Mike Wilkins's posts
Posted in: BEDROOM TAX
From 1st April 2013, as one of the changes introduced by The Welfare Reform Act the government will introduce the ‘bedroom tax’ for new and existing, working age housing benefit claimants living, in social housing. The effect of this proposed change is that residents may receive less housing benefit if they have spare bedrooms and may see a reduction of around £11 a week for one ‘extra’ bedroom not used, or £20 with two, possibly more depending on where you live. The change will only apply if you are under 65 however. You mentioned the direct.gov web page and in case others want to look at it, see below.
You also mentioned valuations. The application of new rules means that the Local Housing Allowance (LHA),is now used to calculate HB for social housing tenants. The Valuation Office Agency has a good web site which shows the LHA by borough and also has a separate LHA bedroom calculator which might help.
The object of the exercise, as far as the government is concerned, is to reduce the HB bill, and one way is to now apply the HB rules on ‘under occupation’ that currently apply to private sector tenants, to social housing tenants. I hope this helps.
The Welfare Reform Act introduces a single working age benefit – universal credit- and payment of Housing benefit will, from next year, go direct to tenants rather than social landlords. It is estimated that 15% of local authority tenants and 13% of housing association tenants do not have bank accounts. So setting up an account and arranging a direct debit to pay the rent would be a good move. Non-working households will have a cap on benefits of all kinds at £500 a week or £26k a year.Also from April next year bedroom tax will apply and may cost around £11 a week if you have one bedroom not used or £20 if you have two, possibly more depending on where you live. Also from April those claiming Housing Benefit will no longer be able to claim HB for those at home over 18 and not in full time education. Tests will be introduced to assess eligibility for Disability Living Allowance and some estimate that 20% of claimants will loose this benefit as a result.
Local authorities and housing associations are working hard to advise tenants and gear up for a change in how they collect the rent, cope with higher levels of rent arrears and rent write offs and how they could handle arrears and Possession Order cases. Many, if not most HA’s will be keen to try to mitigate the impact, where they can on tenants and not just evict regardless. Most HA’s will be able to sustain a higher level of bad debts without any significant impact on business plans I would say. However some HA’s are taking no chances! In a recent Inside Housing survey of 25 big associations,seven of the twenty respondents said they were more likely to use, or are reviewing their use of, ‘Ground Eight’ orders.These are rarely used orders, are mandatory for possession rather than discretionary. Courts must grant possession to evict if the tenant has arrears of eight weeks or more, unless tenants can prove it would breach their human rights. Possibly a field day for the lawyers! Overall however I would say it is unlikely that HA’s will wantto forcibly evict large numbers of tenants affected, through no fault of their own, by reductions in their benefits. Doing so would be bad publicity and also pushes the problem along to colleagues in hard pressed local authorities, who then must assess priority need and whether the applicant household is intentionally homeless.
Posted in: career in housing
I would say that recruiters might regard you as a bit ‘non- standard’, that is harder to place, if they felt that your background experience was likely to suggest to employers that you had only a minimal background in social housing. That’s not to say you don’t have transferrableskills, it may be a perception that you have to work around. One way to do that might be to get some unpaid or intern experience with either a HA or local authority. We have a Dutch student working with us at the moment on a three month internship who has no experience of the sector but is working on communications – the web site, the Facebook page etc. This works well for us and I think for her, as he can put this on her CV. You mentioned maintenance and this is another route in, if you have basic building construction knowledge, but a bit more of a harder ‘sell’ unless perhaps you find an apprenticeship on offer. By the way, a housing officer post is quite likely to be the level you should aim at initially. We also took on someone with no housing experience as a trainee a few years ago and she is still here! She was able to convince me that she was genuinely passionate about housing and for a recruiter this has real value. I think if you could find ways in which to demonstrate your enthusiasm for this kind of work, then this would help.
Posted in: HOUSING Allocations and Notices
Taking your points in order, it is not usual for local authorities to take the view that the threat of homelessness is more likely if you are in receipt of a notice confirming the date of the eviction from the Court, however there is often gap of several weeks between the date of the Hearing for Possession and the date of the actual eviction. I take your point about the mandatory grounds, but the landlord still has to prove to the Court that he has at some time used the property as his main home or that the house is needed for use as his or his spouse's main home.
On the local connection point, if an applicant is unintentionally homeless, or threatened with homelessness, and in priority need, the local authority will consider whether they have a local connection, defined as;having residence in the area for six out of the last 12 months or three out of the last five years, immediate family members resident in the area for the last five years or employment in the area – full or part time.On the face of it your client may have a case to argue as she may be able to argue a local connection on residence, and also a family connection in the area.
