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Stroud district council

STROUD DISTRICT COUNCIL
HOUSING COMMITTEE
7 November 2013
Report Title
Tenant Services Decant Policy

Purpose of Report
To update the existing Policy ensuring it is robust and fit Decision(s)
The Committee resolves to approve the reviewed policy
Consultation and
Presented to the Tenant Services Service Development Feedback
Group (SDG) on 15/08/13 – agreed by members Presented to the Stroud Council Housing Forum (SCHF) – Financial Implications
The authority needs to ensure sufficient budget is and Risk Assessment
allocated to meet the expected volume of mandatory and discretionary payments to tenants who are eligible for compensation under this policy Ian Garrett, Business Accountant (HRA) 01453 754121 Email: Legal Implications
The authority should note that there is a risk that the decant process and timeline identified (see page 7, paragraph 5.1, first paragraph) may lead to delay in the start of construction activities. This may entitle contractors to claim for loss and expense arising from the delay and disruption. In addition, the authority should note that: • if legal proceedings were instituted to obtain possession, the likely delay could be 6 to 8 weeks, assuming the court was able to deal with the matter quickly • If a property were to be purchased, the likely delay could be 4 to 6 weeks assuming a willing seller or longer assuming an unwilling seller. • If the authority used its CPO powers, the delay Legal Implications
We recommend that Legal Services are engaged at an early date to help manage the risks identified. Lucia Fiveash, Solicitor Tel: 01453 754387 Email: Report Author
Performance
This policy will be reviewed annually on the anniversary of Management Follow Up
Background Papers/
Appendix A shows officers who were involved in the Appendices

1. Background

The Decant Policy was last reviewed in 2009. The content of that policy was not reflective of the current and future position with specific regard to the new allocations policy following changes as a result of the Localism Act of 2011 and the development programme for new and refurbished Council housing. Decanting Policy

Contents:

1. Introduction 2. Aims 3. Eligibility 4. Tenants returning to a new housing development Decanting where another landlord is carrying out work 10. Disputes/appeals 11. Equality & diversity statement 12. Statutory Home Loss Payments and Disturbance payments – General information Introduction
This policy sets out the approach Stroud District Council takes to moving residents in order for work to be carried out to their property (decants for tenants or in some circumstances, rehousing home owners). A decant is where a resident moves from their current home to another one, either temporarily or permanently. A decant is usually carried out if the property is being demolished as part of the Council’s programme of work, is damaged in an emergency such as fire or flood or is to be redeveloped and/or it is not safe or possible for the resident to remain while work is carried out. Rehousing owner-occupiers will only be considered in limited circumstances where the Council acquires the property using compulsory purchase powers for example the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 and the Land Compensation Act 1973. The property that the resident moves to may be Council owned, or a Registered Provider (RP) property or, privately owned. The resident may also decide to arrange their own accommodation on a temporary basis with friends or family. The aims of this policy for residents decanting both temporarily and permanently are: • To ensure decants operate in a fair, equitable and reasonable manner, in accordance with the current allocations policy. • To deliver simple but effective consultation and feedback with decanting residents at the earliest opportunity and throughout the process. • To enable decants to be carried out to minimise disturbance to residents. • To establish a basis for making offers of support, both financial and practical, to • To enable the Council to make best use of stock through timely access for • To minimise rent loss to the Council by having a joint approach to decants in line with current allocations policy and the development/ refurbishment process. • That the best use is made of the Council’s resources Eligibility

