St Leger Homes of Doncaster
Doncaster Council Tenancy Strategy 2017 consultation

Doncaster Council Tenancy Strategy consultation 2017

Empty Homes grant

Doncaster Council are reviewing their Tenancy Strategy and have commissioned St Leger Homes to undertake this on their behalf. We would like your views on the draft strategy, particularly on the terms which are proposed for flexible tenancies along with the circumstances under which they would be reviewed.

Below is a flavour of the policy and an opportunity to complete a short survey to provide us with your feedback. The full draft strategy can be found here.

The consultation closes 5 February 2017.
 


The Localism Act 2011 introduced the concept of “flexible tenancies” into the social housing sector. The Act gave providers of social housing the option to offer flexible tenancies to new social tenants. A flexible tenancy is a secure tenancy of a fixed term (not less than two years), rather than a “lifetime” tenancy, where the tenant may remain in the property for life, even if their circumstances change and they no longer need it.

 Section 150 (1) of the Act placed a new duty on every local housing authority to publish a Tenancy Strategy. The Strategy must set out, in high level terms, the matters to which all registered providers of social housing for its district should have regard in formulating their own tenancy policies relating to:-

  • The kinds of tenancies they grant;

  • The circumstances in which they will grant a tenancy of a particular kind;

  • Where they grant tenancies for a term certain, the lengths of the terms; and

  • The circumstances in which they will grant a further tenancy on the coming to an end of an existing tenancy.

Doncaster produced a Local Tenancy Strategy in 2014 in response to this direct

Statutory requirement and considered some instances where flexible tenancies would be granted. St Leger Homes of Doncaster are currently reviewing this strategy on behalf of the Council taking into account new legislation arising from the Housing & Planning Act which places a duty on all social housing providers to offer flexible tenancies to all new tenancies.  Although detailed regulations on the terms and circumstances of such tenancies are not yet laid down by the Government, Doncaster has decided to consult with its partners and stakeholders on such matters to ensure we adhere to the regulations and deliver the needs of the people of Doncaster in achieving a balance of the best use of housing stock and sustaining tenancies and communities.

This Strategy provides direction and guidance to Registered Providers who own and manage stock in the borough and sets out the council’s expectations with regard to fixed term tenancies.  The council recognises that it has no regulatory powers to direct Registered Providers in their decisions about the tenancy terms (lengths) they may offer. However, the council expects that Registered Providers in the borough will have regard to this Tenancy Strategy in their decision making process, both at the point a property is let and when the tenancy is reviewed to align with Doncaster’s overall borough priorities.

The Council will maintain the preferred option of ‘Secure Tenancies’ for its tenancy strategy and will ensure that all exceptions in the legislation to allow this are managed accordingly.  However, in granting fixed term tenancies in accordance with the act we would like to consult on the following terms and circumstances in which the Council proposes to grant fixed term tenancies and the circumstances on which these will be renewed at the end of the fixed term, or terminated.

Existing tenants with an ‘old-style’ secure tenancywho are forced to transfer within the Local Authority stock, for example where a property is to be demolished, will be protected and will retain their lifetime secure tenancy.  However, in instances where tenants transfer within the Local Authority of their own choice the Local Authority will for the most part be required to offer fixed term secure tenancies. 

The Act places a duty on landlords to review tenancies 6-9 months before the end of the term.  The review will determine that one of 3 options must be taken;

Option 1 – grant a  new fixed term secure tenancy at the end of the term       

Option 2 – seek possession of the property but offer to grant a secure tenancy of another property       

Option 3 – seek possession without offering to grant a secure tenancy of another property       

Objectives of the Tenancy Strategy

The Tenancy Strategy is designed to achieve a balance of providing tenancy terms of sufficient length to allow households to enjoy some stability and quality of life but also to ensure periodic reviews confirm their eligibility and housing need.  Main objectives are:

  • Ensure the best use of housing stock

  • Enable all residents of the borough to access suitable accommodation

  • Maintain stable and vibrant communities. 

The circumstances in which different types of tenancies will be granted

Where a property becomes available for letting the Registered Provider will determine the appropriate form of tenancy and will seek to identify a suitable tenant.

In determining the form of tenancy the Registered Provider will take into account:

  • the current mix of households in the locality and the aspiration to create and sustain balanced and mixed communities;

  • known need and demand for housing in the locality;

  • their neighbourhood and asset management plans;

  • targets for lettings agreed as part of any nominations agreement or agreed local lettings policies;

  • its allocation through Choice Based Lettings;

  • any other strategic considerations relevant to the Registered Provider.

     

    The Council considers that fixed-term tenancies are not suitable* in the following circumstances:

Where the household is transferring from an existing Registered Provider assured or Local Authority secure tenancy which was granted prior to 1st April 2012. This is to ensure that there are no disincentives for existing tenants to move to a more suitable or desirable property and there are no barriers to normal ‘churn’ within the sector       

  • Tenants with a lifelong need for support that would disadvantage them in securing alternative accommodation should be offered lifetime tenancies. This applies to tenants in both general needs and specialist and/ or supported accommodation;

  • Where the tenant is someone over the prevailing state retirement age or where the tenant is residing in older persons designated accommodation, including sheltered or ‘extracare’ housing;

  • Where the property is located in an area of very low demand and/ or high multiple deprivation and where the Local Authority has serious concerns about the long term sustainability of the area. In these circumstances the Local Authority will initiate discussions with the relevant Registered Provider(s) to request that they temporarily suspend the use of fixed-term tenancies in that area;   

  • Where a tenant with a secure or assured tenancy is required by a Registered Provider to move due to redevelopment e.g. they are being required to move; not seeking to do so.

