The Cabinet Member for Housing and Property presented the report which outlined that the Council currently had 93 voids, of which 10 were being held for decamp and re-housing. He highlighted the importance of the Council’s role as a landlord in quickly and safely re-letting properties once a tenancy had ended. The benefits for the Council by reducing rent loss within the budget and easing pressure on the waiting list and allowing surveys to be carried out on Council properties. It was noted that the voids performance had been under scrutiny due to the slow turnaround of properties.
The Director for Housing and Property stated that in terms of voids and void properties, the challenges faced by officers included systems that had not been working sufficiently to support them. Data and reporting had not been a quick and simple process, and this had added to the confusion around the different teams involvement (repairs, allocations, and housing management). The report also contained main considerations of performance, which had been poor.
The Assistant Director of Housing informed the Committee that a weekly meeting had been put into place with stakeholders from individual teams to discuss the void process. It was also highlighted that the team had been currently going out to market for a new housing management system. The new system that was being procured would have embedded workflows to enable the system to generate actions to be completed within timescales.
It was highlighted that the re-let standard enabled a ‘front-foot’ position to ensure tenants kept the Council’s properties in a good condition. Ongoing tenancy management would be put into place to ensure regular visits and property inspections took place. The Assistant Director of Housing noted that termination inspections would take place over the ‘notice-period’ and active recharges would be taken if necessary.
It was confirmed that if a tenant was to disappear following the end of their tenancy, it would be kept on record and further costs would be applied to their rent account if they happen to apply for housing in the future.
The Director of Housing and Property highlighted that the tenancy agreement required the tenant to provide 4 weeks’ notice and that the tenant would still be liable for the rent if they happen to leave immediately.
One Member raised asked if the Housing team liaised with surrounding neighbours when visiting Council properties. It was confirmed that liaising with neighbours would depend on the appropriateness of the case.
Another Member raised a query as to whether the Council had a deposit scheme for Council properties.
The Director for Housing and Property confirmed the differences between private rented sector and social housing. He stated that due to the Council being a social landlord, a deposit scheme would not be applicable.
One Member raised a query over why the void rent loss had increased and the void time had decreased. The Member also queried the replacing of fitted carpets and the problems and responsibilities around insect infestations.
The Director of Housing and Property confirmed that a void figure was only provided at the time of when a property was let, if properties were not re-let, it still accumulated void rent loss, but they would not show in the re-let figures.
It was confirmed that following the end of a tenancy, carpets would be removed due to the possibility that flooring may need repair. In regard to vermin and pests, the Council would provide appropriate treatment whilst a property was void. Once the tenancy agreement had been signed, the tenant would then be responsible for vermin and pests.
A comment was made about the wording of the policy objectives compared to the policy that had been reviewed in January 2021.
The Cabinet Member for Housing and Property emphasised the failings within the housing service had been the onus of both officers and Members of the past. He highlighted that the ‘Review of Voids’ brought before the Committee in January 2021 provided similar information to the policy. He noted the differences between the two documents and that the heads of terms would be improved.
1. To note the content of the report.
2. To provide comments and feedback on the Void Policy and Re-let Standard.
1. To support submission of the Void Policy and Re-let Standard for Cabinet consideration and approval.
2. For the Committee to receive timely specific targets, in relation to the Void Policy and Re-let Standard.
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