Housing Allocations Policy - Sections 12-15

12. Local Lettings Plan

12.1 The Council may from time to time consider the use of local lettings plan for specific lettings areas.  Local lettings plans provide an open and transparent framework which set out any variation to the Allocation Policy needed to take account of and address local needs and circumstances.  Local lettings plans are used to develop letting arrangements that:
• respond to local housing need and demand;
• help to suitably match applicants to properties; and
• help them to achieve a balance housing mix within a particular area.
The main aim of a local lettings plan is to build a strong and sustainable community.

12.2 A local lettings plan may have the effect of introducing additional criteria in the allocations process which may result in allocations not being determined in accordance with applicant’s points levels.  The Communities Committee will consider proposals for the declaration of any local lettings plan.   

12.3 Any local lettings plan agreed by the Council must accord with the overall principles and objectives of the Allocations Policy.  Where a local lettings plan is proposed, detailed evidence to support the need for such an approach and why this cannot be met by the Allocations Policy itself will be considered by the Committee.

12.4 Where a local lettings plan is agreed for a specific lettings area, the Council will ensure that applicants are advised of the Plan.  Any local lettings plan will be agreed for a specified period and will be reviewed annually by the Communities Committee.

12.5 The Council will promote the development of sustainable communities by allocating all “new supply” properties on the basis of local lettings plans.  This ensures that new build programmes will meet the widest possible range of needs and avoid the creation of concentrations of vulnerable households in specific communities.

13. Sensitive Lets 

13.1 The Council may regard some lets as sensitive.  Sensitive lets may be used in exceptional circumstances, where it is deemed necessary for the Council to deviate from the Allocations Policy.  The process involves approaching the selection of the most appropriate applicant from both a person and property perspective.
13.2 The Council will always consider the extent to which the allocation has the potential to create a lack of stability or imbalance in the local community or would be detrimental to the applicant’s social well being.  The Council will ensure that the needs of the applicant and the suitability of the property match.  

13.3 When considering a sensitive let, instead of allocating a property to the applicant at the top of the list (the person in most housing need, as defined by the Allocation Policy), the Council will consider the suitability of the applicant for the vacancy, on the basis of the information it has about the applicant and on knowledge it has about the property, its location or neighbours.  

13.4 The Council will ensure that all decisions regarding sensitive lets are accountable, transparent and monitored.  Discretion may be applied when identifying sensitive let applicants or properties.  For example, consideration will be given to the significance of the applicant’s previous social conduct.  Considerations may include, to what extent has the conduct affected the applicant’s life and the life of others? Has there been legal involvement?  Has there been a significant improvement?

13.5 The Council will monitor the use of sensitive lets in order to ensure that there is no pattern of bypassing particular groups.

14. Bypassing Applications

14.1 The Council will endeavour to make best use of its housing stock.  In making allocation decisions the Council must consider the match between the needs of the applicant and the suitability of the property.  The Council will normally offer the property to the applicant with the highest number of points and who has a need for that particular size and type of house. However, there may be some situations where applicants may be bypassed for an offer of housing.  Reasons for this may include:
• There is evidence that the allocation would place the community, or an individual at risk;
• Enquiries into the household’s circumstances provide clear evidence that a particular allocation is unsuitable or inappropriate;
• The property has special features which are not required by the applicant or the applicant’s household;
• The applicant or a household member has a medical condition which makes the property unsuitable;
• The applicant requires support and assistance to sustain a tenancy and the support is not available or in place;
• The applicant is in supported accommodation and is not ready to move to independent living; and
• The applicant’s circumstances have changed and information is awaited or required to enable their application to be re-assessed.

14.2 The Council will ensure that when bypassing applicants it will:
• administer the process using a robust evidenced based approach to ensure that decisions are accountable, transparent, their use carefully monitored and an audit trail is in place;
• comply with legislation;
• manage processes in such a way so as to support individuals and communities and ensure that people are not unintentionally or unfairly disadvantaged;  
• ensure that no applicants are bypassed inappropriately and that no pattern of discrimination emerges through bypassing particular groups.  Sensitive lets will not be used as a means of ‘screening out’ households that may require greater support or involvement from staff; and
• monitor the impact on those individual applicants who are bypassed, including the number of times they are bypassed and any significant extra waiting time for an offer.  

