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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?

What is the quota system?

Do I need to renew my application each year?

Bidding & Offers

What do you mean by the term bid?

I am not in the stated preferred application bands - can I still bid for the property?

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 on Tuesday, but not on Wednesday?

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

            What is Monkey?

How will welfare reform affect me?

How will I manage my finances on Universal Credit?

What do I do if my circumstances change?

What if I am the victim of illegal money lending (or want to report a loan shark)?

How can I find furniture for my new home?

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?

You must complete a Housing Application Form, you  can request to be sent a form in the post or you can collect one of partner organisation outlets or you can download an application from the webpage: Apply to Housing Register.

It is important that when you return 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?

You will receive a letter confirming that you have been accepted onto the Housing Register. This will tell you the band you have been placed in, and the date your application has been registered from.

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Can I be refused from the Housing Register?

 There are some people who are not eligible to be included on the Housing Register. These are:

  • Certain people who are subject to Immigration Control under the 1996 Asylum and Immigration Act.
  • Certain people from abroad who are not subject to immigration control but who are not habitually resident in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or the Republic of Ireland.

For further information on immigration control please go to www.homeoffice.gov.uk

Even if people are eligible, they may not qualify to access Durham Key Options because:

  • they have been guilty of unacceptable behaviour that makes them unsuitable to be a tenant
  • they have previously been removed from the register (see p12 of the DKO Lettings Policy)

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How will my application be assessed?

Your housing application will be placed into a band in accordance with your housing needs. Durham Key Options lettings team will look at your housing needs and place your application into one of five allocation bands.

By law we must give priority to people in need and people with the highest need must have the most priority.

Our bands are bands A, B, C, D and E. Band A is an urgent housing need band, and applicants in band E have no housing need.

For full details of the Lettings Policy please click here.

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What is the quota system?

A quota system is used for the allocation of properties across County Durham for application bands B, C and D.

Band A applicants (Urgent Housing Need) are given priority for 100% of properties advertised.

The system aims to ensure that the majority of properties are allocated to those in greatest housing need, but also a smaller proportion of properties are allocated to those applicants with lower level housing needs.

Please see the CBL Quotas as displayed in the table below;

 BAND

 QUOTA

 Band B (High Housing Need)

 45%

Band C (Medium Housing Need)

 40%

 Band D (Low Housing Need)

 15%

Next review date - April 2017

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Do I need to renew my application each year?

Yes, once a year, normally on the anniversary of your application you will be sent a re-registration form, which you must complete and return within 28 days. If you fail to return the form we will write and tell you that your application has been cancelled.

If you are in band E we will not send you an annual renewal. You must keep us up to date with all changes in your circumstance.

 


Bidding & Offers

What do you mean by the term bid?

The term "bid" simply means letting us know you would like to be considered for a particular property. It does not mean you have to pay any money for the property nor does it mean you will have to attend an auction. We use the term "bid" but another term for it is "expressing an interest/applying for a property".

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I am not in the stated preferred application bands - can I still bid for the property?

Yes, you can still place a bid but offers of properties will be made to those applicants in the preferred groups before anyone else. However where there is an age criteria stated on the advert we will only consider bids from applicants who meet this criteria.

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

Only in exceptional circumstances will you be able to bid for a property which is either too small or too big for your needs. If you try to do bid for a property which is either too big or too small, your bid will be rejected. For advice contact a partner lettings team.

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How do I bid for a property?

You can bid in the following ways:

  • Online
  • In person at any of the partner organisation offices
  • By calling your DKO partner

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How many properties can I bid for?

You can bid for as many properties as you like per week but remember you will only be short listed for the properties you qualify for and you will only be offered one property.

If you refuse three offers of suitable accommodation in a 12 month rolling period you will be removed from the register and will not be allowed to re-apply for a 6 month period. You will have the right to appeal this decision.

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

No – bidding earlier in the week will make no difference.

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

Yes, when you bid for a property you will be told where you are in the queue. This is likely to change frequently due to other people bidding for the same property. Using this information you may decide to withdraw your bid for one property and bid for a different property for which you are higher placed in the queue. You can do this at any time before the closing date.

BIDDING FOR A PARTICULAR PROPERTY DOES NOT GUARANTEE YOU AN OFFER OF THE PROPERTY.

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How do you decide who is offered a property?

Durham Key Options will allocate properties in accordance with the published lettings policy. Properties will initially be offered to the applicant who falls within the advertised preferred application group who has the earliest date of application. The only exception to this is when a property which is suitable for the elderly or is adapted is advertised, applicants with the relevant matching housing need (who are in the preferred group) will be considered first. If an applicant refuses the property then the property will be offered to the next person on the shortlist.

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

We will only contact the applicant who is top of the shortlist to offer them the property. Unfortunately we cannot contact everyone who has placed a bid to let them know they haven't been successful.The weekly advertising information will include details of properties let in previous lettings cycles(see below).

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

You will be contacted by the partner organisation who owns the property and advised of this, you will need to advise them which of the properties you would like to accept as a formal offer, you can only choose one. The property or properties you decline will be offered to the next person on the shortlist.

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Why was I queue position 1 on Tuesday, but not on Wednesday?

Automatic bids for applicants who receive assistance when placing bids, may be placed on adverts immediately after the end of an advertising cycle. This may mean that if you were in queue position 1 at midnight on a Tuesday, this may change when the automatic bid has been placed. If you have any queries regarding this, please contact your local partner.

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

Yes. You will be able to view the property. If you like it, we will set a date for you to sign the tenancy agreement and start your tenancy. However, in some cases where the property needs repairs carrying out, you may be asked to advise us if you are interested in a property, before you have had the opportunity to view it. You will always be given the opportunity of viewing the property before being asked to sign for the tenancy.

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Adverts

How often are properties advertised?

Properties available for rent are advertised each week from Thursday morning (1 minute past midnight) until Tuesday evening (1 minute to midnight).  As soon as we are given formal notice that a property is due to become vacant, we will in the majority of cases, advertise it.

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Where are properties advertised?

Properties are advertised in the following ways:

  • Online
  • On the Looking Local website and phone app.
  • Property posters in customer outlets throughout County Durham

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Will all your properties be advertised?

All of our properties are advertised, however some will be advertised as a Direct Let. If a property is advertised as a Direct Let you will not be able to place a bid for this property. We direct let properties in cases of emergency such as fire or flood or when a property has been adapted to meet the needs of a particular person.

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Will properties owned by Housing Associations be advertised?

We have an agreement with some Housing Associations that we advertise their properties where we have nomination rights. For any further information please contact any partner organisation.

What information will the property adverts contain?

The adverts will tell you :

  • The landlord of the property
  • The location of property
  • The size of the property
  • The rent that will be charged for the property
  • Other features of the property such as the heating type or any adaptations.

Where available a photograph of the property or a similar property type will be provided. The advert will also state which application bands will get preference for an offer when the shortlist of applicants who have bid is drawn up.

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

Information about homes that have been successfully let is published every week on the Recent Lets page, and in partner organisations offices.

We tell you the number of applicants that bid on each property, the band and the registration date of each applicant. However, we cannot give you individual feedback.

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How will this information help me?

It will give you a better idea of how popular a particular property or area is and how long you would normally have to wait. You can then decide whether to look for other types of property or areas where you may not have to wait as long.

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What does 'Available Immediately' mean on adverts?

Some of the adverts shown on this website will be indicated with 'Available Immediately'. This means that this property has either been advertised in recent weeks and has not been let, or a similar property in that area has recently been advertised and was not let quickly.

We class these properties as some of our lower demand homes and, therefore, if you bid we will withdraw the advert and offer you a viewing. If both parties are happy, a provisional offer will be made; you will not have to wait for the advertising cycle to finish, we will contact you within 24 hours of your bid to arrange the viewing.

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Support & Assistance

What is Monkey?

Monkey, a partnership project, is funded through the Big Lottery Fund’s Improving Financial Confidence (IFC) programme and offers free support to people in bands A to E within Durham Key Options' Lettings Policy.

Support can be offered around finding affordable quality furniture, managing money, getting low cost home insurance, getting the best deal on your gas and electricity, opening bank and savings accounts, budgeting and benefits.

Those who register with the Monkey project will receive a discount card which can be used to receive up to 20% off at selected carpet and furniture retailers across County Durham.

If you would like to receive support, you can sign and return the declaration form included in your housing application pack (or click here to print the declaration).

You can contact the Monkey team on 01388 424697 for further information or visit www.monkey.uk.net

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How will welfare reform affect me?

In 2013 the Government is planning a major overhaul of the UK benefits system. 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 no longer 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 which 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, sign-posting 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 that 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?

It is very important that you tell us of any changes in your circumstances so that we can amend your application. We will tell you if this results in your application moving to a different band. If you move up an application band the date used will be the date you move into that band. If you move down a band the date used will be your original date of application.

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What if I am the victim of illegal money lending (or want to report a loan shark)?

Did you know there is a national Illegal Money Lending team that investigates and prosecutes loan sharks in this country? You can report any suspicious activity and obtain advice by visiting their website at: www.stoploansharks.co.uk

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How can I find furniture for my new home?

The Northern Housing Consortium have launched the Smarterbuys website.

The site offers massively reduced prices on essential household items including white goods and furniture. Over 80 housing providers, representing in excess of 1m tenants, have already signed up to support the scheme. The site is aimed at social housing residents and those on lower incomes but is free for all to use.

As well as links to credit unions, the site also allows users to pay online or offline, by printing out a barcode and taking it to a PayPoint or Post Office. The discounted prices on Smarterbuys- often over 50 percent off RRP- are achieved on the basis of the potential volume of purchases through the site.

You can visit the site at www.durham.sbstore.org

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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?

Anyone accepted as statutorily homeless by the Housing Solutions team at Durham County Council will be able to join Durham Key Options and bid for a property, as long as you are eligible and qualify for the scheme.

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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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