To seek approval of the Tenancy Management Policy (report of the Portfolio Holder for Housing and Health and Executive Director – Commercialisation (S151 Officer) enclosed).
Consideration was given to the report of the Executive Director Commercialisation which sought approval of the Tenancy Management Policy.
South Holland District Council’s Housing Services Team managed approximately 4000 properties. The Tenancy Management Policy set out how the Team managed Introductory and Secure tenancies including: Succession, assignment and mutual exchange; Right to buy; Joint tenancies; Relationship breakdown; Running a business from home; Sub-letting and lodgers; Gardens; Infestations; Keeping animals and pets; Anti-Social Behaviour; Access; Abandonment; Disabled aids and adaptations; Termination of tenancies; Rent and use and occupation accounts; Other breaches of tenancy; Decanting to alternative accommodation; Management of introductory tenancies; Monitoring tenancies and the condition of properties; Safeguarding; Personal property and insurance; and Tenancy fraud.
The introduction of a Tenancy Management Policy and supporting procedures would ensure a consistent and transparent approach was delivered, and would be a point of reference for officers to base decisions on. Many items in the policy related to items prescribed by housing legislation.
Members considered the report, and the following issues were raised:
· Members commented that the succession of tenancies only seemed to allow one succession to a tenancy. Was there any flexibility to extend beyond this?
o Officers clarified that criteria for who could succeed a tenancy was dictated by Housing Law, and that the law stated that there could be only one automatic succession. It was also clarified that succession was linked to the tenancy, and not the property. It was important to consider how the Authority managed demand for housing.
· Members noted the information provided by officers, but requested that consideration be given to making succession less constrained by allowing succession to carry on beyond one.
· Members also stated that making tenancy succession more flexible could have an impact on housing stock and the ability to provide it to other people in need – any changes would need to balance these two issues.
o Officers responded that a policy for discretionary successions could be developed, but that it would be discretionary, and the succession would succeed the tenancy and not a property. It was difficult to adopt such a policy as they did not always operate as intended however, officers would consider the members’ request.
· Members were concerned that, with regard to joint tenancies, a joint tenant could serve a notice to end a joint tenancy, even without the knowledge or consent of the other joint tenant.
o Officers agreed that in some circumstances, this could be a cause for concern however, the ability to do this was detailed within the Housing Act, and the Authority could not override this legislation. If there was a joint tenancy, the Authority would ensure that the other party was aware of the situation, but could not stop notice being served on the tenancy.
· With regard to Joint to sole tenancy, members understood that a joint tenant could be removed from a joint tenancy – what would happen with the remaining tenant if they did not wish to end the tenancy?
o Officers advised that, in practice, if one tenant wanted to be removed from the tenancy, the tenancy had to be ended – this was dictated by the Housing Act. However, the Authority would attempt to work with the remaining tenant.
· How was an ‘acceptable condition’ for a garden to be kept in established, and how was this dealt with when it became a problem.
o Officers commented that what constituted an ‘acceptable condition’ could vary from person to person however, where disagreements arose, the Authority would attempt to use mediation to resolve any issues.
· What was the situation regarding the keeping of pets?
Officers clarified that, permission had to be requested to keep any
pets (other than 2 small caged birds, 1 small fish tank or 1 small
caged rodent) before the tenancy started. If the new tenants already had pets, they would be
advised that permission had to be sought, and the offer letter laid
out how this could be done.
· With regard to abandonment, what were the timescales before the Authority took repossession of the property, and who was responsible for the property while it was empty?
o Officers advised that this would be 28 days from the date of abandonment (once this had been established). Officers would visit the property four times within this period to gather intelligence on whether the property was abandoned. Responsibility for the property depended on the situation, but where possible, the Authority would work with the tenant and family.
· With regard to Anti-Social Behaviour, badly maintained gardens etc, how could members find out who owned a property, and who to report to?
o Officers stated that as information constantly changed, it would be preferable to liaise with the Housing Management Team. Where a property was not Council-owned, any issues could be forwarded to the Community Safety Team.
· Members questioned whether information on the discretionary home loss payment to tenants should be explained more fully, with accountability being clearer?
o Officers advised that homeless payments were set out in Housing Act 1973. The payments were discretionary and circumstances could differ – it would therefore be difficult to be more specific within the policy.
· Members commented that the Housing Act dictated how certain situations should be dealt with – it was requested that this be stated within the policy, where this applied, so that it was clearer which actions were dictated by legislation and which were within the Authority’s gift to decide.
That the draft Tenancy Management Policy be supported for consideration by the Cabinet, subject to the following:
i. That consideration be given to a discretionary tenancy succession policy to provide more flexibility than the current policy (which only allowed succession to carry on beyond one), to be balanced against any impact on the Council’s housing stock; and
ii. That the policy document made it clearer which areas were dictated by the Housing Act.