Urgent Rehousing Policy (including Domestic Abuse and Decants)
This policy sets out when we will prioritise current Estuary Housing Association general needs tenants for an urgent transfer.
To provide transparency when we offer rehousing as a solution for our residents where it is demonstrated they cannot remain in their property or that remaining in their existing property would endanger their lives, the life of someone permanently living in their household, or there is a critical welfare issue or housing management need requiring urgent rehousing.
This policy applies to our general needs residents only and should be read in conjunction with the Lettings Policy.
Equality & Diversity
At Estuary Housing Association (EHA) we are committed to embedding equality and diversity at the heart of our work. We aim to be an inclusive organisation, where individual differences are respected, where staff, people who use services, as well as their families and carers, are treated with dignity and on the basis of their merits, abilities and needs, and where everyone has a fair opportunity to fulfil their potential without suffering discrimination or disadvantage.
Estuary Housing Association (EHA) allows for our general needs tenants to obtain a priority move in certain circumstance, this in general terms will be known as an urgent rehousing priority. If urgent rehousing is agreed, it will give tenants precedence over other EHA and non EHA tenants on our housing register to transfer to an alternative general needs rented home.
We will work with other social landlords, Local Authorities, and other agencies such as the UK Protected Persons Service (UKPPS) to enable mobility for those in urgent need of rehousing who may not be a tenant of ours, where this is in the interest of the Association.
For residents residing in our shared ownership, leasehold, or market rent homes an urgent rehousing priority is not feasible. Where decants are required this will be dealt with by our insurers where this is our responsibility. However, we will support residents in these homes by signposting to appropriate agencies, liaising with our Sales & Marketing Team, Lenders, Letting Agents, Local Authorities, and statutory agencies as appropriate.
As social housing is a limited resource, we will work with other registered providers and Local Authorities to ensure the needs of our residents are met where urgent rehousing is necessary. This may necessitate our tenant transferring to a different social landlord.
All urgent rehousing requests agreed under this Policy will be given one offer of suitable accommodation. Any offer is subject to an affordability assessment, where the rent will be higher than a tenant’s current home.
All cases will be reviewed where they have not been rehoused within 6 months of the award of urgent rehousing status. Where the reason for the urgent rehousing status has been remedied, improved or there have been no further incidents we reserve the right to remove the urgent rehousing points, following discussion with the tenants and statutory agencies.
2.0 Management Moves (Violence, Threats, and Domestic Abuse)
In cases where the safety or wellbeing of a tenant and/or a permanent member of their household is at risk, we will consider a Management Move (MM). An MM will only be considered if the case falls into one of the following categories and there is clear evidence that moving home will reduce the risk for the following:
- Personal protection from threats of, or actual, violence from inside or outside the home, including honour-based violence. This is defined as a threat of actual violence to anyone in the household resulting in a need to move for their safety
- Personal protection from sexual abuse. This is defined as any form of harassment or distress caused by sexual abuse to a member of the household resulting in a need to move for their safety
- Protection from harassment/hate crime. This is defined as behaviour deliberately intended to harm or intimidate a person. It is often motivated by prejudice on the grounds of race, colour, national origin, ethnic origin, religion, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. The harassment must result in a need to move for their safety.
- Protection from modern slavery. Modern slavery is defined as the recruitment, movement, harbouring or receiving of children, women, or men through the use of force, coercion, abuse of vulnerability, deception or other means for the purpose of exploitation. It is a crime under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and includes holding a person in a position of slavery, servitude forced or compulsory labour, or facilitating their travel with the intention of exploiting them soon after.
Domestic abuse is defined as any incident or pattern of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to, psychological, physical, sexual, financial, and emotional abuse. Where the DA survivor has expressed a wish to move, we will consider an MM for:
- Those who have been provided temporary protection in a refuge or other form of temporary accommodation,
- And/or have been identified as high-risk victims of domestic abuse at a local MARAC or by a local authority Domestic Abuse Officer.
We will require evidence that an MM will reduce the risk. This may include:
- Police reports or letter of support
- Other professional letters of support i.e., Social Care, Health Visitor, school
- EHA staff knowledge of tenant or area in which they reside
- Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour Based Violence risk assessment (DASH).
3.0 Exceptional Moves
There may be other cases where we will consider there is an exceptional urgent need to move. Exceptional cases will only be considered for the tenant/s and permanent members of the household. The tenant will need to prove they have failed to find suitable alternative accommodation themselves, unless their vulnerability precludes them doing so.