Posted in: management move
There are no specific rules about a management move that apply to all landlords. The term a 'management move' normally applies when a landlord offers alternative accommodation, either permanently or temporarily, in order to solve a management problem of some kind. In this case it sounds like a neighbour dispute. Other examples might be moving to allow major building works to take place in your flat.
It seems like your landlord has agreed to move you and you may have specified that you will accept a 3 bed with a garden. These homes may only become available infrequently and it's also possible that other people could have higher priority for this ground floor accommodation. Is this the only type of accommodation you want to move to? Are there other types you might consider and would these mean you would be waiting less?I would suggest seeing your Housing Officer and asking him/her about realistic timescales.
Perhaps your best bet would be to contact the Local Government Ombudsman at http://www.lgo.org.uk/
The website is very useful and includes reports each year from the Ombudsman service on complaintsthey have recieved and dealt with for each local authority. Your specific question was about a local ward Councillor and there are some specific types of matters in this area that are within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction and these are listed on the site.
A complaint that a councillor’s conduct breached the council’s code of conduct is also within the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. The code of conduct covers actions in an official capacity and to actions in any other circumstances. The site says the Ombudsman says it will consider all the circumstances of any case and the "significance and severity of the inappropriate action".
I suggest contacting the Onbudsman, perhaps ring them first.
Posted in: Homes for housing employees
I'm not aware of any. However some housing associations may well have cases where, in exceptional circumstances, they have housed a member of staff.
Under the old regulatory regime (with the Housing Corporation as regulator), 'benefits' of this kind were not allowed and could be considered a breach of the regulatory requirements.With newer regulation this hard and fast rule has gone, but associations still need to be very careful about providing non contractual benefits to staff.Helpfully the NHF Code of Conduct (Excellence in Standards of Conduct), spells out how a grant of a benefit like this should be done with a 'transparent',agreeed by the Board,full disclosure of any connection of the applicant to the association, any allocation only on the published criteria and no one personally involved with the individual being a part of the process.
Posted in: Selling off your former tenant arrears debt
I'm not aware of anyone having actually sold the debt, ie taking cash up front in return for number of debts. More usual I imagine- and we do this- is engaging a company to track down the whereabouts of former tenants in return for either a fixed fee or a percentage of the debt reclaimed, or a mix of both. Selling the debt up front would be more risky as you should probably try to ensure contractually that the debt purchasers were at all times acting within the law. More straightforward and less risky, might be employing a company to carry out straightforward checks on the whereabouts of your former tenants with the intention of securing agreements to pay off the debt, or getting an Attachment of Earnings Order for example.
Posted in: being evicted
Hello Mike. Thats bad news, sorry to hear about your Mum. I dont know what age you are. Do you or your Mum have a social worker? Are there other people in yourfamily who are involved? It sounds like your Mumwill be be some time in the care home and may not come back soon. I suggest you go to see either your housing Officer or his/her boss, and, if you have one, take the social worker along too. Your Mum could assign the tenancy to you, assuming she what's known as a secure council tenant- she propbably is- and you have been living there forat least a year. The Council, in most cases will have to give their permission and the tenancy has to be assigned with a particular form - known as
a deed of assignment. If your Mum has dementia that makes things more diffict. Depending on how poorly she is, she might be able to sign a document called Power of Attorney, which authorises someone to takesome decisions on her behalf, but if she is very ill then this may not be possible. I think you should first see the Council and say you are getting advice from a solicitor or Citizens Advice, and see if they will allow you to stay while you get this sorted out.Good luck.
Posted in: Informing tenants about changes to benefits
I think it's also important to think about your most vulnerable tenants and consider how best to pass over information to these client groups. You dont say if you are working for a local authority or a Registered Provider (HA), but in either case, would it make sense to contact those voluntary and other support organisations you work with and check on their plans for disseminating this information. Also probably useful would be to talk to any resident forums (if you are working for an RP),and discuss with them how they might suggest this info could be best passed on. This would have the advantage of being part of an active tenant engagement programme. The important thing might be to ensure that you have 'covered all the bases' and not inadvertantly left a particular group out. For example those tenants least likely to be listening to the news or reading local newspapers might be better reached through other means such as a community group. Generally speaking it may pay you to put more effort in identifying residents and groups who might be least likely to be picking up on these benefit changes, so,for example, those more vulnerable residents and any groups you think are least likely to pick up on this information from more 'traditional' sources. Talk to agencies already working with people in the categories you think are harder to reach to see what is already being planned, and talk to residents groups to get good feedback on the best way to spread the word on this.