Wealden District Council is a social landlord providing 3,008 homes for people across the district. We have 2505 general needs properties, 20 units of temporary accommodation and 483 retirement living homes for older people. In addition we have a stock of 87 shared ownership leasehold properties for older people and 2 shared ownership general needs properties.
1.1 Turnover of the stock is average at around 10%. We know that 6.4% of properties are under occupied and 4.5% are overcrowded1.
1.2 We continue to work to encourage under-occupiers to downsize and have enhanced the Tenants Incentive Scheme, purchased a development for older people in 2016 and continued to assist under- occupiers through the Allocations Policy.
1.3 For over-occupiers, we have identified the highest priority cases and have carried extensions out for 6 households. We have also provided a number of new 4 bedroom properties which have helped others. For the remaining households we continue to work with them to identify solutions to their over-crowding situation.
1.4 As we have low turn-over of stock and have a Housing Register of approximately 1,000 people requiring housing, it is important that we consider other options to assist with increasing the turn -over of our social housing. The use of fixed term tenancies may give us the opportunity to increase the turn-over of stock in the long-term.
1. Social housing is a scarce resource and should be allocated to those most in need for the time that they need it.
2. Sustainable and mixed communities are key to the vibrancy and success of an area.
3. Tenants that are settled in their homes – invest in them and invest in the community.
3.1 We have considered different lengths of tenancies for different client groups. The advantages of having a standard 5 year Flexible Fixed Term tenancy for all (apart from Retirement Living housing) are as follows:
- It is easier for customers to understand
- More transparent/fair
- More cost effective
- Less opportunities for errors to be made
- Easier to administer
3.2 Introductory tenancy – All new tenants are offered a 12 month introductory tenancy. The tenancy is reviewed and the Council can either end the tenancy or extend it for a further six months if there are breaches of tenancy conditions. Where there are no significant breaches of tenancy and/or proceedings have not been commenced then the tenancy will automatically become a secure Flexible Tenancy for a period of 5 years unless 3.3 applies.
3.3 Secure tenancies will be used for the age group eligible for retirement living (see the Housing Allocations Policy) when they move into retirement living housing or a bungalow – Anyone of the age group eligible for retirement living (see the Housing Allocations Policy) when they move into retirement living housing or a bungalow will on expiry of any introductory tenancy be granted a standard secure tenancy not restricted to a fixed term. Their circumstances are unlikely to change dramatically compared to other household types. As this is likely to be their last or penultimate move in life, it would be disruptive to renew their tenancy on a regular basis and pointless as their circumstances are unlikely to have changed.
For these types of properties they would only ever be living in a bedsit, one bed or two bed property, so at worst if they were a couple and they lost a partner they would be under-occupying by either one bed space or one bed room.
3.4 General Needs (non-retirement living housing or bungalows not allocated to someone of the age group eligible for retirement living housing (see the Housing Allocations Policy) – For everyone else (non-retirement living/disabled clients) on expiry of any introductory tenancy they would be granted a 5 year Flexible Fixed Term tenancy. If their circumstances have changed during the 5 years, then they may be asked to move to alternative accommodation at the end of the term or move out. If their circumstances have not changed, then a new 5 year fixed term tenancy will be offered.
3.5 How would the Flexible Fixed Term tenancies work? Where there is an Introductory period, the offer letter for the introductory tenancy must contain a Notice under S137A of the Housing Act 1996 that at the end of the introductory tenancy a 5 year fixed term Flexible Fixed Term tenancy will arise. This is subject to the tenant/s abiding by the tenancy conditions. The S.137A notice must also set out the other express terms and conditions of the future Flexible Fixed Term tenancy.
3.6 The tenant will have the right to request a review of the length of the Flexible Fixed Term tenancy within 21 days of receiving the offer of the introductory tenancy (S.107B Housing Act 1985 (as amended)).
3.7 End of Flexible Fixed Term tenancy assessment – Not less than 9 months prior to the expiry of the 5 year term, the relevant housing officer will ensure that the Council has the most up to date information regarding the tenant’s and their household’s circumstances. This will be obtained by the household completing an application form. An assessment of the household’s circumstances will then made by an Officer within the Housing Options Team.
The Housing Services Team Leader will then decide whether to offer a further Flexible Fixed Term tenancy or serve a Notice of proposed Non-Renewal of Tenancy. The assessment decision will be fully documented.
3.8 The assessment will take into consideration the economic, social and health situation of the household. The assessment could result in:
- No new Flexible Fixed Term tenancy being offered and, following the service of a notice confirming that the Council requires possession of the property, the issue of proceedings for possession should the tenant(s) fail to comply with the Council’s notice.
- A new tenancy being granted for a further 5 year fixed term.
- The tenant being transferred to alternative accommodation within Wealden’s own social housing stock or to a housing association property.
3.9 We will grant new Flexible Fixed Tenancies for a further 5 years unless:
- The tenant(s) are able to afford a housing solution in the private sector.
- The household is under-occupying their home.
- There has been a breach of the tenancy conditions.
- Legal action has been commenced or will imminently commence against the tenant or household for breach of tenancy.
- If the property has been allocated on the basis of a disability of a member of the household and that person is no longer a member of the household.
- The property has been identified to be redeveloped or demolished.
- This is not an exhaustive list and each case will be assessed on its own merits but the above sets out some of the circumstances that may be taken into account.
3.10 The Council needs to retain some flexibility to deal with exceptional circumstances. At the discretion of the Head of Housing and Property Services the Council may allocate properties directly in accordance with its Allocations Policy.
3.11 Where an assessment determines it not appropriate to grant a new tenancy a Notice of Proposed Non-Renewal of Tenancy may be served on the tenant(s) no later than 6 months before the end of the 5 year term confirming we may not renew the tenancy. The tenant has the right to request a review of the Council’s decision before the end of 21 days from the service of the Notice of Proposed Non-Renewal of Tenancy. A Notice that Possession is required may be served no earlier than 2 months prior to the end of the five year Flexible Fixed Term tenancy but no later than the last day of the tenancy. Advice and support will be offered to help the tenant(s) to find alternative accommodation in the private sector.
3.12 Where an assessment determines it is not appropriate to grant a new tenancy to that property a Notice of Proposed Non-Renewal of Tenancy may be served on the tenant(s) no later than 6 months before the end of the 5 year term confirming we may not renew the tenancy. The tenant has the right to appeal the Council’s decision before the end of 21 days from the service of the Notice of Proposed Non- Renewal of Tenancy. A Notice that Possession is required may be served no earlier than 2 months prior to the end of the five year Flexible Fixed Term tenancy but no later than the last day of the tenancy. Advice and support to tenants in these circumstances will be offered by the Council’s housing options team and will include assistance to access alternative accommodation through the housing register. Any offer made through the Council’s housing register will be dependent on the tenant(s) housing need.
3.13 If it is determined that an offer of alternative accommodation will be made through the housing register, the tenant will be able to start bidding for suitable accommodation through the Homemove scheme once the Notice of Proposed Non-Renewal of Tenancy is served (no later than 6 months before the end of the 5 year term), even if they are appealing against the decision. If the tenant has failed to secure accommodation within this time, bids will be placed by staff on their behalf on all accommodation considered by the Council to be suitable. A direct let may be offered in some circumstances following the end of the 6 month timeframe. The tenant will be expected to accept the first offer of suitable accommodation made by the Council. For further detail on how assisted bids and direct lets may be made and the appeals process, please see the Council’s Allocations Policy.
3.14 Where the assessment concludes that a new 5 year Flexible Fixed Term tenancy should be offered this will be confirmed in writing no later than 6 months before the end of the tenancy.
The tenant(s) has/have the right to request a review of our decision no later than 21 days beginning the day the Notice of Proposed Non- Renewal of Tenancy is served. This application must include:
(a) the applicant(s) name and address;
(b) a description of the original decision in respect of which the review is sought including the date on which the decision was made;
(c) in any other case, a statement of the grounds on which the review is sought;
(d) a statement to the effect that the applicant does, or does not, require the review to be conducted by way of an oral hearing;
(e) a statement to the effect that the applicant does, or does not, agree to receive communications relating to the review by email, and if the former, the email address to which such communications should be sent.
4.1 The Appeal will be carried out by an officer more senior than the officer making the decision to serve the notice. Where no request is made for an oral hearing than the review will be dealt with by written correspondence.
Tenant(s) right to bring the tenancy to an end
5.1 The tenant(s) can end the introductory or Flexible Fixed Term tenancy at any by giving 4 weeks’ notice to quit (NTQ). If the tenant(s) leave the property without giving the Council at least 4 weeks written notice they will still have to pay 4 weeks rent unless a shorter period of notice has been accepted by the Council. The NTQ will not take effect if the tenant is in arrears of rent or there is some other material breach of the tenancy conditions. Where there are rent arrears or some other material breach the Council and the tenant(s) will need to agree a surrender of the tenancy. All parties have to agree to surrender and any such agreement will normally be dependent upon the tenant remedying the breach of conditions.
5.2 If the tenancy is a joint one, either party can bring the tenancy to an end by serving of the notice to quit. When a tenancy is ended this way, the Council will then have to review whether to grant a new Flexible Fixed Term tenancy to the remaining tenant. This review will take the same form as the assessment carried out as outlined in paragraph 3.8. The tenancy is ended so no Notice of Proposed Non- Renewal of Tenancy need be served. If required, possession will be recovered in accordance with existing law.