We would consider an exceptional move in the following circumstances (but are not limited to):
- Following the death of a child, in or close to the home, and the family find it too distressing to remain
- Where the death of a family member, including those not residing in the household, leads to safety concerns for our tenant
- When there is any combination of health, social and property issues which we are unable to resolve in their current home.
Applicants referred to EHA through the UK Protected Persons Service (UKPPS) (formerly Witness Protection) will be given urgent rehousing status under the exceptional cases category. This will be an exception to this Policy as the applicant will not be a current EHA tenant. They will be placed in the same priority band as current residents with this status.
4.0 Offers of accommodation under 2.0 and 3.0
All requests for any transfer under 2.0 or 3.0 of this Policy will be referred to the Housing Manager – Income & Allocations (HMIA) or Housing Manager – Tenancies (HMT) for approval. Where they do not approve a transfer, this will be put in writing to the tenant giving the reasons for the refusal. A tenant may appeal the decision see 9.0 below.
Where a transfer is agreed under this Policy, it will be subject to the criteria in 8.0.
As an urgent move is generally to ensure safety, and we have a limited number of homes, we will offer the next suitable available home which may be in a different borough.
Due to the complex nature of these moves, there is no one procedure which can be applied to every applicant’s situation. We will use our discretion to assess each application individually. When considering which areas are suitable, and the type of home we will offer, we will consider:
- The proximity of the perpetrators, or known associates
- Ongoing support from statutory agencies or family
- Schooling where children attend a specialist school
- Police or another statutory agency evidence of where is safe or unsafe.
5.0 Medical priority
We will consider general needs tenants for a transfer where it can be proven their medical condition is being made worse by their current home.
Where a tenant or permanent household member had this condition before they moved into their current home, they will need to provide evidence from a suitably qualified person, that:
- Their health has deteriorated, and home is no longer adequate and
- Any required adaptions cannot be made, and
- Alternative accommodation would improve this.
Unlike management and exceptional moves, medical priority usually does specify the type of home required. This may include the need for separate bedrooms, where not normally required, ground floor accommodation only etc. We will base our decision which type and size of home is required following the independent medical assessment.
We have three bands for medical priority, these being Urgent, High or None. All transfer requests for medical reasons will be assessed by an independent medical advisor. The assessment will be made using evidence supplied by the tenant. We will supply any information required regarding our Lettings Policy and the type of home the tenant currently resides in.
Where an applicant does not agree with the decision of the independent medical advisor, we can raise an appeal with the Advisor. However, the tenant will need to provide further evidence that has not already been supplied before Estuary Housing Association can resubmit as an appeal.
Where the result of the appeal remains the same, a tenant has no further rights of appeal. We may however consider under an exceptional move if there are more than just medical reasons for the tenant requesting a transfer.
6.0 Decants (move)
Decants only apply to residents living in our rented homes, not to shared owners or leaseholders (see 1.3).
Generally, temporary decants are used to allow us to complete repairs that are not possible whilst a tenant is in occupation. If the household that requires decanting is not able to stay with family or friends, we will support them in finding temporary accommodation. This may be a hotel, holiday let or our own homes depending on the length of time a household will be displaced. The temporary accommodation may also not be the same size or type of home.
Where a temporary decant is agreed and we use of one of our empty homes, then this policy will apply as the household will take precedence over other applicants on our housing waiting list. However, our Lettings Policy will not apply as the temporary accommodation may not be the same size or type of home currently lived in, though will be suitable for a short period of time.
If the decant needs to be permanent, then a general needs tenant will be given urgent rehousing priority. The same will apply as 8.0 in relation to rent arrears. The condition of a tenant’s current home will be assessed, considering any repairs or works relating to the reasons for the decant. Where residents are eligible for a statutory home loss payment, any outstanding debt owed to us i.e., rent arrears, rechargeable repairs will be deducted from the award with any balance paid to the tenant.
A temporary or permanent decant will not be used to meet other housing preferences as in 8.3. We will however work with the household being decanted to attempt to offer them a suitable home as close to the area they wish to live. Where we have no suitable homes, we will liaise with Local Authorities and registered providers to request assistance with rehousing.
Where it has been agreed a person can succeed a tenancy and their current home is:
- Too large for their needs (as defined within our Lettings Policy) or
- The home has major adaptions, and these adaptions are not required,
the successor will be required to move to a suitable home. In these cases, they will be awarded urgent rehousing points.
