Introductory Tenancies by vef11fF0

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									Agenda Item No:                                       Report No:

Report Title:              Introductory tenancies

Report to:                 Cabinet                    Date:              7 January 2003

Lead Councillor:           Councillor Crocker

Ward(s) Affected:          All

Report By:                 Head of Housing Services

Contact Officer(s):        Housing Operations Manager


Purpose of Report: To consider whether the Council should adopt introductory
tenancies



Officers’ Recommendations:

1    To agree to the implementation of Introductory tenancies with effect from April 2004
     subject to

         1.1    the implementation of a training programme to familiarise staff with
               Introductory tenancies

         1.2   a publicity campaign on the use of introductory tenancies so that new tenants
               fully understand their obligations and the sanctions available to the Council

         1.3   consultation with partner agencies, including the Sussex Police, the Crime and
               Reduction Partnership and tenants’ groups



2        The legislative background

     .

         2.1   The Council grants the majority of its tenants a secure tenancy on
               commencement of their occupation, although certain exceptions are made in
               respect of Temporary units of accommodation and tenancies granted where there
               are still enquiries outstanding in respect of homelessness issues.

         2.2   Secure tenants can only be evicted if a Court Order is obtained and one or more
               Grounds proven and if the Court is satisfied that it is reasonable to do so. In
               practice it has become more difficult to obtain possession in both Rent arrears
               cases and nuisance.

         2.3   The Housing Act 1996 introduced the concept of the Introductory (sometime
               called probationary) tenancy. A local authority may elect to operate

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          Introductory tenancies, and if it does all new tenants will be subject to this
          condition with certain exceptions. The tenancy operates for a one-year trial
          period, at the end of which it is deemed to be secure unless Possession
          proceedings have started.

    2.4   Existing secure tenants of both local authorities or Registered Social Landlords
          could not be offered an Introductory tenancy.

    2.5   Introductory tenants do not have the right to exchange or the Right to Buy,
          although the period spent as an Introductory tenant will count towards the
          qualifying period for the Right to Buy.

    2.6   An Introductory tenancy can only be brought to an end by Order of the Court,
          but the Court has no discretion whether to grant possession, and can only
          postpone the date for giving up possession for up to six weeks in cases of
          exceptional hardship. All that it is necessary to prove is that notice was served
          and that any review has been determined or the period specified in the notice has
          expired.

    2.7   The Council is required to notify an Introductory tenant of a decision to seek a
          Possession Order, and include in that Notice the reasons for that decision.

    2.8   A tenant issued with a Notice has the right to request a review of the landlord’s
          decision to seek possession. Such request must be made within 14 days of the
          Notice being served, and the review must be conducted before the earliest date
          on which the possession proceedings may be begun, by a person who was not
          involved in making the original decision to seek possession, and if by an Officer
          by a person senior to the Officer who made the decision. There are detailed
          provisions about the right to make representations, depending on whether or not
          a hearing is held. The review must be completed and the decision notified before
          the date when proceedings may be begun.

    2.9   If the review upholds the decision to evict, the tenant may apply to the High
          Court for Judicial review.

3   Why should the Council consider Introductory tenancies?

    3.1   In the current climate of concern about Anti-Social behaviour, it is perceived
          that the courses of action open to the Council to deal with secure tenants may
          cause unnecessary delay in tackling the source of the problem. To obtain a
          possession order against a secure tenant the Council has to prove the Ground
          under which the possession action is being taken, and also that it is reasonable
          that the tenant concerned should lose their home. They may then face further
          delays should the tenant appeal the judgement and appeal for a stay of warrant
          should a Bailiff’s appointment be arranged. During this time the offending
          behaviour continues to prove a nuisance to the neighbourhood and witnesses
          may face intimidation.

    3.2   In rent arrears cases the whole process may continue for many months during
          which the outstanding arrears continue to escalate. Tenants may have given up
          trying to clear arrears and even left the premises.

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    3.3    Introductory tenancies may prove to be a deterrent to anti-social behaviour early
          in a tenancy and enable good patterns of behaviour to become established early
          in the tenancy, and potentially troublesome tenants dealt with early on.

    3.4   The defence of ‘ reasonableness’ is not available and therefore the tenants
          particular circumstances – eg social deprivation, mental ill-health – cannot be
          taken into account by the Court in making the decision to evict them – it is only
          necessary to prove the Notice has been correctly and properly served. Clearly
          such circumstances will be taken into account during the review process
          described below.

4   Other factors – the counter-arguments

    4.1   New tenants may be seen as easy targets and petty complaints made against
          them. They may be bullied or intimidated by existing secure tenants.

    4.2   Only new tenants who had not previously held a tenancy with a local authority
          or Registered Social Landlord will be subject to the Introductory tenancy rule.
          More established secure tenants may be equally difficult but are more difficult to
          evict or take other effective action against.

    4.3   Tenants whom the Council does not in fact wish to evict may face eviction. If
          the Council obtains an Order because the tenant is in arrears and the tenant then
          pays the arrears and costs in full, the tenancy cannot be revived. The occupier is
          a trespasser from the date the judge ordered eviction. A further tenancy cannot
          be offered unless the person qualifies for an offer from the Housing Register.
          There may be less of an incentive for the tenant to pay once a Notice has been
          served, because eviction is inevitable; there may also be some reluctance to take
          Court action for arrears unless they are viewed as irrecoverable.

    4.4   If a tenant is identified with particular problems such as mental ill-health, the
          Council should be taking action to involve other agencies to support them rather
          than seeking their eviction. This is often a long-term process and the twelve
          months of a probationary tenancy may not be long enough to ensure a
          vulnerable tenant gets the support and assistance they need.



5   Effect on current cases

    5.1   There have been three Notices served on grounds of anti-social behaviour in the
          past six months. Two have been tenants for over a year, one less than six
          months. None of them held secure tenancies prior to rehousing so they would all
          have been granted Introductory tenancies had the Council adopted them.

6   Experience of other Councils

    6.1   The nearest authority to Lewes District Council operating Introductory
          Tenancies is Crawley Borough Council. Officers feel that there has been an
          impact on Rent arrears and neighbour problems. Most tenants make use of the
          internal appeal process.

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    6.2   Other Councils spoken to were enthusiastic. Wrexham felt that the process was
          quite bureaucratic. Barrow-in-Furness found it helpful in dealing with 18 –20
          year olds who could otherwise be a problem.

7   Effect of Homelessness legislation

    7.1   Should a tenant be evicted from an Introductory tenancy they would have a right
          to make a claim of homelessness. If assistance on rehousing were to be refused
          the Council would need to be satisfied they were homeless intentionally, ie. they
          had deliberately done or not done something that resulted in them becoming
          homeless. Therefore the tenant needs to be warned about the possible effect of
          anti-social behaviour or non-payment of rent. Housing Services will ensure that
          a rigorous review process (which involves an appeal from the tenant against the
          Notice) is in place.

8   Anti Social Behaviour Act

    8.1   The very recent Anti-Social Behaviour Act contains provisions for the
          ‘demotion’ of secure tenancies. An Introductory tenancy would provide an
          interim stage before eviction to give offending tenants an opportunity to change
          behaviour. However it would be prudent to have Introductory tenancies in
          place to give us some form of tenancy to demote to. We will give regard to the
          effects of this legislation in the normal way when implementing Introductory
          tenancies.




9   What does the Council need to do next?

    9.1   The Law Commission has proposed a General Probationary Agreement,
          (Introductory Tenancy) available to all social landlords on a discretionary basis
          either always using them or allowing use on a case-by-case basis, with the
          possibility of promotion to a more secure agreement earlier where the occupier’s
          behaviour justified this, with limited scope for extending the period of probation
          for a further 6 months. The Council could choose to await the outcome of the
          consultation.

    9.2    The Council is required to consult its tenants on all matters of Housing
          management and therefore the question of Introductory tenancies needs to be
          considered by the Lewes District Federation of Tenants and Residents
          Associations should it be decided to proceed with the matter now. Early
          consultations with tenants have indicated substantial support for Introductory
          tenancies.

    9.3   It will be necessary to have in place a review process. It is recommended that the
          decision to serve Notice on an Introductory tenant be agreed by the Housing
          Operations Manager. Should the tenant appeal against the decision to serve
          Notice, the review of this decision should be conducted by the Head of Housing
          Services.

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      9.4   The Departments Service Improvement Plan requires that the Tenancy
            Agreement be revised from January 2004 and it is suggested that the use of
            Introductory tenancies could be considered and implemented at the same time.



10    Financial Appraisal

      10.1 The cost of the consultation process will be met from existing budgets. There
           will be court and administrative costs associated with the process but it is not
           possible to quantify this at this stage.

      10.2 Savings should arise from the ability to take early firm action on arrears and
           anti-social behaviour.

11    Environmental Implications

12    The Environmental Implications Checklist has been completed and there are no
      significant environmental effects to this report.



13    Background Papers

     Circular 2/97 Department of the Environment



14    Appendices

             None




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