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Frequently asked questions about Choice Based Lettings and Staffordshire Moorlands Homechoice

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What is choice based lettings?

Local Authorities and Housing Associations are being encouraged to allow people more choice in where they live.

Choice Based Lettings is a new way of letting social housing. Local Authorities and Housing Associations will no longer be contacting the household with the most points on the waiting list when a property becomes vacant, instead households will be able to view which properties are vacant each week and express an interest for the properties that they would like to move into and are eligible for.


Why choice based lettings?

Choice Based Lettings is a simple, transparent scheme that gives households a more active role in choosing where they live. The scheme puts the customer in the driving seat. The scheme is not the answer to the housing shortage and we will not be able to house everyone on the housing register. However, the scheme offers more choice and control than the current way of allocating homes.


What is Staffordshire Moorlands HomeChoice?

Staffordshire Moorlands Homechoice is a Website based “Choice Based Lettings” scheme that gives customers more choice about where they live. It introduces a new way of letting social housing across the Staffordshire Moorlands. The scheme enables existing tenants and new housing applicants to express an interest for properties they would like to move to.

Customers wishing to move will be placed into one of four bands according to their housing need (See Section below on “What are the banding's?”) and will be able to express an interest in particular properties by making bids.

Staffordshire Moorlands Homechoice is a partnership between Staffordshire Moorlands District Council and Moorlands Housing, in which the allocation policies of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council and Moorlands Housing have been merged and a single waiting list created to allow a simple, single point of access for those needing accommodation.

We have also invited other landlords, who have properties in Staffordshire Moorlands, to advertise their vacancies on the website.


How do customers register with Staffordshire Moorlands HomeChoice?

You can apply by completing one application form available on line at www.moorlandshomechoice.co.uk or by contacting Moorlands Housing or one of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council Connect Offices.

There will be computer access available for anyone wishing to access Staffordshire Homechoice at Moorlands Housings Offices and any of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s Connect Offices.

Support will be available if required from members of staff at Moorlands Housing or any of the Staffordshire Moorlands Council’s Connect Offices.

We will also be arranging a number of customer training sessions for anyone interested, the dates of which are yet to be confirmed.


Where and how will properties be advertised?

Properties will be advertised in Moorlands Housing’s offices, all Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s Council Connect Offices and on line at www.moorlandshomechoice.co.uk.

The property advert will tell you all about the property, for example, how many bedrooms, what the rent is, who the Landlord is and any restrictions.


How will I express an interest in properties?

Customers will be able to express an interest in properties by making bids online and also by contacting Moorlands Housing or Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.

All of the registered interests for the property are recorded in priority order by band and time on the register.

Once the advertising period has ended, if you are at the top of the short list for the property you will be contacted by the Landlord. You may then have a final interview with the Landlord, where further checks on your application will be made.


Can I express in interest in every property each week?

Yes you can bid on as many properties as you like


What are the bandings?

Customers will be placed into one of four bands that show their priority for housing. These will range from customers who have high need, and local connection, to those that have no housing need and no local connection to the Staffordshire Moorlands.

Once an application has been entered onto the system, they will be placed into a banding, related to their house hold need, which are:-

Band A If you have a local connection and you need to move for an extremely serious reason. This is for applicants who cannot return home from hospital because their property is unsuitable, or who have a severe medical problem which makes their home totally unsuitable for them. Applicants who require alternative accommodation due to demolition, major refurbishments or Compulsory Purchase of their current home for clearance as determined by the Partnership.

Band B Statutory homeless households as determined by the local authority.

Band C If you have a local connection and need to move (ie: medical, overcrowding, under occupying etc). There may be several housing needs within this banding.

There may be several needs within this banding and therefore we have reflected this by awarding specific needs under specific headings as follows:-

Harassment or Fear of violence – If the applicant is in fear of violence or harassment, they will receive one need (this will need to be verified by a Housing Officer at Moorlands Housing or by a letter from the Police). If there is a serious risk of violence, this would be triggered for referral to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s Homeless Team.

Medical Need – This is assessed by Moorlands Housing. If you are considered ‘Level 1’ you are awarded 1 medical need. If you are considered ‘Level 2’ you are awarded 2 medical needs.

Level 1 – People who’s medical condition is such that they would benefit from re-housing but are in a position to wait.

