the assignment cannot be progressed Where a court has made a property adjustment order in matrimonial proceedings and decrees an assignment, Aspire Housing will act in accordance with the court s determination In cases where the right to assignment has been exercised previously or the proposed assignee has no right of assignment, then it is at the discretion of Aspire Housing whether it is appropriate in the circumstances to grant a new tenancy (providing this does not conflict with the Joint Allocations Policy) We will comply with our legal requirements in respect of assignment in accordance with our separate Assignment Policy Unauthorised Occupants The detection and eviction of unauthorised occupants and squatters is important to Aspire Housing because it means that a valuable resource is unavailable to those in greatest housing need. 13

14 We will not tolerate any unauthorised occupation of our properties and will take prompt action in accordance to relevant legislation to remove anyone who is found to be in illegal occupation as quickly as possible. We will have a separate detailed Squatters and Unauthorised Occupants Policy To support our aim we are committed to undertaking annual tenancy audits and will work closely with partner organisations to counter tenancy fraud Abandoned Properties Aspire Housing recognises that tenants may be away from their homes for an extended period of time for a variety of reasons. Tenants are required to inform Aspire Housing if they are away from their property for more than 28 days and may need to provide evidence to support any extended absence (e.g. for work or study reasons) We are committed to making the best use of our housing stock and to helping those in greatest need. Where Aspire Housing believes that a property has been abandoned, we will take prompt and appropriate action in accordance with our separate Abandoned Properties and Absent Tenants Policy. We will ensure that all appropriate checks have been made to establish, as far as reasonable, that a property has been permanently abandoned We will work closely with partner organisations to tackle benefit and tenancy fraud and support the National Fraud Campaign Gardens Aspire Housing expects its tenants to keep any garden, hedges trees and fences in a well-maintained, tidy and safe condition We will provide an assisted gardening service to people who have difficulty looking after their garden for health reasons. If a person does not qualify for this service then we will provide advice on where help and assistance can be obtained. 14

15 The written permission of Aspire Housing is required for the following: The removal of any tree or hedge The removal of any fence or wall The erection of a structure such as a shed, pigeon loft, aviary, greenhouse etc We will monitor that tenants gardens are being adequately maintained and will take appropriate action where the condition of the garden becomes unacceptable Parking within the Boundary of the Property Motor vehicles must not be parked within the boundary of a property unless there is a proper dropped kerb, footpath crossing and garage, driveway or hardstanding in place. All vehicles must be for private use and be road legal. A Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN) as an alternative to vehicle taxation will be acceptable Where a tenant wishes to provide a garage, driveway or hardstanding then permission will be required from Aspire Housing, such permission will not be unreasonably withheld as long as a proper dropped kerb and footpath crossing is in place Tenants are required to obtain permission for the parking of commercial vehicles, caravans, motor homes and boats within the boundary of the property. Permission will not be unreasonably withheld providing there is no safety hazard or no cause of nuisance or annoyance to neighbours We will monitor that vehicles are being kept within the boundary of properties in accordance with Aspire Housing s conditions and will take appropriate action if these are not being upheld. 15

16 3.18 Anti-Social Behaviour Aspire Housing believes that all our customers should be able to enjoy their homes and neighbourhoods without fear of any kind. We are committed to tacking issues relating to anti-social behaviour, harassment and neighbour nuisance Aspire Housing will promote a culture of intolerance towards anti-social behaviour and has signed up to the Government s Respect Standard and is a core member of the Social Landlords Crime and Nuisance Group (SLCNG). We are committed to stopping anti-social behaviour and creating a culture of respect Aspire Housing will not tolerate and will take prompt and effective action against all types of harassment including racial, homophobic, age, religion, domestic violence and disability. Aspire Housing has adopted the recommendations within the Challenge report (McPherson Report) We will promptly investigate all reported incidents of anti-social behaviour, harassment and neighbour nuisance and utilise a variety of actions to effectively resolve incidents in accordance with our separate Anti-Social Behaviour Policy. 16