In line with the legislation and existing best practice, the following people will be
eligible for assistance and possible re-housing: Tenants, their family members,
partners and spouses living in the affected property 12 months prior to the date of
agreement for the regeneration scheme, (including children)
3.1 The Council will not re-house unauthorised occupants, sub-tenants, lodgers, licensees and other non-secure occupants. Those ineligible persons within the criteria of s 160ZA of the Localism Act and those deemed ineligible by the Secretary of State. 3.2 Owner occupiers within a designated scheme may be given assistance to find alternative accommodation, the options available to them are dependent on their individual circumstances and the equity available to them. 3.1 also applies to owner occupiers Consultation and Communication
The Council acknowledges that moving home is a stressful experience, especially where the resident may feel their options are limited. This Decant Policy ensures that decants are carried out appropriately and efficiently with the minimum stress and difficulty. If a decant is necessary the Council has a legal obligation under Section 105 of the Housing Act 1985 to consult with tenants when they are substantially affected. Consultation must be at a time when proposals are still at an early stage and SDC will consult with all affected persons. Under this policy, all consultation, feedback and communication will be termed Tenant Liaison - this covers all aspects of working with affected persons during re-development, refurbishment and improvement work, including engaging with other linked services such as Housing Benefits, Housing Advice and Council Tax. Provision of Information Every qualifying person(s) will be visited by the Tenant Liaison Officer at the start of redevelopment projects to discuss: • What the proposed scheme is and why it is being undertaken. • The decant policy and process (tenants and qualifying owner occupiers only). • What choices there are and how these can be made. • What we will do to help tenants prepare for any work and support whilst this work • Named contact officer for the duration of the programme. • Owner occupiers will be given specific advice on how the Council wishes to involve their properties in any scheme and the process that will be followed. Feedback from residents about their preferences, expectations and opportunities to influence is sought through individual visits, site meetings and liaison with local tenants’ representatives, leaseholders (as appropriate) and Councillors. In addition to the initial home visit from the Tenant Liaison Officer each household will have a home visit from the Housing Advice Team to discuss their options and choices (this may not be necessary/appropriate for all owner occupiers). Ongoing feedback throughout the duration of the development will be primarily through the Tenant Liaison Officer whose contact details will be provided. Further group and individual feedback will be carried out as required. Any redevelopment or refurbishment requires tenants, home owners, officers and Councillors to work together. Co ordination of communication and consultation will be carried out by the Council’s Tenant Liaison Officer who will be the main point of contact for residents. For larger schemes, consultation work and support may be provided by a specialist Tenant Liaison Officer either employed by the Council or a contractor. This officer will work closely with the appropriate officers such as Contracts Officer, Housing Officer, Housing Manager, Housing Advice Manager and Head of Asset Management to make sure information is shared. Needs Assessment
As set out above, every qualifying person(s) will have an initial home visit from the
Tenant Liaison Officer where their preferences, expectations and options will be
discussed. This home visit will include an assessment of support needs and a
property inspection.
Each resident (tenants and qualifying homeowners) will have the option to choose
whether they move temporarily or permanently – this will be discussed and may be
decided at the initial home visit or later in the process.
Current Tenants who are moved from their home which is being repaired, refurbished
or demolished and rebuilt by the Council as part of a planned maintenance
programme, development programme or due to an emergency leaving the home
uninhabitable will:-
• (If refurbished) remain tenants of their original home.
• (If demolished) remain secure tenants.
• Have a licence to occupy their decant property.
• Pay the lower of the two property rents i.e. the current property and the decanting
property rent) until either the new home is built or they return to their refurbished home. • Have the right to return to their original home on completion of the work or a new They may also be allowed if they choose, to remain in their decant property subject to room size qualifications. In very exceptional circumstances properties may be purchased by the Council, for decants. These will not be available for permanent stays, only for temporary decants for the purposes of relevant schemes. Allocations Policy Assessment All tenants needing to move, whether temporary or permanent will be required to register on Gloucestershire Home seeker. This is to ensure fairness and equity with other residents in the district seeking accommodation and to ensure stock remains available for the Council to discharge its duties under current Homelessness Legislation. All tenants registering because of a decant will be Silver band initially (or its equivalent under future allocations policy), moving to Gold band where the proposed demolition/start on site is within 3 months and to add Emergency band where demolition/start on site is within 1 month. Where a home owner qualifies for rehousing by the Council they will also be required to register on Gloucestershire Home seeker and their options for shared ownership and privately renting will be explored It is in a qualifying person(s) interests to take advantage of the bidding system as early as possible and support will be provided by the Housing Advice Team to maximise their opportunity for success. As soon as a resident is registered they will have a home visit or office appointment with a senior member of the Housing Advice Team. This appointment will provide the resident with detailed, bespoke advice and information on: • Their areas of choice. • The property types selected. • Historical lettings information. • Details of stock availability. • Likelihood of re-housing under their selected preferences. • Options and alternatives if first preference not available in the time scale. Bedroom Needs Assessment All applicants on Gloucestershire Home seeker are subject to a bedroom needs assessment – residents decanting will also be subject to this. Any resident currently under-occupying their property can move to another property where they are also under-occupying, however, this will be limited to 1 spare bedroom per household. This means that some residents will still be required to downsize from their current home even though they continue to have 1 spare bedroom. Any tenant under occupying who makes a permanent downsizing move to a property that meets their bedroom need assessment or is from family housing to non family housing will receive an incentive payment of £1000. This is in recognition of the fact that they will be releasing a family home. The Council may, in exceptional circumstances, grant an exception to policy for bedroom needs. For example, where there is a proven medical need for an extra bedroom or to enable best use of stock. Exception may also be granted for applicants bidding on bungalows or hard to let properties. All decisions regarding exception to policy are made by the Housing Advice Manager, in consultation with the Tenancy Services Manager and Input from the Tenant Liaison Officer In all cases an assessment of financial viability will be made and consideration given to whether recent welfare reforms will impact on the ability of the tenant to maintain the tenancy. Where a resident is subject to a Final Offer (see below) this will be made by the Council and will be in accordance with the households bedroom needs assessment, there will be no under-occupancy granted in this case, regardless of the size of the original home. Property Inspection All decant properties will be inspected in line with the Council’s voids process to make sure they are in an acceptable and safe condition. Taking and recording of electrical, gas and water meter readings are part of this process. As tenants will be dealing with their utility providers directly, they should also make sure they take their own meter readings to avoid any later dispute. Re-housing Options

