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Frequently asked questions

   

Applying & the DKO scheme

How do I join Durham Key Options?

Do you have any garages to rent?

How do I know if I have been accepted onto the Housing Register?

Can I be refused from the Housing Register?

How will my application be assessed?

Do I need to renew my application each year?

Bidding & Offers

What do you mean by the term bid?

Can I bid for a property that is too big or too small for my needs?

How do I bid for a property?

How many properties can I bid for?

If I bid for a property earlier in the week am I more likely to get it?

Will I know how many other people are interested in the same property?

How do you decide who is offered a property?

Will you tell me if I have been successful in bidding for a property?

What happens if I am top of the list for more then one property I have bid for?

Why was I queue position 1 at midnight, but not after the cycle ended?

If I am offered a property, will I be able to view it before making up my mind?

Adverts

How often are properties advertised?

Where are properties advertised?

Will all your properties be advertised?

Will properties owned by housing associations be advertised?

How will I know what has happened to the properties advertised?

How will this information help me?

What does 'Available Immediately' mean on adverts?

Support & Assistance

            How will welfare reform affect me?

How will I manage my finances on Universal Credit?

What do I do if my circumstances change?

How do I find out what council tax I will need to pay in my new home?

What if I am homeless?

Mutual Exchange

What are Mutual Exchanges?

How long do exchanges take?

Can an exchange be refused?

If I have rent arrears can I still exchange?

Are there advantages to doing a mutual exchange?

Can I encourage an exchange by paying someone?

Can I encourage an exchange using presents or goods?

I don’t drive, will transport be provided?

Can I move on any day of the week?

Will the new landlord decorate or repair the home before I move in?

Can I swap back if I don’t like living in my new home?


Applying & the DKO scheme

How do I join Durham Key Options?

To begin with, you must complete a housing application form. You can request a paper version from any of our providers, or ask us to send you one via email. Alternatively, you can use the following link: Applying to DKO to complete an online form. Online is the quickest method as we receive the form into our system immediately.

It is important that when you complete your form you include all relevant information in relation to your circumstances otherwise the form may be sent back to you. Any missing information could affect how your housing need is assessed, details of the required can be found at the above link.

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Do you have any garages to rent?

Are you fed up leaving your car parked on the road, vulnerable to theft, damage and the elements? Durham Key Options may have the solution you're looking for. Contact your local DKO partner here.

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How do I know if I have been accepted onto the Housing Register?

Our providers will keep you up to date and contact you once your form has been activated. Depending on your communication wishes, a message will be sent to your online account, or you may receive a letter in the post. All information including your band, application date and eligibility will be included.

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Can I be refused from the Housing Register?

 In some cases we may refuse people for the following:

  • they have been guilty of unacceptable behaviour that makes them unsuitable to be a tenant
  • they have previously been removed from the register

There are also groups of people who, by law, are not eligible to join the register. You can find a full list of these on the Durham Key Options Policy.

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How will my application be assessed?

We assess your circumstances based on the evidence and information you supply as part of your application.

Your form will be placed into one of our 4 bands (1, 2 3 or 4). 

By law, we have to ensure we give priority to those who have the greater need.

You can find detailed information on our bands and how we assess them in the Durham Key Options Policy.

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Do I need to renew my application each year?

Yes, it is important that we keep your information up to date. Normally, on the anniversary of your application (annually), you will receive a message (or letter) stating your form requires renewing. The process is easy and involves you confirming your details online, or, changing anything that may need to be amended.

We will consider any new information given and re-assess your form accordingly.


Bidding & Offers

What do you mean by the term bid?

When we use the term 'bid', we simply mean expressing an interest in a property of your choice. By placing a bid, you are advising you wish to be considered on the shortlist and prioritised accordingly.

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Can I bid for a property that is too big or too small for my needs?

Sometimes we may allow applicants to bid for properties outside of their eligibility. This may be in certain situations where an applicant can afford a larger home via their income, or other mitigating factors which mean certain stock is in short supply. 

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How do I bid for a property?

You can place a bid in the following ways:

-Online, through your account.
-Over the telephone by speaking to your housing provider.
-Via the Auto-bid system which will place bids for your vulnerable customers.

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How many properties can I bid for?

There are no limits to how many properties you can bid for per week. However, you will only be matched against one property at any one time and we will call you to discuss your options.

It is worth considering that we have a three refusal policy and if you reach this number of refusals in a 12 month period, we may suspend your form for 6-months and you won't be able to bid during that timeframe.

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If I bid for a property earlier in the cycle am I more likely to get it?

No, the time you place a bid has no bearing on your final position.

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Will I know how many other people are interested in the same property?

Yes.

When you search for properties using the website, we display your 'actual' queue position before you bid so you have an idea where you may finish once the advert cycle ends.