Wealden District Council’s right to bring the tenancy to an end a Fixed Term Tenancy.
5.3 During the fixed term period of the tenancy the Council could terminate the tenancy and recover possession of the property in the same way as they would do with any secure tenancy. Therefore, in order to bring the tenancy to an end the Council have to obtain a court order for the possession of the dwelling house under one of the grounds contained in s.84 and sch.2 of the Housing Act 1985.
To commence possession proceedings the Council must first serve the tenant with a notice of their intention to apply to the court for possession. The notice is in a similar format to the notices served for our traditional secure tenancies, as is the rules as to service, when the Council can bring proceedings and the evidence required.
If the court is satisfied that an order should be made it will make either an outright or suspended possession order. If the court is not satisfied that the ground has been proved or that it is reasonable to make a possession order, it may dismiss or adjourn the claim.
Expiry of the Flexible Tenancy
3.7 to 3.14 applies.
As there are a number of different tenancies that are currently in place there are four main options for a tenant to be exchanging their tenancy.
6.1 Where the tenancy to be exchanged is a secure tenancy with another secure or assured tenant then the rights are set out in Section 91 of the Housing Act 1985 and is by way of a ‘mutual exchange’.
6.2 A flexible tenant exchanging with another flexible tenant. The flexible tenants will assign the interest they have left in the property to the other tenant. Therefore if tenant (a) has 1 year and tenant (b) has 3 years left then tenant (a) would get a term of 3 years and tenant (b) a term of 1 year in the exchanged property.
6.3 A flexible tenant exchanging with a secure/assured tenant where at least one of the tenants have held a tenancy prior to 1 April 2012. The process is governed by section 158 of the Localism Act 2011 and is known as the ‘transfer of tenancy’ rather than a mutual exchange. Here all tenants are given permission by their current landlord to surrender their tenancy and be granted a new tenancy with the landlord of the new property. If the flexible tenant remains with the Council then upon surrendering their current tenant they are given a new flexible tenancy for a fixed period of five years for the new property. If the flexible tenant takes up a new tenancy of an RSL property then they would need to check with their new landlord what tenancy they would be given though it is likely to be an assured tenancy. Upon an assured or secure tenant giving up their tenancy at their current property they are given a new secure tenancy of the new property (or assured if the property is RSL property). As there is no exchange of tenancy there are no assignment papers to be completed they will just need to surrender their existing tenancy and are granted a new tenancy.
6.4 A flexible tenant exchanging with a secure/assured tenant where none of the tenants have held a tenancy prior to 1 April 2012 The tenancies are transferred by way of a Deed of Assignment with each party being granted the other parties tenancy. Therefore a secure/assured tenancy could end up with a fixed tenancy with only 2 years remaining on it.
Tenant(s) will have the ability to transfer to other properties during the life of their tenancy and they will be processed in accordance with the Council’s Allocation Policy.
7.1 If the tenant is an existing secure tenant, upon transfer to a new property other than an Affordable Rented property they would be issued with a new secure tenancy.
7.2 If the tenant is on a Flexible Fixed Term tenancy, upon transfer to a new property they would be issued with a new Flexible Fixed Term tenancy for the length of the remainder of the existing 5 year term.
8.1 For secure tenant(s) who were granted a tenancy prior to 1 April 2012 a qualifying successor is a tenants partner (either spouse or civil partner) as long as they were in occupation at the time, the remaining joint tenant or another qualifying family member of the tenant provided that the deceased tenant was not a successor themselves and they have resided with the tenant for at least 12 months prior to their death.
8.2 For secure tenant(s) who were granted a tenancy after 1 April 2012 a qualifying successor is only a tenant’s partner/spouse in occupation at the time of death provided that the tenant was not a successor themselves.
Where we are satisfied the property has been abandoned we will seek to repossess the property. We will only do this after a thorough investigation and are satisfied that the tenant(s) has ceased to use it as his or her only or principal home. Such recovery will be sought through the County Court if necessary.
For all tenants, be they standard secure or a Flexible Fixed Term tenant, they have the legal Right to Buy their property once they have met the qualifying criteria. In order to qualify for the discount, they need to have been a tenant of a local housing authority for 3 years. Most council homes can be purchased through the Right to Buy, but some are restricted, such as retirement living/sheltered or those specifically adapted for people with disabilities. For more information please go to:
Own Your Home | Right to Buy Scheme – Own Your Home
This policy will be kept up to date and reviewed every 3 years and was lasted updated in March 2017.
The Council operates a formal complaints procedure where customers can complain about any aspect of the service with which they are unhappy. For more information please go to: