Transfer of tenancies can take place physically by moving home or by a change in tenancy through assignment or succession. For the purposes of this document, this policy will focus on physical movement of customers from one property to another under the transfer process or mutual exchange procedures that are currently in place.
Transfer requests are initially processed through the Property Pool Plus (PPP) Allocations Policy which we initially adopted in March 2012. This complies with the legislation that governs movement of customers within the social rented sector and captures those with and without housing need. For those who fall into the “housing need” category of what is termed “reasonable preference” categories are assessed and placed into 3 main bands: A, B and C.
Over the course of the first half of 2016 Halton Housing has seen a significant increase in the level of transfers being processed and issues arising from the poor condition some are left in. This has placed additional pressure on resources, both financial and in terms of staff time spent administering and progressing these through to letting stage.
Anecdotally, some transferees have expressed a desire to wait until new build developments come online. This creates a rush of applications to move without due care being exercised in how existing properties are left. This approach by a customer only fulfils their own desires without meeting their commitments under the tenancy agreement.
To exercise control over these issues and temper the flow of movement between existing/new housing stock, some exclusions will be applied by Halton Housing on transferees to ensure that it can reduce the high levels of movement currently being experienced and reduce the risk of financial detriment. It intends to do this by ensuring that operational decisions made are fair and reasonable and comply with the Equalities Act 2010.
The Trust will look to continue to meet housing needs and will continue to process requests for transfers. However, the purpose of this policy is to set out HHT’s approach to rehousing our existing customers and instances whereby it will bypass existing customers who have applied/bid on properties through the PPP allocations scheme.
We recognise that enabling customers to move home within its own properties encourages mobility, helps create sustainable communities and makes best use of our housing stock. However, it is also important to recognise that our existing customers also have a duty to take reasonable care of their property and vacate a property that is in good and lettable condition in order to minimise the financial impact on Halton Housing. To ensure consistency of approach to all customers transferring or exchanging from their existing homes.
Evidence for the first half of 2016 shows that 100 transfers have taken place so far equating to 27% of the total number of lettings for the same period. The average cost of a transfer during Q1/2 is currently £1,023.28 compared to £1017.99 last year and 32% (22 cases) of transfers moving to new build homes did not have a priority under the PPP Policy.
Increased costs in carrying out relevant gas and electric tests at the time a property becomes relet may cost Halton Housing in excess of £32k per annum if current transfer trends continue.
Again, costs associated with the legally required gas and electric tests also apply to Mutual Exchanges and a charge may be levied to the customer for this enforced requirement in the future.
Applying the Policy
HH customers can apply for a transfer through one of the routes listed below, however most transfers will access a transfer through the PPP process;
- Property Pool Plus Sub Regional Choice Based Lettings Scheme
- High Priority Panel Review undertaken by Senior Officers within Housing Services where mitigating/extenuating circumstances are considered and require a management decision on whether an urgent move is required.
Customers can apply for Mutual Exchanges, which are subject to a separate Policy, utilising our Mutual Exchange Applications:
We recognise that customers’ circumstances change over time and in particular this may result in a need to move home. This transfer policy is designed to allow flexibility recognising that not all properties are high in demand and ensures that it maximises the efficient and effective use of stock.
Halton Housing’s approach is to have an efficient and effective housing management service with regard to maximising the use of its properties and ensure that HH customers utilise the most appropriate and effective solution in resolving their housing situation. This will be done by:
- Ensuring customers’ homes are maintained in accordance with their tenancy agreement and Leave It Clean standards are evident before applications are activated on PPP.
- Halton Housing transferring customers have agreed and completed the actions required of them through the pre-transfer inspection process. Any defects that relate to minor outstanding day to day repairs are processed. That any damage arising from customer abuse/neglect is completed or payment made and works agreed under the Charges Policy.
- Ensuring that rent and housing related debts are not transferred and fully paid up in advance of any move;
- Ensuring that affordability and past payment history is considered prior to any move being agreed.
- Ensuring transferring customer’s existing property is viewed with expression of interest being noted prior to allowing any matching on the shortlist to take place.
- Limit the number of transfers to those who fall into the top three priority bandings of A, B and C within the PPP Policy only.
- No like for like transfers to take place unless there are extenuating circumstances which require review by the Trust’s High Priority Panel or through the review mechanism within the PPP Policy itself.
- Reasonable consideration will be given to address affordability issues, arrears accrual and property turnover to ensure customers are in the best position to manage their rent account and to ensure we maximise our rental income
The Housing Options Manager is primarily responsible for ensuring the implementation of this policy.
Regulatory and/or Legal Compliance
The Framework for Housing Associations
Housing Associations are not normally subject to the same statutory regulation as Local Housing authorities under Part VI of the Housing Act 1996 in relation to the allocation of housing stock. The exceptions to this are where a housing association is operating an allocation scheme:
- In partnership with a local housing authority; or
- On behalf of a local housing authority as the Trust does now
The HCA’s current Regulatory Framework that came into force from April 2012 has some specific outcomes and expectations within the Home and Tenancy Standards that also relate to this policy.
One of the required outcomes of the Tenancy Standard relating to Allocations and Mutual Exchange states that:
“1.1 Registered providers shall let their homes in a fair, transparent and efficient way. They shall take into account the housing needs and aspirations of tenants and potential tenants. They shall demonstrate how their lettings:
- make the best use of available housing
- are compatible with the purpose of the housing
- “contribute to local authorities’ strategic housing function and sustainable communities.”
We’ll aim to meet these regulatory requirements by the effective implementation of this policy.
Currently we operate under the PPP Allocations Policy, the scheme used for determining priority between applicants which includes the following clause which allows us flexibility at point of allocation. This policy supports the procedures used by HHT when making decisions at point of application for transfer, assessment and subsequent allocation.
This policy also ensures Halton Housing complies with the following relevant legislation:
- Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 Housing Acts 1995, as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002
- Localism Act 2011
- Welfare Reform Act 2012
- Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016
- Equality Act 2010
Following completion of the Equality Impact Screening Checklist this confirms that an EIA Stage 2 assessment is not required.
This policy supports the following ‘Our Direction’ priorities:
- Protect our Income
- Reduce our Costs and Drive Efficiency
- Focus our Resources and Services