You should now be considering formulating Tenancy Policies aimed at ensuring that tenants understand what types of tenancy agreements to grant them; how to promote and support tenancy sustainment; taking steps to prevent unnecessary evictions and tackling tenancy fraud.
The concept of Tenancy Policies was introduced initially as part of the wider package of Social Housing Reforms set out by the Government in Local Decisions: In Fairer Future for Social Housing. The Reforms included the introduction of Fixed Term Tenancies and Affordable Rent, changes to allocations and homelessness and promotion of increased mobility for social tenants. These proposals are being implemented through the Localism Act and changes to the regulatory standards that all social landlords, including Housing Associations will be expected to meet in the near future.
The Tenancy Policy will set out how and when you will use the new tenancy management options available to you including the use of fixed term tenancies and charging Affordable Rent.
The Localism Act requires you to work with Local Authority partners and tenants when developing a Tenancy Policy that reflects local needs, the makeup of your stock and the strategic expectations of the local authorities you work with.
With this in mind, the Chartered Institute of Housing have published a document providing practical advice on how to develop your Tenancy Policy. Details of the Policy documents can be found on their website: www.cih.co.uk.
Developing your Tenancy Policy will involve making both strategic and operational decisions followed by consultation and communication with key stakeholders including local authorities, tenants and staff.
In making these decisions, you should consider:
- The local circumstances in which you are operating including the number of elderly and vulnerable tenants you accommodate;
- The Local Authority’s vision for the area. Ultimately this will be set out in the Tenancy Strategy to be produced by the Local Authority, but if that is not being produced yet, a good dialogue with the Local Authority’s will help you to understand what they are trying to achieve, even if their Strategy has not been formulated;
- A profile of new tenants and applicants on the waiting list and when considering the specifics of a Tenancy Policy, ensuring that the Tenancy Policy contains the following key information;
- Details of the kind of tenancies to be offered and at what rents (where applicable). There are a range of potential options open including offering Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements for fixed terms and at Affordable Rent Rates. In addition, considering whether or not it is appropriate that new tenants complete a probationary period before benefiting from a fixed term tenancy;
- Consider “households” who are vulnerable and establish and households with dependent children. Will they be offered a different type or length of tenancy than other applicants and if so, why?
- Defining the groups who will always be given a “lifetime” tenancy. For example, this could include older people or those with a long term disability;
- Some specific criteria to be used by your staff when considering terminating tenancy agreements. You should consider in what circumstances would you not offer another tenancy at the end of a fixed term and where a new tenancy if offered, what criteria will determine its type and length?
- Establishing a process for review of tenancy agreements. How frequently will they be carried out and who will conduct them? As a minimum, tenants must have a review at least six months before the end of their fixed term;
As with any Policy, it will be vital to develop your approach in consultation with stakeholders and residents.
Remember, your Tenancy Policy is likely to result in a fundamental change to your “housing offer“ so it is important that your policy is widely known and understood.
If you would like to discuss how to develop your Tenancy Policy and fixed term tenancy agreements, please do not hesitate to contact Kary Withers.