 The length of term if fixed-term tenancies are used*       

The expectation is that fixed-term tenancies will be granted normally for a five year period, with discretion to let for shorter (two years) or longer periods (up to ten years) where this is appropriate to the circumstances of the household or property.

The reasons for this approach are:              

  •  it is reasonable in terms of managing the resources involved in reviewing tenancies;

  • in order to give the tenant a reasonable time of stability to build their life chances for themselves and their possible dependents;

  • to allow a reasonable period for tenants to engage in the local area, which is needed for cohesion in communities; and   

  • to allow the Registered Provider to take into account circumstances of the household or property which might merit a letting of shorter or longer than five years.

In certain circumstances the granting of a tenancy that exceeds a five year period may be appropriate for some tenants in order to provide an additional degree of stability and security and to aid neighbourhood cohesion.  This will be up to a 10 year period.  These circumstances would be:          

  • households who have dependent school-aged children attending a local school,

  • those living in adapted properties,     

  • those with a support need that is long-term but not necessarily lifelong,

It is envisaged that two year tenancies should only be issued in exceptional circumstances, for example:  

  • where a property is part of a leasing arrangement and is not in the ownership of the Registered Provider and would need to revert into private ownership;

  • supported housing schemes where it is anticipated that the tenant will move on to more settled accommodation within a period of less than five years;

  • lettings carried out for management reasons such as those for tenants moving into properties to allow emergency works to be carried out in their existing home;

  • regeneration areas where property demolition or disposal is expected to take place within five years;

  • as an extended period to an Introductory Tenancy where reasonable grounds exist that the tenancy is at high risk of failure

  • where properties have been built using Government funding for Rent to Buy.

The circumstances in which Registered Providers will grant a further tenancy*

 It is expected that tenants’ needs will be sensitively dealt with, and that the criteria for renewals may include the following considerations.

Fixed-term tenancies approaching expiry will usually be renewed where*

  •  the household includes dependents of pre-school age or in full-time education, unless any points in the paragraph below apply. We may also need to recognise that children stay with their parents well beyond school age for valid reasons, and these will be considered on an individual basis;

  • the tenancy was originally offered in response to a particular set of circumstance or vulnerabilities (e.g. the household was fleeing harassment or domestic violence, is under a witness protection programme, was a person leaving Local Authority care or has mental health problems) and the household is still classed as being vulnerable;

  • the property has been adapted to meet the needs of a disabled person and that person still resides in the property and needs the adaptations;

  • the household receives some form of housing support or is recognised as being vulnerable;

  • the household still requires the size of property;

  • the household is playing an active role in the community;

  • the tenant would be approaching the prevailing state retirement age within the next three years and the property is suitable for a lifetime tenancy;

  • households where a household member is seriously or terminally ill;

  • in cases where the property is under-occupied but this is not as a result of a change in household circumstances (e.g. due to low demand for the property it was under-occupied on allocation) it is recommended that the tenancy should be renewed if the tenant can still afford to pay the rent

  • the tenant can demonstrate that they carry out caring responsibilities for a neighbour or relative who lives nearby and there is no suitable alternative accommodation in the same area.

Fixed-term tenancies expiring will not usually be renewed where*

  • there has been a material change in household size and they are now under-occupying the property by more than one bedroom, whereby an alternative tenancy may be offered subject to alternative accommodation being available. In determining whether or not a property is classed as under occupied Registered Providers should have regard to the ‘bedroom standard’. Registered Providers may also wish to consider whether an additional bedroom is needed to allow a carer or relative to occasionally stay in the property overnight to undertake caring responsibilities for the tenant;

  • the household’s circumstances enable them to access market housing AND there is not a reason to seek to retain the household in the locality for the purposes of community balance. The Council does not want the use of fixed-term tenancies to be a barrier to households seeking employment or attempting to improve their income and lifestyle through career progression and, therefore, would expect that this criterion would apply infrequently;

  • a member of the household or their invited guests is engaged in anti-social activities within the locality of the home and/ or that has a detrimental effect upon the community in which the household is placed. Anti-social behaviour is conduct which is causing or likely to cause nuisance or annoyance, harassment, alarm or distress, to any other person, and can include criminal acts;

  • the property was adapted during the tenancy period for someone with a disability only for that person to be no longer resident there or to no longer require the adaptations and there are other households needing this type of adapted accommodation. In these cases the Council expects that the Registered Provider will arrange for alternative suitable accommodation to be secured either through a transfer or mutual exchange within its own stock or that of another Registered Provider;

  • where a person has been granted a property in order to receive support but then refuses to accept that support;

  • where there is evidence that a breach of tenancy agreement has occurred, for example, property neglect or arrears;

  • where it is identified the property is inappropriate for an individual’s needs, i.e. they are not coping in the property or they need more support than is currently being provided.

The Council is committed to ensuring that the decision to terminate a fixed-term tenancy does not lead to increases in levels of homelessness in the area. Therefore, in situations where a decision has been taken by a Registered Provider not to renew a tenancy at the end of a fixed-term, the Registered Provider should seek to engage with the tenant at the earliest possible convenience to make them aware of the Provider’s intentions and provide appropriate advice and assistance in sourcing alternative accommodation.

We'd love to here your feedback on the strategy - please click here to tell us your thoughts.

*All references to Fixed Term Tenancies may be  subject to change via Regulations yet to be published in respect of The Housing & Planning Act 2016 -  Fixed Term Secure Tenancies

Awards

Contact

St Leger Court
White Rose Way
Doncaster
DN4 5ND
Tel: 01302 862862
Powered by EasySite™ CMS