Each resident will be responsible for bidding for properties on Gloucestershire Home
seeker. Bidding patterns will be monitored by the Housing Advice Team. The Tenant
Liaison Officer and the Housing Advice Team will provide advice and assistance to
enable residents to maximise their bids and chances of rehousing. Residents will be
expected to bid on all property types in the areas of choice, including those with
Registered Providers.
Every resident will have the option to choose the geographical area in which they wish to move to within the district, however, there is no guarantee that properties will become available within the timescale in the area of their choice. Residents may have to consider alternative areas as the time for development approaches. Every resident will be able to specify the type of property they prefer e.g. flat, house, bungalow etc however, there can be no guarantee that the first choice property type will be available. Offers It is the Council’s aim to make sure all residents (tenants and qualifying homeowners) are made suitable offers based on their requirements and within a reasonable timescale to enable work to proceed. Where the Council has accepted that an owner occupier qualifies to go on the housing register they may also be subject to this offer process. Residents will be made 3 reasonable offers of suitable accommodation with the option of a 4th at the discretion of the Head of Housing. “Reasonable” and “suitable” will take into account the preferences of the resident as well as the availability of stock and demands from other households whom the Council has a legal duty to accommodate. Where a resident has not bid within the timescale and has had the support to do so the Council retains the right to bid on their behalf and make suitable offers of accommodation on this basis. The resident has the right to refuse an offer, however, after 3 refusals of suitable properties the Council will provide 1 Final Offer which will be the first available property that meets the household’s bedroom needs assessment and is as close to their areas of preference as possible. Residents will have the opportunity to discuss all suitable properties before a formal offer is made to minimise the possibility of refusal. The Council can as a last resort commence legal proceedings (see below) if the tenant refuses the Final Offer but would in all cases seek to achieve a successful allocation before invoking its legal rights under Ground 10 or 10a of Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1985 to commence possession proceedings. For owner occupiers, (subject to the offer process), the Council may use its compulsory purchase powers to acquire property as a last resort. This process would commence at the earliest stage to ensure all options are identified quickly and are time sensitive to both the Council and the affected person(s) Multiple Households In the case of grown up children living with their parents, the option will be available at the discretion of the Housing Manager or Housing Advice Manager to split households and offer two separate tenancies to free up family accommodation and allow independent living. This will only be considered if it does not result in a net loss of bed spaces for the Council. A tenant freeing up family accommodation as a result of a separate tenancy being offered to a member of their household will not be entitled to the incentive described in this policy. Non-Social Housing Residents may wish to move into privately rented property – the Housing Advice Team will provide support to achieve this, for example: • Conducting property search. • Support with deposit and fees if eligible. Options for shared ownership and market renting will also be explored if required. Tenants returning to a new Housing Development

All tenants who have been decanted from their homes retain the option to return to
the new development site, if a suitable property is available.
The right to return will be granted to tenants who were in occupation at the time of
the initial home visit and who have made it clear to the Tenant Liaison Officer that
they may want to return to the area that they were supported to decant from.
Returning tenants will be able to choose the property they wish to return to (subject
to clauses regarding bedroom needs) in accordance with their length of tenancy
prior to being decanted.
The tenants with the longest tenancy will be given first choice, and so on until all
returning tenants have been rehoused.
Remaining properties will be allocated in accordance with the Council’s current
allocations policy, giving regard to s106 and local lettings agreements where they
exist.
In the case of specialist accommodation this will be assessed and allocated
according to need and will not be subject to the tenant choice above.
Refusal to Move In the event that a tenant does not wish to move but the level of work means that decanting is necessary, the Housing Manager/Asset Manager has discretion to:- • Try to accommodate the tenant into another property within the project. • Use a mobile home within the curtilage of their home if this is available and • Reduce the scope of the project to allow essential work to take place, whilst the If the tenant still refuses to move after the above options have been considered; the Head of Housing Contracts has the discretion to remove a property from a project. This could only happen if the work is not urgently required and it does not adversely impact upon other parts of the project. The Council retains the legal right under Ground 10 or 10a of Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1985 to commence possession proceedings as a last resort, once all other alternatives have been explored and reasonable offers of re-housing rejected. Possession will only be granted by a Court with the provision of suitable alternative accommodation. Compensation and Costs
The Council has discretion to provide financial assistance towards tenants’ removal expenses under the Housing Act 1985 when tenants are temporarily decanted to other Council property. There are two types of payments that tenants will be entitled to under this policy: • Disturbance payments • Home loss Payments Disturbance Payments Disturbance payments cover 'reasonable expenses' involved in moving. For Tenants and qualifying owner occupiers that are being moved permanently, these payments should still be made in addition to Home loss payments. The Council will accept disturbance allowance costs based on: • One off moves: invoices and receipts supplied by the tenant or contractor, or by Based on each residents identified needs, the Tenant Liaison Officer will arrange for specialised contractors to carry out:- a) The removal of furniture and effects from and back to the tenant’s permanent home and any necessary storage and supply of storage boxes. A full packing service will be available for elderly, frail or disabled tenants to allow them to move, with on the day support as necessary. This includes clearing items out of lofts and sheds subject to a reasonable determination by the Tenant Liaison Officer. In exceptional circumstances temporary storage of items may be required. If this is the case then Stroud District Council would consider meeting these costs for a time limited period of not greater than three months from the tenants moving date. b) The lifting and refitting of carpets at the permanent address only. c) The relaying (not fitting) of carpets at the decant address or their storage. d) The provision and fitting of new good serviceable carpets at the permanent address from an approved supplier up to an approved upper limit per metre, if carpets are damaged (for example when foam backed carpets are lifted) or are unable to be cut down/re-used to fit this property. Tenants can get an upgraded carpet by paying the additional costs themselves. e) The replacement and fitting of laminate flooring if tenants’ existing flooring is unable to be re-used – payment will be up to the same approved upper limit per metre as set for carpets. Tenants can get upgraded flooring by paying the additional costs themselves. f) The provision of new curtains up to a reasonable cost per pair where the existing curtains do not fit due to different window sizes. g) The removal and refitting of existing curtain tracks. h) The disconnection and reconnection of any existing telephones, television aerials and satellite dishes (providing Council permission had been given for their original installation). i) The redirection of post (following the tenants’ completion of the postal redirection j) The disconnection and reconnection of existing kitchen appliances, or room heaters using Gas Safe or equivalent registered plumbers or electricians. If tenants prefer to make arrangements themselves they can use their own supplier (for example, for removals, carpets and curtains). The Council will reimburse all reasonable costs in line with the policy above, provided that: - It is supplied with details of the proposed costs prior to work being