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Housing Options Prevention Fund Policy

1 Context

1.1 Homelessness gives rise to very significant costs to Rochford District Council. The prevention fund has been developed to support the Council’s preventative approach to homelessness. Preventing homelessness through early intervention is essential and Housing Options officers will always provide tailored advice and support. Sometimes this is not enough to resolve homelessness without a package of targeted financial assistance. The fund allows Housing Options Officers to assess the household’s current situation and enable cost effective solutions to meet their housing needs. Effective prevention offers the potential to deliver a better quality of life for people who are at risk of homelessness.

1.2 This document outlines the scope of the financial assistance Rochford District Council can provide to support the homelessness prevention agenda and details the criteria for making such assistance available

2 Purpose

2.1 In all cases the main objective of the homelessness prevention fund is

  • To provide financial assistance to households threatened with homelessness to enable them to remain in their existing accommodation.
  • To provide financial assistance to households who are homeless to enable them to access alternative accommodation.
  • To prevent homelessness by improving the range of available options for early interventions.
  • To minimise the use of temporary accommodation.
  • To reduce the impact of homelessness.
  • To provide cost effective housing options

2.2 The Council has duties and powers under part 7 of the Housing Act 1996, Homeless Reduction Act 2017 (HRA17) to provide advice and assistance to anyone who is homeless or facing homelessness. Alongside this Act, a body of guidance and good practice has developed which promotes a proactive and flexible approach to homelessness.

2.3 To assist households into the private rented sector to those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness who would be unable to afford to secure accommodation without the Council’s assistance.

2.4 This policy sits alongside the Council’s other statutory duties with respect to investigating and determining homeless applications.

3 Eligibility

A client will be deemed eligible for the scheme if they meet the following criteria:

  • Eligible subject to immigration
  • A local connection to the Rochford District meaning resided in the district for 6 months out of the past 12 months or longer.
  • The household must be homeless or threatened with homelessness
  • The households must be on a low income or in receipt of benefits
  • To have applied for discretionary housing payment (DHP) and not been successful

The Council would not be able to help you if

  • You do not have a local connection to Rochford District Council
  • You have an existing debt to the Council and not made any arrangement to clear this. This would be negotiable at the time of your application request.
  • You need the deposit / rent in advance paid directly to yourself.

4 Prevention Measures

4.1 In all cases the aim is to provide a preventative solution to a housing need.

4.2 Accommodation should be affordable, suitable and safe

4.3 Housing Options officers will carry out a check of your financial status.

4.4 This fund will be available to help with the following:

A grant – not to be repaid

  • Landlord/agency incentive fees equivalent to a maximum of one month’s rent
  • Rent in Advance
  • Rent Arrears - a one off payment to prevent homelessness. The amount of the grant is to be discussed when the application is submitted.
  • Deposit – equal to a maximum of five weeks rent

In some circumstances the deposit is to be paid back by the Landlord/agents.
If a claim is made by the Landlord or agent in relation to rent arrears or damage to the property, the tenant is liable for the amount to be paid back to the Council in full. A payment agreement will be put in place over an agreed maximum time.

Deposit and Rent in Advance

4.5 This scheme will help residents who are unable to raise the rent in advance and deposit for private accommodation.

The scheme will offer a deposit equal to a maximum of five weeks rent and the equivalent to a maximum of two months’ rent in advance.

4.6 The Council can provide the following loan to eligible residents, depending on household size.

  • Single shared room up to £321.50
  • 1 bedroom need up to £599.00
  • 2 bedroom need up to £795.00
  • 3 bedroom need up to £1000.01
  • 4+ bedroom need up to £1300.01

Private rented accommodation within the Rochford District can be expensive. Consideration will be given for assistance out of the district.

Rent Arrears

4.7 A one-off payment to assist the tenant in clearing rent arrears. The amount of the payment is subject to household size (see 4.6).
Deposit (returned to the council)

4.8 The deposit paid to the agent/landlord will be returned to the Council at the end of the tenancy. The tenant will be liable for any claims made against the deposit and the Council would pursue the debt.

4.9 If the landlord needs to make a claim at the end of the tenancy against any damage or theft the tenant will be liable for any claims made against the deposit. The Council will pursue any outstanding debt.

Landlord/agency incentive

4.10 The Council may consider incentives equivalent to one month’s rent. Consideration will be given to one year or two-year tenancies up to a maximum of the equivalent to two month’s rents. In all cases the incentive is to secure a new home, which is free from severe housing hazards and both affordable and suitable to meet the household need.

4.11 The landlord/agent must be prepared to issue a written Tenancy Agreement.

5 Application

5.1 There is no limit on the number of applications which can be made by applicants to the Council. However, each re application will be tested on individual circumstances and reason for re-application. Checks will be carried out to see if there is an existing debt with Rochford Council. You may be offered a further grant under this scheme due to certain circumstances. If the Landlord or agent has issued a claim against you previously under this scheme the outstanding debt would need to be cleared before a new grant maybe issued.

5.2 Housing Options Officers will always carry out a detailed credit check with all applicants. Which will demonstrate that the household has scope to afford and therefore sustain the accommodation for the foreseeable future. In addition to this financial check other mandatory information includes.

Landlord/tenancy details
Total of any rent arrears and reasons for non-payment
Copies of rent statement

5.3 All available information will be assessed within five working days and officers will contact the Landlord to agree further conditions of payment to ensure security of tenure.

5.4 The Council will ask all applicants to sign a legally binding agreement detailing the amount of grant. The Council will ask the Landlord to sign a legally binding agreement. Once all parties have signed funds will be released.

6 The Property

6.1 What you need to do –

  • Find a property
  • Provide ID for the household
  • Proof of income
  • Proof of benefits
  • Bank statement

6.2 If an application is successful and a property had been identified and the Landlord has offered the property. The Council will require:

  • Copy of the tenancy agreement
  • Gas safety certificate
  • Deposit Protections Scheme
  • Energy performance certificate with a rating in the range of A-E. Properties rated F or G will not be considered suitable unless an exemption corticate has been provided.
  • The Landlord must be prepared to issue a written Tenancy Agreement
  • Electric safety certificates
  • Inventory
  • Smoke detector
  • Carbon monoxide detector (if applicable)

6.3 The Council will normally inspect any property for which an application to this scheme is made. The Council will not consider the property suitable if:

  • The property is not licensed as a house in multiple occupation (HMO)
  • The property is unsuitable to meet the household needs
  • The property would be overcrowded
  • Severe housing hazards have been identified, as assessed under the Housing, Health & Safety Rating Scheme (HHSRS) The property would be unaffordable.

7 Basic Tenant Awareness Video

7.1 We encourage all applicants to participate in the Tenants awareness session to support opportunities in gaining a private rented property.

8 Funds

8.1 Funds are transferred directly to lettings agents, landlords and cannot be paid directly to the tenant.

8.2 Availability of funds will be dependent upon the current budget. The Council will review its budgets regularly, however some or all options may be withdrawn subject to the resources being available.

8.3 This policy is reviewed every twelve months.

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