3.1 Finding a home
Once applicants are registered on Home Options they can start looking for a social housing property of their choice.
3.2 Advertising of vacant properties
3.2.1 Social rented properties will be advertised on a weekly basis.
3.2.2 Social rented properties will be advertised in two main categories. These will be:
- For all applicants.
- For existing (transfer) tenants of the council and scheme landlords only.
By these means the council will seek to ensure that at least 20% of allocations made through Home Options are to existing tenants.
3.2.3 Properties will be advertised in the following ways:
- In a newsletter
- At the council’s website
The scheme guide and website explain in detail how and where to access the advertised properties.
The Home Options bidding cycle runs for the seven days from Wednesday midnight each week.
3.3 Promotion of other housing options
3.3.1 Information will also be provided about the other housing options we will be promoting through the scheme including:
- Help to stay in your current home (Disabled Facilities Grants, dementia grants and other discretionary loans etc.)
- Rent Deposit Schemes
- LetNCC scheme
- Discretionary Housing Payments
- Mutual exchanges
- Help to access properties for shared ownership
3.4 Property descriptions
3.4.1 Properties advertised will, wherever possible, carry a photograph of the property or similar and will have a description of the property. This description will usually include the following information:
- The type of property (house, flat etc.)
- The tenure of the property (social rented housing, affordable rent, shared ownership etc.)
- The number of bedrooms the property has
- The location of the property
- The level of accessibility the property has for people with mobility problems/wheelchair users
- Any services provided to the property e.g. wardens, caretaker etc.
- The heating type the property has
- Any age restrictions on the property (sheltered etc.)
- Whether pets are allowed
- Availability of outside space (garden etc.)
- The rent of the property and the service charges. Social rented properties can sometimes have two different rent levels of ‘social rent’ and ‘affordable rent’ and each landlord has their own criteria for which rent level applies to which type of property. This should be clearly explained on each advert, where this is relevant.
- Special information (location of bus routes/ other amenities etc.)
- Whether the property is available to all applicants or transfer applicants only
3.4.2 Applicants must qualify for the size of property as advertised.
3.4.3 The landlord will ascribe tenancy type(s) for their advertised properties.
3.5 Bidding/application process
3.5.1 Provided the applicant meets the stated qualifying criteria they can bid for the property by the deadline given.
3.6 Deadlines for bids
3.6.1 Bidding closes at midnight every Wednesday. Bids received after the specified deadline will not be considered unless there are extenuating circumstances. Any such retrospective bids must be agreed by the Housing Options manager and a record kept of the reasons for acceptance of the retrospective bid held on record for audit purposes.
3.7 Bidding methods
3.7.1 Applicants can bid in the following ways:
- On the website, www.norwichhomeoptions.org.uk
- In person at City Hall
- Over the telephone to the Home Options team.
3.8 Disqualified bids
3.8.1 Applicants are restricted to making two bids for social rented properties per week. Applicants will not be considered for any property for which they do not meet the qualifying criteria. For example, a single person would not be considered for a three-bedroom property.
3.8.2 Where an applicant who has been awarded a priority banding to reflect a specific housing need has bid for a property which does not meet this housing need, their bid will not be considered. For example, an applicant in a priority band based on a medical need for a ground floor property will not be considered if they have bid for a house or upper floor flat.
3.9 Selection of the successful bids
3.9.1 At the end of the advertising cycle a shortlist will be drawn up from all applicants that have applied for a property. At this point the banding and qualification of any shortlisted applicant will be reviewed for accuracy.
3.9.2 The offer of accommodation will be made to the person in the highest band that meets the qualifying criteria. If there is more than one applicant in the band, the offer will be made to the applicant who has been waiting the longest within that band. If the applicant with the highest priority refuses the property it will be offered to the next highest bidder and so on.
3.9.3 In order to maximise use of adapted properties, where a property has had adaptations to improve accessibility, the scheme landlord has the right to allocate the property to the applicant that has bid who is in greatest need of those specific adaptations at that property. As such, an occupational therapist may be invited to viewings of adapted properties to advise on suitability.
3.9.4 A risk and support needs assessment will be carried out for all applicants. As a result, restrictions may be placed on the area or property which the applicant will be considered for. Applicants will not be offered a property where a risk to themselves or others has been identified.
3.10 Making the offer
3.10.1 The successful applicant will be contacted by the landlord whose property they have applied for to arrange an accompanied viewing. More than one applicant may be invited to the viewing. Photographic identification from the applicant will be required at the viewing.
3.10.2 Applicants will usually be contacted within three working days of the advert for the property closing. If an applicant cannot be contacted following multiple attempts the next person on the shortlist will be contacted. It is therefore important that all applicants ensure they are contactable or else they may lose out on a property they have applied for.
3.10.3 Applicants have 48 hours to decide whether to accept the offer of accommodation. If no response has been received after this time, the next person on the shortlist will be offered the property.