ordered. - The costs are in line with what the Council would have paid had it made the Tenant requests for the payment of goods and services will need to be made within six months of their moving date. Payments will only be made against receipts. Tenants who incur extra travelling expenses for work or educational travel only (not including social travel) as a direct result of being relocated out of their current area are entitled to make a claim for this additional cost for the period in which they are temporarily displaced (up to 12 months) at an Approved Mileage Allowance payment if using a car. Motorbike or moped or by providing bus/rail tickets. The Council has discretion to meet other reasonable expenses based on individual circumstances. It is essential that tenants have adequate support to be able to move without having to meet costs themselves upfront or being out of pocket. However, in particular circumstances where excessive costs may apply for the moving of exceptional flora or specific animals such as (and not limited to) fish or birds we would only make payments if tenants have previously received written permission for a pond or garden works. Where permission has not been granted this is less likely and will remain the final decision of the Head of Service. N.B Council Tax and Utility bills will not be included. Where tenants are permanently decanted to another social housing property they may be entitled instead to a statutory disturbance payment under the Land Compensation Act 1973. Such a payment must be claimed from the Council and follows the principles set out in the Council’s discretionary policy for temporary decants above. Unless the tenant(s) move out of the Stroud District. Tenants staying in their home whilst work is carried out Tenants who wish to remain in their home when major refurbishment work is taking place (such as the dismantling and replacement of external walls, external or internal cladding of their walls and are not at risk as deemed by a qualified Health and Safety specialist) will get a disturbance payment equivalent to a full week’s rent per week of the work. Tenants will be expected to continue to pay their rent during the refurbishment work and will receive a lump sum payment upon completion. Arrears, court costs, rechargeable repairs, Council Tax arrears and Housing Benefit Overpayments will usually be deducted from this payment. Home Loss Payments for Council Tenants
A Home Loss payment is a statutory payment made to compensate tenants for
having to permanently move out of their home and may be given in addition to the
statutory disturbance payment referred to above. It is not payable for tenants who
temporarily move out of their home and are able to return to their original property
once the work is completed. However, if their area is being demolished and rebuilt
and they return, they would be entitled to Home Loss as they would be returning to a
totally new home.
This mandatory lump sum payment is fixed by Section 30 of the Land Compensation
Act 1973 with its level being reviewed by the Government each September. As at
September 2012, it is set at £4,700.
This Home Loss payment is for an eligible tenant/joint tenants who has lived in their
property as their principal home for at least 12 months prior to the date of agreement
for the regeneration scheme and is required to move out of their home permanently
as a result of the property being demolished. See section 3 for information on
eligibility, in all circumstances the home loss payment is limited to one per
household, not per tenant – joint tenants will therefore receive one payment between
them.
Tenants would become eligible for Home Loss payment following a formal decision to
demolish their homes having been made by Committee. Tenants have the option of
transferring prior to this based on their rehousing needs. However, if they do so, they
would not be entitled to any form of compensation (Home Loss or Disturbance).
In exceptional circumstances Stroud District Council may assist a tenant to move
prior to a formal Committee decision. In this situation where the Tenant Liaison
Officer is assisting a tenant to move the tenant will be eligible for disturbance
payments. Also once Committee has agreed a re-development of the site of their
previous home then the tenant will become eligible for a Home Loss payment.
A tenant who has succeeded to the tenancy of the property cannot count the
previous length of residence of the deceased tenant towards their qualifying period.