15. Suspensions

15.1 A suspension happens when someone has been assessed for and accepted on to the housing register but is told that he or she will not be eligible for an offer of housing until:
• a specified period has elapsed;
• it is evident that the conduct has changed; or
• a change in circumstances has occurred.
In accordance with legislation, homeless applicants cannot be suspended from receiving offers of housing.  

15.2 The Council will not automatically suspend applicants from receiving offers of housing.  The Council will attempt to work proactively with applicants, to ensure that the number of suspensions is kept to a minimum.  Each case will be assessed on its own merits.  The Council will always take personal circumstances and the extent of housing need into account before suspending applicants from receiving offers of housing.  The Council will ensure that a balanced approach is taken and that the urgency of the applicant's housing need is of paramount importance.  

15.3 The Housing Needs Manager may, in the following circumstances, suspend applicants from receiving offers of housing:
(i) where an applicant, or any person who is proposed to reside with the applicant, has housing related debt of more than 1/12th of the annual amount payable (or which was payable) to the landlord and no repayment arrangement has been agreed or maintained.  In such cases, the suspension period may continue until the applicant (or person who is proposed will reside with the applicant) has a reasonable repayment arrangement in place and maintained for a minimum period of three months.  The Council will take into account the reasons why the debt has arisen;
(ii) where there is evidence of anti social behaviour (through either eviction or the granting of an Anti Social Behaviour Order) which is related to the conduct of a tenancy.  In such cases, the application may be suspended for a period up to 12 months. If clear evidence is provided showing that there has been a change in behaviour, for a minimum period of three months, the suspension may be lifted;
(iii) where an applicant has refused two reasonable offers of housing within one year (detailed in section 18 of this policy).  In such cases, the suspension period will be six months.  During that period, no further offers of accommodation will be made.  Appeals against the suspension of offers of housing will be considered in terms of the appeals process detailed in section 20 of this policy.

15.4 If a social housing tenant in Moray has accrued rent arrears as a direct result of the removal of the spare room subsidy and wants to move to a smaller property, the Council may disregard the rent arrears accrued if it is satisfied that the tenant has done all he/she can practicably be expected to do to avoid falling into arrears.

15.5 In all cases where the applicant knowingly provides false or misleading information in order to improve their position on the Housing List, the application shall be suspended from receiving offers of housing during an investigation.   If the investigation determines that false or misleading information was knowingly provided, the application will be suspended for six months.  The Council may seek court action to recover any tenancy granted on the basis of false or misleading information knowingly provided.

15.6 Before an allocation is made to a transfer list applicant, a tenancy inspection will be carried out.  If it is identified that the tenant is not adhering to the conditions of their current tenancy agreement, they may be suspended from receiving an offer of housing, until they meet the conditions of their tenancy. For example, if the tenant does not take reasonable care of their house (Scottish secure tenancy agreement 5.17). This suspension will be reviewed after a period of 3 months.

15.7 Deliberate worsening of circumstances
15.7.1 The Council will undertake investigations where it has reason to believe that an applicant deliberately did or failed to do something which, in consequence, led to a worsening of their housing circumstances in order to improve their position on the Housing List.  For example, an applicant gives up settled accommodation in order to move into less settled or overcrowded accommodation.

15.7.2 In order to determine if an applicant has deliberately worsened their circumstances, the Council will investigate and assess each application on its own merits, taking into account all contributory factors.  This will include ascertaining whether the applicant was aware of the consequences of their action and whether their actions were reasonable.

15.7.3 Where there is evidence to substantiate that an applicant deliberately did or failed to do something which has resulted in the worsening of their housing circumstances in order to improve their position on the Housing List, the applicant may be suspended from receiving an offer of housing for six months, unless there is a change in circumstances.

15.7.4 Following the suspension period, the application will be reinstated.  The action taken by the applicant who was considered to have deliberately worsened their circumstances will no longer be taken into account and the level of points will be reviewed accordingly.  

15.8 When the Council has decided to suspend an applicant from receiving offers, it will explain:
• why the Council is suspending the application;
• what this means in practical terms;
• how long the suspension will last;
• what action the applicant should take to have the suspension lifted; and
• the applicant’s right to request a review of the decision to suspend their application.

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