You will also be able to see your position change once a bid is placed using your account page.

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How do you decide who is offered a property?

We use a consistent approach to decide how properties are shortlisted, generally, shortlists are ordered as per below:

-Band
-Priority date
-Application date

In some cases, where a property has adaptations, we will look to offer to those applicants who require the adaptation first and who may have been awarded a medical band.

Please ensure to check the information on all adverts as we explain any shortlisting rules.

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Will you tell me if I have been successful in bidding for a property?

We will only contact you if you are to be offered a property. Unfortunately, we are unable to contact applicants to advise of final positions, therefore it is important to check your account page regularly to see the state of your bid.

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What happens if I am top of the list for more then one property I have bid for?

In the event, you finish top of more than one property, we will contact you to discuss and find out which property you would prefer to be offered.

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Why was I queue position 1 at midnight, but not after the cycle ended?

Although our properties end at approximately 11.59 on the cycle closing date, our auto-bid system places any bids for vulnerable applicants after midnight. Therefore, your position may differ from midnight, to when you check the next morning.

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If I am offered a property, will I be able to view it before making up my mind?

Of course.

We offer viewings to all applicants before they sign for a property and in some cases, may be able to offer a virtual viewing if you are unable to attend or live away from County Durham. Please discuss these options when you have been made an offer as we will always be able to tender for the needs of applicants.

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Adverts

How often are properties advertised?

Our adverts run across 5-cycles which start each day Monday-Friday. The properties go live on these days at approximately 1 minute past midnight and run for 6-days.

For example, if an advert goes live on Tuesday (00:01 am), it will run until the following Monday at 11:59 am. Final queue positions will always be available within 7 days.

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Where are properties advertised?

Our properties are advertised across our website and can be viewed using the 'to rent' link on the home page, or via your account.

In some cases, our providers advertise on third-party websites or on property posters placed within their offices. You will always be directed back to our site to place your bid.

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Will all your properties be advertised?

Yes, we are transparent in our approach to advertising.

In some cases, we offer properties directly, where a person has a specific need or a management move has been decided. If we do this, the property will still be advertised though will be marked as a 'direct let'. This means you won't be able to bid, though we are showing you how it is to be let.

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Will properties owned by Housing Associations be advertised?

We have a number of Housing Associations who are not full providers, however advertise their properties through the website as part of our 'Nomination Agreement'. This means not all of their properties will come through DKO. You can find out more details about these providers and who they are using the 'Additional Information' section of the website.

Where these landlords do advertise, the adverts will contain the same information as our full providers, however, may stipulate other allocations criteria that you will have to meet once your details have been provided to them.

If you are ever unsure, please remember to contact your housing provider for more information.

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How will I know what has happened to the properties advertised?

We have a section on the website called 'recent lets' where we display information on any properties that have been allocated. Within this, you can see what band the successful applicant was in, along with their application date and priority date.

We cannot offer individual feedback on all adverts and would always recommend you check the above-mentioned page, or your account to see the state of your bids.

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How will this information help me?

It will allow you to compare your own band/dates along with those who are successful. Where some applicants have application/priority dates a number of years before your own, this may give an indication of how long you might need to wait for a particular property type in a certain area, depending on your wishes.

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What does 'Available Immediately' mean on adverts?

Where some of our properties have been advertised for a number of weeks without success, or a similar property comes available in one of these areas, we class them as available immediately as there has been no previous interest when advertising through the normal bidding route.

If any of these properties do interest you, we are likely able to arrange a viewing without the need to bid and you could be allocated one within a few days of contacting. It is always worth checking this page regularly as we update it weekly.

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Support & Assistance

What happens to my Housing Benefit income if I am under-occupying?

If you or your partner are below the Pension Credit qualifying age and if you have a spare bedroom, you will be regarded as 'under-occupying' the property and Housing Benefit will not pay for the additional room.

Under housing benefit rules, the number of bedrooms allowed will be based on the following:

• One bedroom for each adult or couple living as part of the household. For these purposes an adult is anyone over 16.

• A child under 16 is expected to share with another child of the same gender.

• Children under 10 are expected to share with another child, regardless of gender.

• A bedroom is allowed for a non-resident carer who provides overnight care to a member of the household with disabilities.

The changes mean that the maximum rent for which you can receive housing benefit would be cut by:

• 14% if you have one extra bedroom,

• 25% if you have 2 or more extra bedrooms.

If you receive Housing Benefit towards the cost of service charges for additional services (such as a furniture pack or tenancy sustainment service) this may also be affected by the cuts. If you would like further information on these changes please contact the Housing Benefit section at your local authority, or your local Durham Key Options partner who will be able to offer further advice.

