CONTROLLING AUTHORITY: Head of Housing & Community Services. DATE: August AMENDED: Changes to Starter Tenancies.

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1 TENANCY POLICY CONTROLLING AUTHORITY: Head of Housing & Community Services ISSUE NO: 3 STATUS: LIVE DATE: August 2014 AMENDED: Changes to Starter Tenancies 1

2 Index 1.0 Purpose of the Policy 2.0 Tenancy Types 3.0 Joint Tenancies 4.0 Vulnerable Households 5.0 Advice and Assistance 6.0 Maintaining the Tenancy 7.0 Mutual Exchanges 8.0 Succession Rights 9.0 Tenancy Fraud 10.0 Policy Review 11.0 Approval 2

3 1.0 PURPOSE OF THE POLICY 1.1 This Policy is required by the regulator of social landlords, the Homes and Communities Agency under the Regulatory Framework for Social Housing in England from April This Policy is required by the regulator of social landlords, the Homes and Communities Agency under the Regulatory Framework for Social Housing in England from April The policy sets out Boston Mayflower s approach to tenancy management and the types of tenancy we will offer. 1.4 It has been developed taking into account the needs of individual households, the sustainability of communities and the most efficient use of our housing stock. 1.5 Due consideration has been given to the published Tenancy Strategies or the views of the local authorities (where they have not been published) in the areas where we own and manage housing. 1.6 The vast majority of Boston Mayflower s properties are within the area of Boston Borough Council and extensive discussions have taken place with partners in regard to changes to the scheme of allocations contained in the Boston Choice Based Lettings scheme. 1.7 Extensive consultation with Boston Mayflower tenants was carried out during June 2012 to obtain their views on who should be given priority for housing and assist in identifying those properties which are under-occupied and over-occupied. 1.8 The Board of Boston Mayflower has considered the options available and provided the strategic direction for this policy. The policy is intended to assist our aims and objectives to provide secure affordable homes to those most in need and to maintaining stable communities. 1.9 Boston Mayflower at present only has an arrangement with the Homes and Communities Agency to provide homes to let at Affordable Rents in relation to the Empty Homes Initiative in conjunction with Boston Borough and with the exception of properties let under this scheme, all other properties covered by this policy will be let at social rent. 2.0 TENANCY TYPES There are a number of tenancy types which we can offer to people in different situations including some additional changes introduced in the Regulatory Framework In offering tenancies we will ensure that tenants who choose to move within the social housing sector (whether or not they change landlord) will be granted a tenancy offering as much security as the old one (subject to the limitations contained within the Tenancy Standard) with the exception of tenants moving into an Affordable Rent home and those tenants entering into social housing after the commencement 3

4 of the Localism Act 2011, i.e. 1st April Descriptions of each and the circumstances in which they will be used and who they will be offered to are as follows: N.B. The use of the word tenant in this policy includes all parties to a joint tenancy. 2.1 Assured Tenancy This is the most secure form of tenancy we offer. Most existing tenants of Boston Mayflower have Assured Tenancies and they last until either the tenant(s) gives 4 weeks written notice to end the tenancy or Boston Mayflower obtains a court order to end the tenancy on one of the grounds contained in the Housing Act 1988, one of these grounds is a breach of one or more of the Conditions of Tenancy. We will offer an Assured tenancy to Existing Boston Mayflower tenants who transfer to another Boston Mayflower property An Assured tenant of a Registered Housing Provider (including Boston Mayflower) or a Secure tenant of a Council who wishes to carry out a mutual exchange with a Boston Mayflower Assured tenant Tenants with a Starter tenancy which will become an Assured tenancy at the end of the Starter tenancy period or in the case of an extended starter tenancy at the end of the extended period. A person who is entitled to succeed to the tenancy of an Assured tenant who has died. This only applies to statutory successions as defined in Boston Mayflower s Succession Policy. (See also Succession Rights in this Policy) 2.2 Assured Shorthold Tenancy This is a less secure type of tenancy and has fewer rights than an Assured tenancy. We will offer Assured Shorthold tenancies to: Those housed under homeless legislation Those housed in temporary accommodation 2.3 Starter Tenancy This is in effect a trial tenancy for a period of 12 months. It has similar rights to an Assured Shorthold tenancy and can be ended more quickly by the landlord if the tenancy conditions are broken. Starter tenants who maintain their tenancies without breaching the conditions of tenancy will convert to an Assured tenancy at the end of the first 12 months. Tenants who have breached their tenancy agreement may have their tenancy ended. Starter tenancies may, at the discretion of the Head of Housing & Community Services and/or Appeals Panel, be extended for a period of six months where it is judged that more time is required to reasonably allow a tenant(s) to demonstrate compliance with their conditions of tenancy or other relevant stipulation in relation to the conduct of their tenancy. 4