The potential successor will be responsible for use and occupation charges whilst succession rights are being assessed. These and the subsequent rent if succession is agreed must be maintained. Any rent arrears the successor is not responsible for will be written off. Use and occupation or rent arrears accrued which they are responsible for, section 8.1 of this policy will apply. We will consider the successors' ability to pay if the current home larger than their needs and give support with applications for discretionary housing payment where appropriate.
As the successor was not responsible for the tenancy prior to grant of succession, we will not hold them liable for any repairs or the standard of the home. However, once succession is agreed, they must not allow any further deterioration in the condition of the home.
A succession will not be used to meet other housing preferences and offers of rehousing will be based on the criteria in our Lettings Policy. We will however work with the successor and attempt to offer them a suitable home as close to the area they wish to live. Where we have no suitable homes, we will liaise with Local Authorities and registered providers to ascertain if they can assist with rehousing.
Where we are unable to find a suitable home, we will discuss the options available with the successor. Where a successor refuses to move, we reserve the right to commence legal action to end the tenancy. Refer to Tenure Policy.
8.0 Criteria for transfer
Where there are rent arrears, we will expect the tenant to have made and maintained an agreement to clear the arrears before their case is considered for urgent rehousing. However, due to the urgency of some of these moves we understand this may not always be possible. Where urgent rehousing is agreed, unless there are exceptional reasons a tenant cannot pay, they must make regular payments and maintain any repayment arrangement. Following a move to an alternative Estuary Housing Association home, any remaining arrears will be transferred onto their new rent account and form part of their new tenancy.
A property inspection is carried out for any tenant requesting a transfer and will need to be completed before a move is agreed. Where there is evidence any damage has been caused due to the reasons for the urgent move, then this will be reported to the Police as criminal damage. However, if the property has not been kept to a satisfactory condition, we may:
- Refuse to allow an urgent move until the property is brought up to the required standard
- Agree to the urgent move where the tenant will have the chance to remedy the issues before moving.
If this is not completed before an offer, the tenant will be advised they are responsible to repay the cost of works as a rechargeable repair. If a move takes place, an addendum will be attached to the new tenancy to ensure the rechargeable repair debt is repaid.
An urgent move will not be used to meet a resident's housing preference i.e., larger accommodation. Any offer will be made based on the number of bedrooms in their current home. However, if a resident is under occupying, we may offer a smaller home. For medical moves, the offer will be in accordance with the needs of the household irrespective of size or type of their home. We will try to offer the same type of accommodation i.e., house to house. However, as the purpose of any urgent move is to reduce the risk to a household and/or their wellbeing an offer may be a different type of home.
9.0 Offer of Accommodation, refusals, and appeals
As per our Lettings Policy, only one offer of accommodation will be made. An offer under this Policy will consider the needs of the household and any recommendations from statutory agencies, along with the availability of social housing.
Where an offer of accommodation is refused, it will mean the tenant being removed from our housing register.
If a tenant believes the offer was not suitable, they have the right to appeal unless this is only based on their wish to have other housing preferences i.e., larger home. Where a tenant appeals, we will not normally postpone the letting of the original property offered, therefore this home may not be available if a tenant changes their mind.
The independent medical advisors’ decision is final. Where an appeal is refused, there is no further right of appeal for medical priority, unless a tenant believes they should be considered under the exceptional circumstance category.
If an urgent rehousing request is not agreed, the tenant has a right to appeal only where more evidence available; or they feel the Housing Manager has not understood the full facts or impact on their lives. Where the appeal is upheld, urgent rehousing status will be awarded.
Any customer making an appeal will be advised of the process and asked if they require any assistance with collating information.
All appeals will be reviewed by a Panel consisting of a Senior Manager and one member of the Federation of Estuary Residents. Neither person must have been involved in the allocation of the property or live within the same location as the applicant. Where panel members have a difference of opinion, Estuary Housing Association's decision will be final.
Where an appeal is upheld, following a refusal of accommodation under this Policy, urgent rehousing status will be reinstated, and one further offer of accommodation will be made following any recommendations of the appeal Panel.
Where any appeal is not upheld, the tenant will be advised if they are eligible for a non-urgent transfer and given advice on other housing options.
For urgent rehousing priority agreed due to succession or decant, and the tenant refuses suitable accommodation, Estuary Housing Association may commence legal action to end their current tenancy.