3.10.4 If an applicant refuses the offer, the property will be offered to the next on the shortlist, and so on until the property is let.
3.10.5 Scheme landlords reserve the right to carry out an assessment on applicants to ensure the particular property is appropriate. If the landlord deems the property not to be suitable for the applicant, the property would then be offered to the next applicant on the shortlist.
3.10.6 Offers of accommodation may be withdrawn if it is found that the information supplied by the applicant was incorrect or if they are deemed due to their behaviour to not qualify (e.g. if they have accrued rent arrears that were not previously known about).
3.11 Hostel move-on
The Norwich hostel move-on agreement, Appendix D, sets out how applicants in participant hostels and supported accommodation who meet the criteria will be allocated social housing.
3.11.1 The scheme landlords give feedback as to the results of the properties that have previously been advertised at the ‘recent lets’ section of the website, and in the Home Options newsletter.
3.11.2 The information provided for each property will be:
- The address
- Number of bids
- Band of the successful applicant
- Application date of the successful applicant
3.11.3 The council will never include any personal details of successful applicants in the feedback.
3.11.4 This feedback is important to applicants as it will help to identify which property types and areas are most popular and so where their best chances are of making a successful bid. It will also allow applicants the knowledge to decide whether they would be better served by pursuing alternative options to social housing.
3.12 Properties excluded from the scheme
3.12.1 The council reserves the right to exclude certain properties and housing schemes from the allocations system. Examples of where this may occur are:
- Where a property is needed urgently to deal with an emergency.
- Specialist housing schemes, for example Housing with Care Schemes will also be let outside the allocations scheme.
3.13 Direct lets
3.13.1 In certain circumstances the council will allocate properties directly to applicants, outside of the usual process.
3.13.2 Illustrative examples of direct lets are as follows:
- Where an allocation is required to ensure protection of the public, for example, following a decision made by a Multi-Agency Public Protection Panel meeting, or where an applicant has been referred as part of the witness protection scheme.
- Where the council or a scheme landlord has entered a special arrangement with a support agency in order to accommodate especially vulnerable or challenging clients. Any such arrangement will be governed by an agreement signed off by the Head of Housing.
- Where the tenant of a scheme landlord’s home is being repaired and is not occupiable so that they need to be moved from the property on a temporary or permanent basis.
- Where a client has been accepted as statutorily homeless, they will be direct let the first suitable available property.
- As part of the council’s ‘hostel move-on’ scheme (see Appendix D).
3.13.3 A tenancy may also be allocated by the council or scheme landlord, regardless of other priorities, where the applicant has enjoyed established occupancy of the property, has a reasonable expectation of a property of that type and would be a suitable tenant, (e.g. non-secure tenants, or carers or family members with no succession rights.) In deciding whether to make an offer of a tenancy the landlord will consider whether the property is of a suitable size and type for the applicant’s household and the conduct of the applicant in terms of rent arrears and tenancy conditions.
Decisions to allocate properties outside of Home Options will be authorised by the Housing Options manager and held on record.
3.14 Sensitive lets
3.14.1 Sensitive lets are used where a specific issue has been identified in a particular area or block, making a property unsuitable for allocation to some applicants. When considering a sensitive let, instead of allocating a property to the applicant at the top of the list, the landlord will consider the suitability of each applicant who has bid for the vacancy. This will be based on information held about the applicant and on knowledge of the property, its location or neighbours.
3.14.2 The council will only use sensitive lets in exceptional circumstances. In order to ensure that all decisions on sensitive lets are accountable, transparent and monitored, all decisions must be agreed by the Housing Options manager and the respective manager of the scheme landlord and a record held on file.
3.15 Local lettings plans
Local lettings plans are used by landlords to develop policies and letting arrangements that:
- Respond to local housing need and demand
- Help to suitably match applicants to properties; and
- Help them to achieve a balanced housing mix within a particular area.
The main aim of a local lettings plan is to build a strong and sustainable community.
3.15.1 Local lettings plans are generally used when allocating new build housing for the first time. New build developments are unusual in terms of housing allocations because of the number of properties that are available for let in a short period of time in one area.
This makes sure that:
- new build programmes meet the widest possible range of needs; and
- the council avoids the creation of groups of vulnerable households in specific communities.
In order to make sure that all decisions on local lettings agreements are accountable, transparent and monitored, all decisions must be agreed by the Housing Options manager and the respective manager of the scheme landlord and a record held on file.
3.16 Sheltered housing
3.16.1 Sheltered housing is accommodation designed specifically for older people. Residents may pay an additional charge for support services.
3.16.2 The minimum age for the landlord to consider an applicant for sheltered housing will be clearly stated when each property is advertised.
3.16.3 The council and scheme landlords may carry out a needs and risk assessment for customers who bid for sheltered housing properties, to ensure the services provided are appropriate to their needs. This will be done as part of the offer process.