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How will I manage my finances on Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment that replaces six benefits. It is simpler for claimants and adjusts automatically when someone moves into work. It is designed to mirror the world of work and the monthly payments reflect the way many people's wages are paid. Money for housing costs also goes to the claimant, rather than direct to a landlord, giving people control over their own finances.

Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches give people the support they need to prepare for, move into and stay in work, including help with job searching, signposting to relevant training and interview advice – and can provide budgeting advice for those that need it.

Money Advice Service's Online Money Manager is an interactive tool that offers personalised advice, on making the most of your money while you're on Universal Credit. It offers help and advice on a range of money topics, including opening a bank account, keeping on top of bills and dealing with debt.

The Online Money Manager can be accessed at https://obs.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/ and includes:

  • Step-by-step questions signpost users to financial guidance and support relevant to their personal circumstances.
  • Hints and tips for managing money and paying bills from a monthly payment.
  • Sign-posting to further support, such as Advanced Payments and free debt advice.

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What do I do if my circumstances change?

Tell us as soon as possible. You can do this through your online account, any changes you submit will be picked up by your housing provider and we will let you know if there will be any major changes to your form or band.

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How do I find out what council tax I will need to pay in my new home?

You can check the council tax band for any property in County Durham by clicking on the following link. It will take you to the Direct.gov website- simply enter the postcode of the property and you will be presented with the banding for that street:

http://www.voa.gov.uk

You can also view council tax information for County Durham including advice on exemptions, discounts and appeals by clicking on the following Durham County Council link:

http://www.durham.gov.uk

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What if I am homeless?

If you are classed as homeless and have been assessed by the Council's Housing Solutions team you will have the same eligibility to join the scheme as any applicant. Your previous tenancy conduct will be considered in the same way.

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Mutual Exchange

What are Mutual Exchanges?

Quick answer: An exchange of homes between two households living in social housing.

Within the United Kingdom, Council and Housing Association secure and assured tenants have the right to exchange their homes to homes suitable for them and their families. You will need written permission from your landlords before you can exchange.

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How long do exchanges take?

Quick answer: 42 days or less.

It depends on your exchange, how many parties are involved and whether you are moving long distance or moving within the local area. Section 92(4) of the Housing Act 1985 states that landlords must grant or reject an exchange within 42 days.

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Can an exchange be refused?

Quick answer: Yes.

You will not be able to exchange your property if:

  • There is a possession order in force against you, possession proceedings have started against you or a notice seeking possession has been served
  • The property you want to exchange is too big for your requirements. For example, if you currently qualify for a one bedroom property and want to swap to a two bedroom property, but your circumstances have not changed
  • The property has been specifically designed or adapted for you because of a physical disability and the person you want to swap with does not have the same needs

Full details can be obtained from your landlord; this is not an exhaustive list.

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If I have rent arrears can I still exchange?

Quick answer: No.

Tenants must pay all of their rent including any arrears before a mutual exchange can be permitted.

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Are there advantages to doing a mutual exchange?

Quick answer: Yes and No.

The advantages of mutual exchange are:

  • You can exchange with another tenant inside or outside of County Durham
  • You can exchange with a Housing Association tenant
  • You may avoid a lengthy wait for a transfer
  • You can thoroughly inspect the other property and be sure it is suitable for your family before seeking approval.

There are also some disadvantages to consider:

  • The other party can pull out at any time, right up until you move
  • You will have to accept responsibility for alterations.

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Can I encourage an exchange by paying someone?

Quick answer: No.

Do not offer any cash incentives in return for an exchange. It is illegal and you and your family could be evicted from your property by your landlord.

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Can I encourage an exchange using presents or goods?

Quick answer: No.

Do not offer any rewards in return for an exchange. It is illegal and you and your family could be evicted from your home by your landlord.

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I don’t drive, will transport be provided?

Quick answer: No.

You will need to arrange transport for you and your family to get to your new location. You could ask friends, family, volunteer groups or use public transport.

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Can I move on any day of the week?

Quick answer: Yes.

You can move on any day once you have been given a date by your landlords. It must be in agreement with the other tenants involved and the date should not be altered once agreed.

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Will the new landlord decorate or repair the home before I move in?

Quick answer: No.

The landlord will not usually decorate between one person leaving and another moving in. You will have to arrange to decorate the home yourself as you have made an agreement to accept the property in the condition you viewed it. Discuss any repairs with the landlord before you agree to exchange. Do not rely on advice from the person moving out that the repairs will be done.

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Can I swap back if I don’t like living in my new home?

Quick answer: You may be able to.

You cannot swap back into your old home unless the tenant who swapped with you is in agreement, you will then both have to start the exchange process again from scratch and wait for a decision from both landlords.

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