Empty Homes & Lettings Policy
Scope and objectives
This policy sets out Thrive Homes’ approach to empty homes management and maintenance, and the letting of empty properties. The policy follows the Regulatory Framework’s consumer standards to demonstrate that we let homes in a fair, transparent and efficient way, make best use of our stock and work with our local authority partners to assist them in meeting their housing duty.
This policy applies to all social rent properties which include those properties let at an affordable and intermediate rent. Allocations for properties which are not considered to be social rent (for example market rent or shared ownership) are outside the scope of this policy.
1. Giving Notice
All tenants are required to give 28 days’ notice in writing of their intention to terminate their tenancy. If a tenant returns the keys to the property without giving the correct notice, rent and other charges will be liable until the notice period expires.
To minimise the short-term void period, Thrive Homes will use the notice period to advertise, pre-allocate and may view the property with the outgoing tenants’ co-operation.
2. Damage, unauthorised alterations and items left at the end of tenancy
Tenants are required to put right any damage or unauthorised alterations and leave the property in a clean and clear condition prior to the tenancy ending. If these works are not completed, Thrive Homes will stop internal transfers and take appropriate action for breach of tenancy, which could include enforcement.
Should a tenant end the tenancy, return keys and vacate the property without doing the required works and/or leave personal items, furniture or an un-cleared garden, for example, a charge will be incurred which will be inclusive of management charges for the removal or clearance of the item/s.
3. Returning the keys
The keys of the empty property must be returned by 12 noon on the relevant Monday in accordance with the notice. Where the keys are not received, any rent and charges associated with the property will continue until the keys are returned. Rent is charged on a weekly basis therefore where keys are returned after 12 noon on the Monday, the full weekly rent and charges will be applied.
4. Repairs to the empty property
Works to the empty property will be specified and carried out in line with the Home Standard (as outlined in the Thrive Deal).
All works outside the Home Standard will be identified at the time of the inspection, a repair order raised and scheduled to be completed within the first 60 days of the tenancy when the new tenant is in occupation.
Properties will be assessed against the Home Standard and, where Thrive deems applicable, a decorations voucher will be given to assist with the cost of decoration. Decorations vouchers are issued at Thrive’s discretion.
5. Letting Thrive Homes’ properties
Thrive Homes will co-operate with local authorities strategic housing function and their duties to meet identified local housing needs. Thrive enters into nomination agreements and Service Level Agreements (SLA) when new schemes are developed or acquired and will comply with the SLA’s and section 106 agreements of the local authority areas we operate in.
Thrive will allocate and advertise properties in accordance with the nomination agreement or SLA with the local authority for the area of that property or specific scheme (unless the property is a direct let).
Nomination agreements allow for a percentage of properties to be let directly. The circumstances where a direct let may take place are outlined in Appendix 1.
Properties with major adaptations will be advertised as such with bids limited to those applicants with the same or similar requirements. Thrive Homes will work with partner local authorities and choice-based lettings consortia to provide additional choice to applicants with medical or mobility needs and ensure that full assessments of void properties are carried out to determine suitability. Adaptations will be carried out in accordance with Thrive’s Aids and Adaptations Policy. If a property has minor adaptations which are not viable to accommodate an applicant in a particular property, these will be removed and the property returned to general needs.
Following verification, affordability and tenancy history checks, provisional offers will be made to the applicant with the highest priority within the banding authority except in exceptional circumstances as outlined in Appendix 3.
Applicants can only receive one offer at any one time. Should they bid on more than one property in a cycle and be at the top of more than one shortlist, the applicant will be given a maximum of 24 hours to choose which property they would like to be offered. Thrive Homes can decide on behalf of the applicant if they cannot be contacted within the 24-hour timescale.
Where two applicants meet the criteria and have the same application date, Thrive Homes will decide who will be offered the property.
To ensure that properties are let as quickly as possible, Thrive Homes considers 24 hours to be a reasonable period for an applicant to make a decision to view or accept the offer (Part 6 Housing Act 1996). If the applicant does not respond, the offer will be withdrawn.
Multiple viewings will be arranged where appropriate. The applicant with the highest priority has the first refusal.
Offers may be withdrawn in some circumstances. Examples of such circumstances are given in Appendix 4.
Tenancies are offered in accordance with our Tenure Policy. Thrive Homes’ tenancies will start on a Monday. However, rent can be charged mid-week in certain circumstances which will be pro-rata the full week’s rent.
Tenants will be required to sign an inventory to note the condition of the property within 3 working days of the tenancy beginning.
6. Local lettings policies
All local lettings policies will be agreed by Thrive Homes and the relevant local authority before implementation. Details of the criteria will be stated in the choice-based lettings advert. As with all offers of properties, applicants will be required to meet the criteria.
7. Tenancy Sustainment
Thrive focuses on ensuring that the tenancy is sustainable for the customer. This includes vulnerable customers but will require that enough appropriate support is in place for the individual to sustain their tenancy. See Appendix 2.
8. Bedroom eligibility and increasing mobility
Bedroom eligibility will be in accordance with the relevant local authorities’ allocations policy.
Tenants who are under-occupying will be helped to move providing they have kept to the terms and conditions of their tenancy. Unpaid rent may be deducted from any under-occupancy payment if applicable or transferred if approved by Thrive.
Mutual exchanges will be promoted where tenants are eligible.
9. Refusing housing applicants and withdrawing offers
Thrive will refuse to house applicants in some circumstances even if the local authority has accepted that individual onto the local allocations scheme. Details of these circumstances can be found in Appendix 3.
In exceptional circumstances, offers may be withdrawn, see Appendix 4.
Applicants can appeal in writing against any allocation decision made by Thrive Homes, within seven days of the decision, beginning from the date of the decision.
Thrive Homes allocates properties based on information held on the CBL Housing Register application. Thrive Homes may prosecute any applicant who commits an offence under Section 171 of the Housing Act 1996 and may seek possession of any tenancy granted as a result of a false statement by the tenant, or anyone acting at the tenants’ instigation or with their knowledge.
Employee and Board Members
Applications for accommodation from employees, or relatives of employees, will be assessed in the same way as other applications. If an employee or their relative(s) are eligible for re-housing, the application will be referred to the Chief Executive who, in consultation with the Chair of Thrive Homes, will consider approval to allocate a property. This will then be reported to the subsequent Board meeting, under Section 13 of the Probity Policy ‘Housing Board Members and Employees and their Close Relatives’. The employee(s) concerned will not be involved in the lettings process.
Regulatory and legal considerations
This policy will comply with the Regulator of Social Housing Tenancy Standard, the Equality Act 2010 and part 6 Section 170 of the Housing Act 1996.
- Aids and Adaptions
- Affordable Rent
- Incentive to Move
- Rent and Service Charge
Monitoring and Reviews
This policy will be monitored through departmental KPIs and sample audits of lets.
The policy will be reviewed every five years or sooner should regulatory advice or the ongoing monitoring of the delivery of the policy reveal that a review is desirable.
- Status Approved September 2018
- Next review date September 2023
- Responsible Assistant Director - Customer
- Equality impact issues None