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Policy changes in 2017

On 4th April 2017, Durham Key Options amended the Letting Policy for County Durham. These changes follow consultation carried out in 2016.

The main changes are:

Number of priority bands There are just 4 bands instead of the current 5. These range from 1 (highest priority) to 4 (lowest priority).

Banding quotas We have removed the banding quotas. So we’ll now shortlist all homes in order of housing need only. If there are competing bids, the priority date will still act as a tie breaker.

Direct offers after time in band 1 We’ll make a direct offer of a suitable property (based on type, size and area) to applicants who have been in band 1 for 12. If they reject this offer, applicants may be placed in band 2 with general housing need applicants but have a right to appeal the decision. We’ll consider each case individually – if no suitable homes are available, we can extend the applicant’s time in band 1. Statutorily homeless applicants (who the Council has a duty to rehouse sooner, through homelessness law), will continue to receive a direct offer after 6 weeks in this band).

Twelve-month limit on re-applying after being housed We won’t normally allow applicants who have been housed by full DKO housing partners in the last 12 months to re-apply until 12 months after the date they moved in. However, they can re-apply if there’s been a change of circumstance that has led to a new housing need. Examples of this include a medical or hardship problem that has developed and that we have not previously assessed.

Arrears of rent or mortgage Previously, if someone had less than 8 weeks, we would not ask them to explain how they occurred. Now we will try to find out whether applicants have got into arrears genuinely and without fault, or whether they have deliberately held back their payments. If an applicant is only in arrears because of a new housing benefit claim or a change to a benefit claim, we can check this and they will be allowed to apply. We’ll expect applicants with arrears that are not caused by a pending housing benefit claim to:
• show they are making efforts to clear the arrears through a repayment plan (where suitable); and/or
• give us recent tenancy references showing we should now regard them as ‘good tenants’.

Size of home We’ll only give applicants the size of home they can afford. Previously, we automatically allowed an extra bedroom for singles and couples, and a bedroom per child, regardless of their sex and age. We’ll now assess singles and couples to see whether they can afford a 2-bedroom home. The housing partner assessing their application will work with them to maximise income and reduce any debts. We’ll only allow families on housing benefit the size of home that the housing benefit rules say they should have. We’ll assess working applicants on higher income to see whether they can afford larger homes. For all applicants, 4 exceptions from the existing policy will remain in the new policy:

  • for pregnant applicants (at the 20-week stage of pregnancy) we’ll add an extra bedroom (if needed)

  • for carers from outside the household (using the Department of Work and Pensions definition of ‘carer’), we’ll allow them their own bedroom in the applicant’s entitlement;

  • we’ll give an extra bedroom to fostering/adopting families who need it for a child not yet living with them; and

  • we’ll allow a bedroom each to couples or children who can’t share a bedroom because of proven health needs.

Our 4 new bands cover the following reasons (this is just a summary):

Band

Banding reason

1

Applicants living in a regeneration area

Urgent medical

Statutorily homeless

Severely overcrowded (2 bedrooms short of their needs)

Living in intensive supported accommodation

Care leavers

2

Medical/welfare needs

Non-statutorily homeless

Overcrowded (one bedroom short of their needs)

Armed forces connection (discharged in the last 5 years)

To relieve hardship

3

To live independently

4

Adequately housed (no housing need)


We have also changed the way we advertise our properties on Durham Key Options.

We now advertise properties from midnight on the same day we become aware they are (or will be) vacant. So if we have a vacant property on a Monday, we’ll advertise it from midnight that day for 6 days (so you will have plenty of time to bid). We’ll then contact successful applicants the following Monday (on the 7th day). This means we can shorten the time it takes to offer homes we know are available.

See below table for our new cycles, starting 5 times a week:

Advertising cycle

Shortlisting day

 Monday midnight – Sunday midnight

Monday

Tuesday midnight – Monday midnight

Tuesday

Wednesday midnight – Tuesday midnight

Wednesday

Thursday midnight – Wednesday midnight

Thursday

Friday midnight – Thursday midnight

Friday

 
To guarantee you see all properties available each week you will need to:

• visit our website on a weekend (as all cycles will be running at that time), or

 • visit our website twice a week during the week (weekdays).

If you have any questions about these changes and how they may affect you, please contact your local housing partner by clicking on this link.