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Policy changes in 2017

On 1st April 2017, Durham Key Options is amending the Letting Policy for County Durham. These changes follow consultation carried out in 2016.

There are 9 key changes to the policy that will come into affect from April. These are:

  1. There will be just 4 bands instead of the current 5 (A to E) and these will be numbered 1 to 4 (with 1 being the highest band and 4 the lowest band).
  2. The banding quotas will be removed - all homes will now be shortlisted in order of housing need only (with priority date continuing to act as a tie breaker, if there are competing bids).
  3. Applicants with medical need will be assessed into one of two medical groups: band 1 for urgent medical need or band 2 with housing need (instead of the current 3 groups of medical need).
  4. Applicants who have been in band 1 for 12 months (after the policy changes), will be directly offered a suitable property of type and size (and reasonable area) and, if rejected, the applicant will be placed into band 2 with general housing need applicants (with a right to appeal the decision). Each case will be considered individually- if there are no suitable homes available, their time in band 1 can be extended. Statutorily homeless applicants (where the Council has a duty to rehouse sooner, through homelessness legislation, will continue to be offered direct lets after 6 weeks in this band).
  5. The banding assessment 'Threatened with homelessness within the next 3 months', currently band D, will be removed from the policy. Applicants that would previously been awarded this priority will be referred to the Council's Housing Solutions service to discuss their housing options and tackle any homelessness issues.
  6. The banding assessment 'Wanting larger accommodation (outside of overcrowding criteria)', currently band D, will be removed from the policy. Applicants can access larger accommodation if they can afford it but will not be given a priority banding for this. Overcrowded applicants will be assessed into bands 1 or 2.
  7. Applicants that have been housed in the last 12 months by the full housing partner's of Durham Key Options, will not be allowed to re-apply until 12 month's after the date they moved, unless a change of circumstance leads a to a new housing need (eg a medical or hardship issue develops that was not previously assessed). If an applicant has a housing need within this 12 months, they will qualify for rehousing.
  8. DKO will now investigate any rent/mortgage arrears that an applicant may have. Previously, a guidance level of 8 weeks' arrears was used and if someone had less than 8 weeks, they would not be asked to explain how these occurred. From April 2017, DKO will look to determine whether any arrears were accrued genuinely and without fault, or whether payment was deliberately and intentionally witheld. If an applicant is only in arrears due to a new housing benefit claim, or a change to a benefit claim, this can be checked and these applicants will be allowed to apply. Applicant with arrears that are not due to a pending housing benefit claim will be expected to show they are making efforts to clear these arrears through a repayment plan (where suitable) and/or provide more recent tenancy references showing they should now be deemed a 'good tenant'.
  9. Applicants will only be given the size of home that they can afford. Previously, Durham Key Options has allowed an automatic extra bedroom for singles and couples, and a bedroom per child, regardless of their sex and age. From April 2017, singles and couples will be assessed to see whether they can afford a 2 bedroom home and the housing partner assessing their form will work with them to maximise income and reduce any debts. Families on housing benefit will only be allowed the size of home that the housing benefit rules determine they should have. Working applicants on higher income will be assessed to see whether they can afford larger homes. Four exceptions from the existing policy will remain in the new policy, for all applicants: pregnant applicants (at the 20 week stage of pregnancy) will be granted an additional bedroom (if required); carers from outside the household (definition of carer as used by the Department of Works and Pensions) will be allowed their own bedroom in an applicant's entitlement; fostering/adopting families requiring a bedroom for a child not yet living with them, will be granted one; and couples or children that can't share a bedroom due to evidenced health needs will be allowed a bedroom each.

Our new banding structure will be as follows:

Band Priority
1 Urgent housing need
2 General housing need
3 Low housing need
4 Without housing need

Our new banding priorities will be placed into the following bands:

Band Banding reason
1 Applicants living in a regeneration area
Urgent medical
Statutorily homeless
Severely overcrowded (requiring 2 additional bedrooms)  
Living in intensive supported accommodation
Care Leavers
2 Medical/welfare needs
Non-statutory homeless
Overcrowded (requiring an additional bedroom)
Armed forces connection (discharged in the last 5 years)
To alleviate hardship
3 To live independently
4 Adequately housed (no housing need)

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