5 We will offer Starter tenancies to: All new tenants apart from existing Boston Mayflower Assured tenants and tenants of other social landlords when carrying out a mutual exchange involving a Boston Mayflower Assured tenant. In addition all new starter tenants will be offered and encouraged to take part in our Financial Awareness programme. We will only end a Starter tenancy by obtaining a court order for possession of the property: On one of the grounds listed in Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988 : or By serving two months notice requiring possession in accordance with Section 21 of the Housing Act Where a decision is taken to end a Starter tenancy, the tenant has the right to request a review of the decision and must request an appeal in writing within 14 days of the Section 21 Notice being served, outlining the specific reasons for appeal. A review panel will be convened within 21 days of receipt of the written appeal. The panel will not include members of staff involved in the decision to end the tenancy and will be chaired by a senior member of staff, for example a Head of Service or Director. The tenant may be accompanied by a representative at the appeal panel. The review will be based on the evidence presented. If the appeal is dismissed, Boston Mayflower will take legal action to end the tenancy. 2.4 Licence to Occupy This is the least secure form of agreement we offer and only in very limited circumstances. We will offer a licence to: Those who do not have exclusive occupation in hostel accommodation 2.5 Fixed Term Tenancy This is a tenancy for a fixed period of time, normally five years and can be either a Fixed Term Assured Shorthold tenancy or Assured tenancy. Boston Mayflower is open to the use of Fixed Term Tenancies but they are only deemed appropriate when specifically linked to a client group. At the present time there is only one specific group for whom fixed term tenancies are considered appropriate. This is in relation to the Empty Homes Initiative in partnership with Boston Borough Council. The Empty Homes Initiative involves bringing a small number of un-occupied privately owned properties back into use and let at affordable rents (i.e. up to 80% of the equivalent market rent for the area) by Boston Mayflower who will mange them on behalf of the owners for a fixed lease period of 10 years. We will offer Fixed Term Assured Shorthold tenancies of five years to: Applicants wishing to rent a property under the Empty Homes Initiative 5

6 We will review a fixed term tenancy 9 months prior to the end of the fixed term in order to allow sufficient time for the tenant to find alternative accommodation if required. We will carry out a full review of the tenant s financial circumstances and tenancy conduct. We will renew a fixed term tenancy: Where the tenant satisfies the review criteria. We will advise the customer in writing not less than six months before the end of the tenancy that a new 5 year fixed term tenancy will be offered prior to the end of the existing fixed term. The new fixed term will commence on the day after the end of the existing fixed term. We may end the tenancy if: There have been breaches of the tenancy agreement The property is no longer suitable, for example it if it is too large or too small for the needs of the household The tenant s financial circumstances are such that they will be unable to sustain the tenancy over a further fixed term. To assist the review the tenant will be required to provide all information necessary to ensure a fair assessment can be made. Failure to provide the necessary information will be taken into account in the final decision on whether to offer a further fixed term tenancy. The tenant does not accept the terms and conditions of the new tenancy The tenant s financial circumstances have changed and they have the financial capacity to meet their own housing need and it is reasonable for them to do so. To assist the review the tenant will be required to provide all information necessary to ensure a fair assessment can be made. Failure to provide the necessary information will be taken into account in the final decision on whether to offer a further fixed term tenancy. Where a decision is taken not to renew the tenancy we will serve a Notice not less than six months before the end of the tenancy terminating the tenancy. The tenant has the right to appeal this decision and must request an appeal in writing within 14 days of the Notice being served, outlining the specific grounds for appeal. An appeal panel will be convened within 21 days of receipt of the written appeal. The panel will not include members of staff involved in the decision not to renew and will be chaired by a senior member of staff, for example a Head of Service or Director. The tenant may be accompanied by a representative at the appeal panel. The review will be based on the evidence presented. If the appeal is dismissed Boston Mayflower will take legal action to end the tenancy. The use of fixed term tenancies will be reviewed periodically and this policy updated should a decision be taken by the Board to use them more widely. 6