17 4 PERFORMANCE MONITORING Aspire Housing will evaluate performance and track the impact of our approach of this policy by: Recording, analysing and learning from complaints, queries and disputes relating to tenancy management. Undertaking Equality Impact Assessments to monitor the effect and impact of this policy to ensure fair and equal treatment Recording, monitoring and reporting on compliance with the service standards targets. Developing and establishing benchmarking in order to compare performance and cost of delivering the tenancy management service including researching best practice to drive continual improvement. Working in partnership with residents and organizations at a local level to develop tenancy services including undertaking satisfaction surveys and other consultation arrangements. Record, monitor and report the number of inspections carried out jointly with residents. 5 RESPONSIBILITIES It is the responsibility of the Neighbourhood Manager to ensure the implementation of the Tenancy Management Policy. 17

18 6 EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY 6.1 Aspire Housing recognises that customers of all races, ages, religions, gender, sexual orientation and disability should be treated equally and fairly and we will not discriminate in implementing this policy and the associated procedures. 6.2 As part of this undertaking, we give equal standing to tenants who are married, civil partners, or gay, lesbian or heterosexual common-law partners, except where this approach is overridden by the law. 6.3 We define the term partner and spouse as referring equally to: married couples civil partners common-law partners gay or lesbian couples 6.4 We will be sensitive to tenants individual needs and will tailor our services and approach accordingly. 6.5 We will take steps to identify any language or communication requirements and ensure that we provide information in the appropriate format. 6.6 All customers will have access to this document upon request or from our website where appropriate. 6.7 This document can be translated or provided upon request in alternative formats, such as, Braille, large print and audio. 6.8 Equality and diversity training is provided and is mandatory. 18

19 7 CONSULTATION AND REVIEW Aspire Housing will consult tenants, leaseholders, recognised residents associations, local advice agencies, relevant partners and stakeholders and the Board on any proposed changes to this policy and show how their views have influenced the process. 8 SCHEME OF DELEGATION Responsible Formulation and monitoring of The policy and procedures MANAGEMENT MEETING Amendments to Policy Monitoring of statutory Requirements MANAGEMENT MEETING Implementation of policy Neighbourhood Manager Monitoring by Management meeting. 9 ASSOCIATED DOCUMENTS Internal Supporting documents Tenancy Agreement Good Neighbour Agreement Tenants Handbook Starter Tenancy Policy Anti-social Behavior Policy Abandoned Properties and Absent Tenants Policy Squatters & Unauthorised Occupants Policy Succession Policy Assignment and Mutual Exchange Policy 19

20 Links to other documents Common Parts Policy Estate Management Policy Income Management Policy Eviction Policy Joint Allocations Policy Complaints Policy Relevant legislation and Guidance Protection from Eviction Act 1977 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 Housing Acts 1985, 1988, & 1996 Human Rights Act 1998 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 Children Act 1989 Family Law Act 1996 Civil Partnership Act 2004 Crime and Disorder Act 1998 Protection from Harassment Act 1988 Anti-Social Behavior Act 2003 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 Tenant Services Authority Regulatory Requirements CRE Code of Guidance on Racial Equality in Housing Home Office Code of Practice on Reporting Racist Incidents (in Response to Recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry) Health and Safety at work Act

21 How to complain Aspire Housing aims to provide high quality, customer focused services to our customers at all times If customers are dissatisfied and wish to complain about our action(s), lack of action or the standard of service is received, we will ensure that their complaint(s) are dealt with fairly, in a timely manner and confidentially in line with the Data Protection Act Where customers wish to compliment Aspire Housing on the service they have received, these will be acknowledged, recorded and passed to the relevant department/individual We will work hard to ensure that our customer s views and opinions are taken into account in the way in which services are provided and indeed look to shape our services around our customers feedback. All complaints and compliments will be considered as part of the Performance Management Framework, incorporating Customer Satisfaction levels and feedback and will be reviewed by Aspire Housings Scrutiny Panel in a 6-weekly basis. 21

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