Adrian Waite is an expert in public sector finance and management. He has helped central government and housing associations tackle a range of financial and strategic problems.
Adrian is a qualified member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Housing, an honorary fellow of the Institute of Public Services Management and a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership & Management.
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Q: I am a housing support worker and one of my service users is a recovering alcoholic. She cannot remember signing her tenancy agreement when she moved into her home seven years ago. The housing
Posted in: can i buy my housing association house
Most housing association tenants have assured tenancies. Assured housing association tenants usually have the right to acquire. However, there are some exceptions. For example, tenants of less than five years’ standing are excluded, as are houses that were built, bought or transferred before 1st April 1997 and houses that are not self-contained, temporary housing or specialised housing such as that which has been adapted for disabled residents.
I assume that this tenant does not have the right to acquire because their tenancy started in 1996, in which case they are not entitled to buy their home.
Posted in: BEDROOM TAX
The Direct Gov website includes a section called the ‘benefits adviser’ that allows people to calculate benefits including housing benefits. The site also includes links to housing benefit calculators on local authority websites.
There is obviously a difference between rent and housing benefit for social tenants and rent and housing benefit for private tenants.
Rents in England for social tenants are set by the local authority or housing association with reference to the government’s rent restructuring formula. This is not changing as a result of the government’s changes to welfare benefits. Rents will continue to increase to target levels in 2015 and by inflation plus 0.5% a year thereafter. In Scotland and Wales government influences rather than controls social rents but, as in England, social rents are lower than private rents and are increasing faster than inflation.
Rents in the private sector are set by the landlord at ‘market’ levels.
Housing Benefit for private tenants is based on the ‘Local Housing Allowance’. This is calculated with reference to ‘market’ rents but the government is changing the way that the formulas work to reduce the ‘Local Housing Allowance’. Tenants may find that their housing benefit no longer covers all their rent and will either have to pay the difference themselves or find a cheaper tenancy.
Housing Benefits for social tenants will not be affected by the government’s changes to ‘Local Housing Allowances’.
However, the under-occupation penalty (or bedroom tax) will apply to all tenants of working age who claim housing benefit. Tenants with one spare room will face a 14% reduction in benefits while those with two spare rooms will face a 25% reduction in benefits. The government states that this penalty is designed to discourage under-occupation at a time when there is a shortage of housing. Critics say that it is an unfair penalty because many of the 670,000 tenants who will be affected do not have a realistic option of moving to a smaller home.
Posted in: Buying back ex council homes
Local authorities are allowed to buy back former council houses especially in cases where the owners are struggling to meet their mortgage payments, service charges or maintenance costs and many have buy back schemes.
In 2006 the former Labour government introduced an incentive for Councils to buy back former council houses in that they could deduct from the capital receipts that they would otherwise have to have set aside a proportion of the costs that they incurred in buying back former council houses including their administration costs.
The present government as part of its right to buy initiative has kept the buy back provisions with councils allowed to keep up to 50% of their costs with a limit set of 6.5% of the total net receipts to be used for this purpose.
Details are contained in the Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) (Amendment) (no. 2) Regulations 2012.
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and Commonhold & Leasehold Reform Act 2002 set out the rules for service charges including a requirement for reasonableness. In particular the law states that service charges must be reasonable and must not exceed the actual costs of the services provided. Tenants, Leaseholders and residents of shared ownership homes are also entitled to be told how their service charges have been calculated.
Residents who are concerned about the level of their service charges should ask their landlord for a breakdown of the cost and to demonstrate both that the service charges do not exceed the actual costs and that the costs are reasonable. Costs would be reasonable if they are at or below the level that would usually be expected for the work involved.
Dis-satisfied residents have the right to appeal to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal.
Posted in: Selling off your former tenant arrears debt
Some Councils and Housing Associations do use debt collection agencies to trace former tenants who are in arrears or even to recover the debt. Obviously where a debt collection agency purchases debt it does so at a significant discount. Social landlords may also wish to be assured that debt collection agencies would pursue debts in a way that is consistent with their own principles and policies. There are a number of debt collection agencies in the market whose details are available on the Internet.