52 week referrals and Housing Associations

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    A Housing Association case has been referred to the rent officer over 52 weeks ago as the assessement officer decided the rent was unreasonably expensive.

    Can a decision be made that now the 52 weeks have expired, the rent is no longer unreasonable expensive and therefore no further referral to the rent office will be made.

    Where in the regs would I find this?

    Andy Thurman

    The short answer is – yes, you can! As the ROD is now 52 weeks old, there is a need to re-refer unless the tenancy can be excluded i.e. the decision process starts again.
    The longer answer involves looking at why the assessment officer made the decision and whether anything has changed – has the rent decreased, has it stayed the same while rent levels locally have increased, has the number of occupiers changed. (You say it is no longer ‘unreasonable’ so no problem.)
    Having previously been heavily involved in monitoring RSL leased stock rent levels, I wouldn’t expect assessment officers to make this decision in the first place – is there an agreed policy between the LA & RSL on what level of rent/occupancy can be accepted? Was there one in place when the original referral was made? If one doesn’t exist, I would say this should be carried out before any further referrals are made. ‘Problem’ rents can be identified & the RSL’s given chance to react.
    If the assessor who referred the rent was not acting from an agreed policy, how was the decision that the rent was ‘too high’ reached? Sch 2 discusses “reasonable” but does not tie in to RO rules (would hardly be excluded if it did!!) so the “reasonable” must be determined with regard to local conditions – social housing policy/homelessness demand/availability of certain sized properties etc. RSL’s who lease stock from private L/L’s to assist LA’s with homelessness provision will need to offer ‘market’ prices to the owners & add management costs to this so there is almost a 2 stage process to examining the rent – is the lease cost reasonable (i.e. around LRR/CRR rate) & is the management fee OK. Then look at occupancy, but again – RO rules should only act as guidance – I agreed (with the Housing dept. & affected RSL’s) an “easement” to the policy I was operating allowing single mums-to-be under 25 to be re-housed up to 3 months before the child’s due date in 2-bed properties. This released ‘1st stage’ properties addressing a ‘bottle-neck’ in the housing process. The RSL’s/allocations were committed to re-housing sensitively and within a reasonable timescale if the child was subsequently lost (didn’t happen I’m glad to say).
    If the rent/occupancy are the same & the assessor made a decision based on an approved policy, however, you may well need to refer again.
    When I was involved in the early stages of the monitoring process, referrals were made & the HA’s later reduced the rent to a level that would have met the agreed levels – we had to wait, however, until ‘expiry’ of the ROD before we could take account of the change.

    As for the regs – all in Schedule 2!!

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