Agenda item

Housing Policies - Pre-Decision Scrutiny

This report will follow in an Additional Papers pack once the report has been published for consideration of the Executive Committee.


The Committee received a detailed presentation on the Housing Policies that related to the management of the Council’s housing stock, both in terms of tenancy and capital/repairs and maintenance management.


Members were informed that the Housing Policies had been reviewed and updated taking in to account the latest legislation and best practice. A review of the Council’s Tenancy Management Policy (Appendix 1) had consequently led to a review of the Tenancy Agreement (Appendix 2). Members were advised that Appendix 3 to the report presented set out a comparison table of the old and new tenancy agreement.


Members were further informed that the Executive Committee had in August 2020 delegated authority to Officers to update and implement those housing policies that were set out in government legislation and guidance and as such were non-discretionary. Those policies that had some discretionary elements to them were now to be considered by the Executive Committee on the 21st March 2023, and if approved, would be subject to a full tenant consultation exercise in accordance with legislative requirements. The policies that had some discretionary element and required Executive Committee endorsement and approval by the Council were as follows:


  • Tenancy Management Policy (Appendix 1)
  • Housing Revenue Management Policy (Appendix 4)
  • Garage Policy (Appendix 5)
  • Repairs and Maintenance Policy (Appendix 6)
  • Rechargeable Repairs Policy (Appendix 7)
  • Equipment and Adaptations Policy (Appendix 8)
  • Voids Policy (Appendix 9)
  • Temporary Accommodation Placement Policy (Appendix 10)
  • Temporary Accommodation Charing Policy (Appendix 11).


Officers provided further details on the above Housing Policies.


It was explained that there would be consultations undertaken by writing to tenants regarding their views on the Tenancy Management Policy, and tenants could receive copies and respond online, or by post if a tenant had no internet access. With regards to consultation and comment on the new tenancy, as this was to be a new contractual document, the Council was obliged to send all tenants a physical copy of their new tenancy agreement to comment on.


It was explained that the Council would consult on the Tenancy Management Policy first; to be followed by the new tenancy consultation. Each consultation period was planned for six weeks, to allow time for feedback and the Council to respond. Once the second consultation on the new tenancy consultation, taking into account any feedback from tenants, a new tenancy agreement would be written and would be implemented, subject to the agreement of Members (by Full Council). It was anticipated this would be in August or September 2023.


Following the Officer presentation, Members commented on the Housing Policies and asked questions to which the following responses were provided:


  • Introductory Tenancies – Officers noted that being on an introductory tenancy did not affect the tenant’s credit rating and that an introductory tenancy changed to a secure tenancy, normally after a period of 12 months, subject to the tenant not breaching the terms of the tenancy. The introductory tenancy period could be extended by the Housing Authority.
  • Social Housing Rents – It was explained that the Council had discretion over setting the rents charged to tenants housed in its own housing stock but the rents charges must be ‘reasonable’ and take into account Government guidance and the Rent Standard set by the Regulator for Social Housing.
  • Affordable Rents – For tenancies subject to Affordable Rent terms, the Council set the rent charged by determining what the market rent was in the area for a similar type, size, location, and condition of the property and set a rent at 80% of that market rent. Officers noted that only a small number of tenancies in the Borough were subject to Affordable Rent terms.
  • Property Condition Inspections – It was explained that the Council had a standard checklist used for inspections of the Council’s housing stock properties, applying consistent criteria to determining property condition. Officers noted that the target was for all properties to be inspected once per year, however, the time lag between inspections was greater in many cases at the moment.
  • Number of Tenants in Arrears – Officers explained that exact figures on the number of tenants in arrears were currently unavailable as the Council had just implemented a new housing management system, which would also provide more accurate recording of this. However, Officers noted that there were around 2,000 arrear cases on the system which could be for any amount owed.
  • Tenants’ Rights – It was explained that rights of tenants, including those in social housing, were set out in statute, for example in the Housing Acts 1988 and 2004. The tenancy agreement proposed by the Council would not alter tenants’ rights in any way but would provide a more clear explanation of those rights.
  • Main Types of Council-Tenant Disputes – The main disputes related to tenant arrears and anti-social behaviour (mainly noise nuisance). Officers that disputes and cases of breaches of the tenancy agreement were examined in an equitable manner by the Council.
  • Energy Efficiency of Properties and Solar Panels – Some Members commented that Overview and Scrutiny Committee had proposed a number of additional recommendations to the Executive Committee among which was proposal for fitting solar panels to existing and new Council housing stock properties. These proposals were rejected, and it was asked whether this would affect the drive to improve energy efficiency. Officers explained that the use of more renewable energy sources and fitting of more efficient appliances to properties would be increasingly demanded by regulators.
  • Cleaning of Communal Areas in Blocks of Flats – Officers noted that only in blocks of flats was there a cleaning service charge, and where such charge was taken, cleaning took place every two weeks. On some blocks of flats in Redditch cleaning took place more often. It was also noted it was the aim to undertake health and safety inspections of common areas in blocks every month, but it was challenging as there were 280 blocks across the Borough and only 10 Officers assigned to these checks.
  • It was noted that the lack of cleanliness in communal areas in some blocks was a legacy of lack of historic health and safety inspections and Members commented that it was necessary for the Council to lead by example by undertaking regular inspections and cleaning in order for culture and behaviour change in terms of communal cleaning to be embedded.
  • Members commented around the state of disrepair around Evesham Mews.
  • Enforcement and Prosecution at Properties where Drug Use and Drug Dealing Were Taking Place – Officers explained that use and dealing of drugs was often not a problem in isolation but took place in a wider context such as mental health issues. The Council took a gradual and proportionate approach with prevention and challenge of drug-use behaviours in the first instance. Sanctions were available to the Council in severe cases, and it was noted over the last 12 months there had been 4 evictions for drug use and 1 closure order on property for drug dealing.
  • Permission for Tenants to Operate Small Businesses from Home – It was requested that permission be sought from the Council in each case as sometimes such arrangements could cause nuisance to nearby residents/tenants. However, tenants were able to apply for permission and the Council considered each case on its merits.
  • Possession of Property for Introductory Tenancies where Tenants in more than 8 Weeks Gross Rent Arrears – Officers reported that the Council had no cases of recovering possession in introductory tenancies over the last year.
  • Garage Management Policy including Garage Allocation – Officers reported that the Council acknowledged that many of the garages were not suitable for fitting modern cars and would often be used for other uses such as storage instead. This was reflected in the wording of the Garage Management Policy.
  • Waiting List for Garages – It was noted that the waiting list for garages operated similarly to the Housing Register in terms of allocating garages when they became available. It was hoped that the new housing management system would improve the speed of processing application and allocating garages. Members were assured that Borough residents were prioritised for allocations of garages.
  • Repairs and Maintenance Policy including Schedule of Repairs – Officers noted that the schedule of repair items included around 500 items and it was impractical to set all those in the Policy itself. It was noted that there was a move towards residents logging repair requests via the Council’s repairs portal.
  • Repairs Categories and Repair Response Times – It was noted that the Council had a legacy issue in terms of timely response to tenant repair requests but the new housing management system, including the repair reporting system, would enable the Council to record all requests accurately. From the new municipal year the Council would also introduce key performance indicators (KPIs) that were industry standard around repair timescales, and these would be reported to Committee Members on a regular basis.
  • Calls to Council regarding Repair and Maintenance Requests – Officers reported that call data was analysed so that sufficient staff were available to answer calls in a timely manner. It was noted that an extra member of staff was used on Mondays and Fridays as these were days with a large volume of calls. It was noted that currently the average call waiting time was in excess of the performance target and the Council would be recruiting extra staff to bring call waiting times down.
  • Recharge for Failed Appointments – It was noted that under the proposed Repairs and Maintenance Policy the Council reserved the right to take appropriate action including recharge where tenant failed to attend repair appointment and to enforce this in accordance with the Tenancy Agreement. Officers noted that currently there was no equivalent provision for the Council to compensate the tenant in case a council officer or contractor had failed to turn up for an agreed appointment. It was noted that a review of Repairs and Maintenance Policy would be undertaken in April 2024.
  • Qualifying Repairs – It was explained that qualifying repairs were those repairs detailed under the Right to Repairs Regulation where the Council had to comply with set timescales, for example as detailed under paragraphs 8.2.1 to 8.2.4 of the Council’s Repairs and Maintenance Policy, in repairing defects that need urgent repair up to a value of £250.
  • List of Rechargeable Repairs – Officers explained that some items, such as replacement of lost or stolen key fobs, were on the list to safeguard the Council against issues outside of its control.
  • Tenants’ Contribution to Major Adaptations – It was clarified that in relation to paragraphs 15.1 and 15.2 of Equipment and Adaptation Policy that first details of work over the maximum limit would be discussed with a tenant and tenants would not be expected to pay before the work had been scheduled to be undertaken. Some Members requested that paragraph 15.1 be rectified to that effect.
  • Council Stock of Temporary Accommodation (TA) Units – Officers reported that currently the Council held around 50 TA units which had to be pooled directly from the main HRA Council Stock, which correspondingly reduced the amount of stock available for Council and Affordable Housing. It was noted that under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 there was a six-week limit on the use of Bed & Breakfast accommodation as people’s temporary accommodation and an effort was made to reduce Council’s reliance on this type of TA due to cost.
  • It was noted that the Council was also investigating procuring temporary accommodation units from the private sector as it was a more viable alternative to Bed & Breakfast. The Council was involved with a number of campaigns to help those who were homeless or rough sleeping including the ‘Lift to Work Scheme’ with St Basils, and ‘Blue Ribbon’ initiative.
  • It was planned that performance monitoring on Housing would commence on 1st April 2023 with the first set of key performance indicator (KPI) data to be available the following month.


The amendment to the recommendation as set out in the report was proposed by Councillor Hartnett and seconded by Councillor Kane for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to scrutinise the Housing Policies again following the conclusion of the tenant consultation.


With respect to the proposed amendment, it was clarified that it was within the scope of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to request to scrutinise an item of Council business by agreeing to add the item to the Overview and Scrutiny Work Programme. As such the amendment was unnecessary. It was clarified that recommendation two of this Housing Policies report, if agreed by the Council, would result in Officers being granted delegated authority, following consultation with Portfolio Holder for Housing, to agree any revisions to the Housing Policies following the tenant consultation. This, however, did not preclude the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to scrutinise these Housing Policies following the tenant consultation.


Following this clarification, Councillor Hartnett agreed to withdraw the amendment.


Members subsequently agreed that an update in the new municipal year on the outcomes of the consultation process with respect to the Tenancy Management Agreement and Tenancy Management Policy be added to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme for the municipal year 2023-24.




1)    The following Housing Policies be approved for adoption:


(a)  Tenancy Management Policy

(b)  Housing Revenue Management Policy

(c)  Garage Policy

(d)  Repairs and Maintenance Policy

(e)  Rechargeable Repairs Policy

(f)    Equipment and Adaptations Policy

(g)  Voids Policy

(h)  Temporary Accommodation Placement Policy

(i)    Temporary Accommodation Charging Policy.


2)    Delegated authority be given to the Head of Community and Housing Services and/or Head of Environmental and Housing Property, following consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Housing, to agree any revisions to the Housing Policies following the consultation and in line with any legislative or government guidance updates.



Supporting documents: