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Voids Optimisation Policy

Void Optimisation Policy

Date of Issue: January 2019

Issue Number: 4

Date of next review: January 2022

Author: Charles Woska, Housing Options Manager

Service Area applies to: Housing Services/Property Services and Asset Management

Approved By: Director of Housing Services

Halton Housing (HH) is committed to continuous improvement in performance of void re-let times and rent loss and at the same time ensuring that we maintain a consistent and transparent approach in allocating our homes.  HH administers Property Pool Plus in Halton and has taken account of legislative changes that affects both new and existing customers.

This policy impacts several areas within HH, including Housing Services, Property Services and Asset Management.  It will primarily be managed by Housing Services and will help deliver HH priorities of protecting current income, reducing our costs and driving efficiency.

We are committed to the provision of an affordable housing programme in conjunction with the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH).  Registered providers are expected to have a strategic approach in ensuring the best use of their stock and whether they should be used to support the generation of additional capacity through sales and conversions.

Policy Statement

HH will look to continue to meet housing needs and to maximise rental income by focusing resources.  This will ensure that priority is given to minimising re-let time on void properties by repairing and letting them within strict target timescales.  This is to ensure that value for money is achieved whilst adhering to the safe, clear and clean void standard, which is included in the void procedural document.

HH recognises that customers’ circumstances change over time and this may result in under occupation of their homes, therefore Housing Options Advice will be placed at the forefront of everything we do to ensure that homes are fully utilised and appropriately matched to meet customers housing needs.

This 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.

HH will co-operate with Halton Borough Council and other local registered providers / agencies to effectively monitor market indicators to be able to react efficiently to any changes in the supply and/or demand.

HH is aware of its requirement to ensure that all assets, especially housing stock are fully utilised.  Therefore, a specific process for identifying poorly performing stock and determining its future use is in place that complies with the regulatory requirements.

HH will look to involve its customers in the management of empty properties by encouraging them to report abandoned properties, illegal squatting, vandalism and theft from empty properties.  HH will also involve customer inspectors to audit the standard of voids.

HH’s approach is to have an efficient and effective housing management service with regard to maximising the use of properties.  This will be achieved by:

  • Maximising the use of stock with adaptations.
  • Minimising void periods.
  • Reducing void rent loss through effective use of 4-week notice periods when tenancies terminate.
  • Actively encouraging the use of “mutual exchanges” as an alternative to creating a void.
  • Ensuring that rent debts are not transferred.
  • Maintaining the cost of repairs within budget and value for money achieved through procurement and review of standards.
  • Adhering to and making best use of the Property Pool Plus Allocations Policy.
  • Liaising with other appropriate agencies concerning the needs of customers both as individuals and communities.
  • Developing initiatives / incentives to minimise void loss and improve re-let times.
  • Letting our properties at the appropriate rental.
  • Utilising other options for reducing Council Tax premiums e.g. use of Ad-Hoc Guardians where appropriate.
  • Reviewing disposal options when appropriate, in line with RSH guidance.

The Housing Options Manager is primarily responsible for ensuring implementation of this policy.

Regulatory and/or Legal Compliance

The RSH’s current Regulatory Framework that came into force from April 2012 has some specific outcomes and expectations within the Home and Tenancy Standards that relate to this policy.

  • Home Standard

One of the specific expectations of this standard in relation to Repairs and Maintenance states that;

“2.1 Registered providers shall ensure a prudent, planned approach to repairs and maintenance of homes and communal areas. This should demonstrate an appropriate balance of planned and responsive repairs, and value for money. The approach should include; responsive and cyclical repairs, planned and capital work, work on empty properties and adaptations”.

  • Tenancy Standard

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 best use of available housing.
  • Are compatible with the purpose of the housing.
  • Contribute to local authorities’ strategic housing function and sustainable communities”.

HH will look to meet these regulatory requirements by the effective implementation of this policy. This policy also ensures that HH complies with the following legislation: –

  • Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, Housing Acts 1995 as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002
  • Localism Act 2012
  • Welfare Reform Act 2012
  • Equality Act 2010

Diversity Considerations

Following completion of the Equality Impact Screening Checklist, this confirms that an EIA Stage 2 assessment is not required.

Links to Strategies, Procedures and Associated Documents

This policy supports the following “Our Direction” priorities

  • Protect our Income
  • Reduce our Costs and Drive Efficiency
  • Focussing our Resources and Services

Associated Policy Documents and Procedures;

  • Voids Repairs Policy
  • Property Pool Plus Allocations Policy / Procedure
  • Diversity Policy
  • Succession Policy
  • Mutual Exchange Policy
  • Abandoned Property Procedure
  • Tenancy Policy
  • Charges to Customers Policy
  • Stock Appraisal and Disposal Policy
  • Rent collection payment & Debt Recovery Policy
  • Local Lettings Plans
  • Void Process map
  • Aids and Adaptations Policy
  • Tenancy Sustainability Procedure
  • Environmental Sustainability Policy
  • Assisted Furniture Scheme Procedure
  • Affordability Policy

Related Help & Support Articles

Find helpful articles on finding your next home with Halton Housing, and how to apply for a home here.

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