7 Where a vacancy occurs in a property included in the Empty Homes Project and there is less than five years of the lease remaining, we will offer either a Fixed Term tenancy of two years or an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, whichever is more appropriate taking into account the remaining term of the lease. 3.0 JOINT TENANCIES 3.1 Joint tenancies will only be granted at the commencement of the tenancy where there is a joint application for housing and each of the applicants is eligible to hold a tenancy. 4.0 VULNERABLE HOUSEHOLDS 4.1 Where a tenant is deemed to be vulnerable we will ensure that they have access to additional support to help understand their tenancy and any review process. All applicants for supported housing will have an assessment carried out to ensure that any support needs are identified. All applicants for housing who have any members of their household with a disability will have their needs taken into account when assessing the type of property they require. The vast majority of our tenants including all families with children will after successful completion of a one year starter tenancy have the security of an Assured tenancy. 5.0 ADVICE AND ASSISTANCE 5.1 Where a Starter tenancy or a Fixed Term tenancy is not being renewed we will provide advice and assistance on other housing options. We will provide advice on benefit entitlement and assist with financial planning where required. The provision of advice may include signposting to other agencies who may be able to provide more specialist advice and practical support. 6.0 MAINTAINING THE TENANCY 6.1 We aim to help and assist tenants to maintain their tenancy by providing support, advice and referrals to other specialist agencies. 6.2 The types of assistance we offer to tenants will include but not be confined to: Offered and encouraged to take part in our Financial Awareness Programme Referral and signposting to the Wellbeing Service Benefit Advice to maximise income Preventative approach to rent arrears eviction as a last resort Referral arrangements with the Citizen s advice bureau to provide debt advice Comprehensive partnerships to prevent and resolve anti-social behaviour Assessment for all sheltered housing applicants Partnership working with specialist services such as Mental Health Targeted support to overcome barriers to finding employment 7

8 6.3 Whilst our primary aim is to assist tenants to maintain their tenancy, we will take legal action against any tenant who seriously breaches the terms of their tenancy agreement including where necessary, re-possession of the property. 7.0 MUTUAL EXCHANGES 7.1 The right to exchange properties will depend on the type of tenancy held and will be set out in the tenancy agreement. 7.2 The written consent of the landlord is required to carry out an exchange. 7.3 Further details are contained within the Mutual Exchanges and Assignments Policy 7.4 Boston Mayflower subscribes to HomeSwapper internet based exchange service and tenants who require it will be assisted to access the service. 7.5 The service is publicised through our website, Looking Local, transfer visits, and the Boston Choice Based Lettings property magazine. 8.0 SUCCESSION RIGHTS 8.1 Succession to a tenancy occurs on the death of a tenant or a joint tenant and succession rights are set out in the Tenancy Agreement and Boston Mayflower s Succession Policy. 8.2 Assured Tenants (including Assured Shorthold and Starter) have rights of succession, Licensees do not. 8.3 In the case of joint tenancies the tenancy will automatically pass to the surviving joint tenant(s) and they will succeed by survivorship 8.4 If a sole tenant dies and that tenant was not a successor to the tenancy the tenancy will pass to the husband, wife, partner (including same-sex partner) provided they have lived with the tenant as their only or principal home at the time of the tenant s death. 8.5 If a sole tenant dies and had not already succeeded to the tenancy of the property, the tenancy may be passed to a member of the tenant s family provided that they have lived with the deceased tenant at least a year prior to the death. A member of the family is considered to be; Parents Grandparents Children Grandchildren Brothers Sisters Uncles Aunts Nephews and Nieces 8

9 8.6 Where more than one person qualifies to succeed to the tenancy the members of the tenant s family should agree which of them should succeed. If they cannot agree the company will decide. 8.7 Boston Mayflower may also consider other circumstances at its discretion. In using discretion consideration will be given to: The relationship between the proposed successor and the deceased tenant. The length of time the proposed successor has been residing with the deceased tenant prior to their death. The housing need of the proposed successor. The size and facilities of the property currently occupied in relation to the needs of the proposed successor Whether or not the proposed successor has responsibility for any resident dependents. The extent of housing need in the area. The proposed successor s eligibility under the current Choice Based Lettings Policy 9.0 TENANCY FRAUD 9.1 We will investigate any suspicion of tenancy fraud (such as sub-letting, fraudulent housing applications) and utilise all of the enforcement powers available to us and co-operate with any other agencies such as Housing Benefit departments to detect and prevent fraud. 9.2 Where tenancy fraud is proven, we will seek to re-possess the property POLICY REVIEW 10.1 This policy will be reviewed annually or when changes are required before the next scheduled review APPROVAL 11.1 This policy has been approved by the Board of Boston Mayflower. 9