In the case of joint tenants the sum will be divided equally between them. A claim must be made within 6 years of the move and paid within 3 months of the claim. In line with good practice, the Council will aim to make payments within 10 working days of receipt. Tenants who have any other housing related debt such as rent arrears, Council Tax arrears, Housing Benefit overpayment, court costs and rechargeable repairs will have these deducted directly from this lump sum payment. The Council may wish to buy privately owned properties where, for example, adjacent (and sometimes attached) properties are being repaired, refurbished or demolished and rebuilt by the Council. The Council will always seek to purchase private properties through negotiation, however, it may consider the use of compulsory purchase powers where appropriate. Where the Council is seeking to purchase the home of a private resident whose property would be part of a redevelopment or refurbishment, the purchase price offered will be based on market value and terms will be agreed by the Head of Asset Management Where the Council is unable to acquire a property through negotiation at a reasonable cost and decides to pursue the use of compulsory purchase powers the value of the property will be assessed at market value, but the homeowner may also be entitled to other payments (Heads of Claim) as set out in the relevant legislation. These may include home loss payments and disturbance. In addition the Council may also have a duty to rehouse the home owner, where no suitable alternative accommodation is available on reasonable terms. Homeowners are referred to the Council’s Corporate Asset Management Plan for its policies on acquisition and the use of compulsory purchase powers and the sources of advice and information set out in paragraph 12 below, as this is outside the scope of this policy. are payments made over and above the Council’s legal obligations and can be used as an incentive to move, for example, where a tenant does not qualify to receive a Homeless payment as they have been resident for less than a year. The costs/benefits of making a discretionary payment will be balanced against those of taking legal action to secure a decant. The Council needs to be satisfied that making a discretionary payment is a reasonable approach and will therefore balance the costs of the discretionary payment against the costs of legal action. A discretionary payment can only be authorised by the Head of Service. Decanting where another landlord is carrying out work
Residents may be moved from their home to allow the area to be redeveloped or properties repaired by a Registered Social Landlord (RSL). In cases where this involves Small Scale Voluntary Transfer to the RSL, decanting arrangements will be governed by the particular RSL’s decant policy. This issue will be built into any formal offer negotiated between the RSL, Council and tenants – with the help of their Independent Tenants’ Advisor. A transfer can only take place following a ballot of affected tenants with the majority who vote agreeing to the transfer. In such a case all decanting arrangements and Home Loss payments would be the responsibility of the new RSL landlord. Disputes/Appeals Procedure
If a resident is not satisfied with the amount recompensed through this policy, they should write a complaint to Stroud District Council. In addition, they may have the right of appeal under the Land Compensation Act 1973 and any claims made to the Upper Tribunal. Its address is:- Lands Chamber
45 Bedford Square
Tel: 020 7612 9710
Fax: 020 7612 9723)
Equality and Diversity
This policy aims to show that all tenants’ and owners’ differing needs and preferences are taken into account. Central to this is the personal visit to carry out a needs assessment at the beginning of the process, which allows the Council to:- - identify those who may need more support, such as a full packing service or on - Ensure tenants are kept informed in the way most appropriate to them. - Make suitable re-housing offers, with full consideration made of adaptations The disturbance policy aims to make sure that no-one is out of pocket or disadvantaged as a result of being required to move out of their home. Tenants can choose to take advantage of the Council making the arrangements and paying directly to the contractor, or if they wish, they can organise their move themselves. By aligning this policy with the current allocations policy the Council is ensuring there is no advantage or detriment to residents affected by the decanting process and that decanting residents are treated fairly and equitably alongside applicants on the housing register, including those the Council has a statutory duty to rehouse. Statutory Home Loss Payments and Disturbance Payments – General Information
It should be noted that the information set out in this policy note regarding statutory Home Loss and Disturbance payments is not exhaustive. It is a simplified guide and cannot cover every situation that may arise. It is not intended to be a complete guide to the law and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice. Further guidance for both home owners and occupiers on matters such as statutory Home Loss and Disturbance payments is available in ‘Compulsory Purchase and Compensation – Compensation to Residential Owners and Occupiers (Department of Communities and Local Government 2008). This is available from the Department of Communities and Local Government website. This notes that applicants should seek advice from a professionally qualified person such as a surveyor or solicitor. To be referred to a local experienced chartered surveyor for up to 30 minutes free advice, applicants can contact the Compulsory Purchase Helpline on 0870 3331600. APPENDIX A
Chris Eadie – Tenant Liaison Officer Pippa Stroud

Source: http://www.stroud.gov.uk/info/housing/Decant_Policy_7_November_2013.pdf

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