Level 2 – People who’s housing & medical conditions are such that they require re-housing as quickly as possible but not immediately.

Home is in Poor Condition and lack amenities – The problems must potentially affect the health and safety of the applicant. Property condition needs to be established through an inspection by an Environmental Health Officer if a Landlord fails to address disrepair issues and Notice is served by the Environmental Health Officer then a need will be awarded.

The Home is Overcrowded – For each additional room an applicant needs, they would receive one need, however we have capped this at a maximum of 2 needs.

Roofless Applicants – If the applicant has been classed as Statutory Homeless then they will be in Band B, however if not they will be awarded a need within Band C.

Need to move to the Area to Provide or Receive Support – An applicant would be awarded one need for this, this will need to be verified.

The current home is being under occupied – Due to welfare benefit reforms, there is a need to make a move easier for those under occupying Housing Association properties. For this reason underoccupying by one extra bedroom will be awarded 2 needs and those underoccupying two extra bedrooms will be awarded 4 needs.

Band D applicants, will either have no housing need or no local connection.

We will operate local lettings policies in certain locations from time to time and this may affect the way in which properties are allocated and who is eligible. Local Lettings policies are in place in certain areas to either secure affordable housing in rural areas meets with an identified local housing need or to help create a more balanced and cohesive community, where for instance there have been known Anti-Social Behaviour problems in the past.


How are properties allocated?

After the properties have been advertised for a week, Moorlands Housing will access the list of households who have expressed an interest in each property. The household in the most housing need (i.e. has the highest band rating) and who has been on the housing register the longest will be contacted by Moorlands Housing or any other participating Landlord for a verification interview before an offer is made.

Customers who refuse 3 reasonable offers within a 12 month period will be suspended from the common housing register for a period of 6 months.

There is a recent lettings table on the website, which publishes feedback about who recent lets have been awarded to. This will not state personal details but will advise of the banding of the successful candidate and how long they have been on the register.


Can I still express an interest in properties if I am in rent arrears?

You can express an interest in properties but we will not normally make an offer of accommodation to those customers with rent arrears or former rent arrears with a Registered Social Landlord. If you want to move, it is important that you keep your rent payments up to date.


Are there any ineligible applicants?

If you have significant rent arrears, owe former arrears to Moorlands Housing or another landlord or you have caused anti-social behaviour, within your current accommodation or any previous tenancy with another landlord, you may be deemed ineligible for allocation of a property. In these circumstances you will be able to register on the system but your application will be suspended, blocking you from bidding for properties. Suspensions will be reviewed regularly and an appeals mechanism is in place.

If you are under the age of 18, we will need to ensure that you have provided a suitable guarantor, before allowing you to register an application.

Other ineligible applicants would be as follows:

  1. Any persons subject to Immigration Control within the meaning of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 unless that person is within a class prescribed as eligible by the Secretary of State.
  2. Any person who falls within a class of persons from abroad described by the Secretary of State as ineligible.

Full details of ineligible applicants can be found within our Allocations Policy and Procedure


How will you benefit?
  • There will be one register for Moorlands Housing owned properties, which will include 50% of vacancies that become available with other social landlord that have properties in the Staffordshire Moorlands area.
  • You will decide which properties to apply for however you will only be eligible to apply for certain types of property based upon your household size.
  • There will be information available which properties were allocated to which band of applicant and how long they had been on the list.
  • There will be a single allocations policy between Moorlands Housing and Staffordshire Moorlands District Council so that all of Moorlands Housing properties are allocated through one waiting list.
  • There will be support available for vulnerable individuals.

Homelessness

If you think you may be threatened with being homeless or are worried about homelessness contact the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s Housing Advice Team.

The Housing Advice Team offer advice about housing and housing related problems. Some areas of work include dealing with tenancy problems, unlawful eviction, mortgage and rent arrears, debt and relationship breakdown etc.

The team can help you to explore available housing options; remain in your current accommodation if appropriate and consider alternative temporary and permanent accommodation.

A homelessness application and any legal duties will be considered as appropriate.

The team can also help you to access appropriate housing related support such as independent money and debt advice that can help to maintain accommodation.

The Housing Advice Team are available on tel: 0345 605 3012, early advice and assistance can help to prevent homelessness.