10 Equality Impact Assessment Initial Screening Name of policy / strategy / project (the initiative ): Provide a brief summary of the aims and main activities of the initiative: (bullet points) To set out the Company s tenancy management policy including the types of tenancy we offer. Completed by: Deborah Tempest Date: August 2014 STAGE 1: SCREENING This stage establishes whether a proposed initiative will have an impact from an equality perspective on any particular group of people or community i.e. on the grounds of race, religion/faith/belief, gender (including transgender), sexual orientation, age, disability, or whether it is equality neutral (i.e. have no effect either positive or negative). Q 1. Who will benefit from this initiative? Is there likely to be a positive impact on specific groups/communities (whether or not they are the intended beneficiaries), and if so, how? Or is it clear at this stage that it will be equality neutral i.e. will have no particular effect on any group? Please consider all aspects of Diversity including as a minimum: Age, Disability, Gender/Transgender, Race/Ethnicity, Religion/Faith/Belief, Sexuality Essentially almost all tenants and future tenants will benefit as the policy provides for the most secure form of tenure for the type of property being offered. The introduction of starter tenancies will provide lesser security than previously for new tenants for an initial period of 12 months. However, this will only impact on those who fail to comply with the tenancy agreement and only after a court order has been obtained. The provision of support during the 12 month starter period will minimise the risk of eviction and contribute towards safer, sustainable communities for all.

11 Q 2. Is there likely to be an adverse impact on one or more minority/under-represented or community group as a result of this initiative? If so, who may be affected and why: Or is it clear at this stage that it will be equality neutral? Please consider all aspects of Diversity including as a minimum: Age, Disability, Gender/Transgender, Race/Ethnicity, Religion/Faith/Belief, Sexuality No single group will be adversely affected by the initiative. Q 3. Is there sufficient data on the target beneficiary groups/communities? Are any of these groups under or over represented? Do they have access to the same resources? What are your sources of data and are there any gaps? Please consider all aspects of Diversity including as a minimum: Age, Disability, Gender/Transgender, Race/Ethnicity, Religion/Faith/Belief, Sexuality They are all represented Q 4. Outsourced services if the initiative is partly or wholly provided by external organisations / agencies, please list any arrangements you plan to ensure that they promote equality and diversity. Please consider all aspects of Diversity including as a minimum: Age, Disability, Gender/Transgender, Race/Ethnicity, Religion/Faith/Belief, Sexuality Not applicable Q 5. Is the impact of the initiative (whether positive or negative) significant enough to warrant a full impact assessment see guidance? If not, will there be monitoring and review to assess the level of impact over a period of time? Please consider all aspects of Diversity including as a minimum: Age, Disability, Gender/Transgender, Race/Ethnicity, Religion/Faith/Belief, Sexuality The impact will be minimal in terms of those who are affected by the introduction of starter tenancies. Support will be provided to households during the first 12 months who would otherwise struggle to maintain their tenancy. Starter tenancies are continually monitored. It is not envisaged that a full impact assessment is required.

12 Q 6. To be completed at six monthly review Detail actions taken to assess the level of impact over a period of time, or to address any gaps in data. Please consider all aspects of Diversity including as a minimum: Age, Disability, Gender/Transgender, Race/Ethnicity, Religion/Faith/Belief, Sexuality Guidelines: Things to consider Where a negative (i.e. adverse) impact is identified, it may be appropriate to make a full EIA (see Stage 2), or, as important, take early action to redress this e.g. by abandoning or modifying the initiative. NB If the initiative contravenes equality legislation, it must be abandoned or modified. Where an initiative has a positive impact on groups/community relations, the EIA should make this explicit, to enable the outcomes to be monitored over its lifespan. Where there is a positive impact on particular groups, does this mean there could be an adverse impact on others, and if so can this be justified? - e.g. Are there other existing or planned initiatives which redress this? It may not be possible to provide detailed answers to some of these questions at the start of the initiative. The EIA may identify a lack of relevant data, and that data-gathering is a specific action required to inform the initiative as it develops, and also to form part of a continuing evaluation and review process. It is envisaged that it will be rare for full impact assessments to be required. Usually, where there are particular problems identified in the screening stage, it is envisaged that changing the approach at this stage, and/or setting up a monitoring/evaluation system to review a policy s impact over time will tackle the problem.

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