The Waiting Game... Is Your Move Essential?

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Article

30 April, 2020

On Monday 27th April 2020, the government introduced new, non-statutory guidance advising Registered Housing Providers to only proceed with rehousing their customers (existing and new) if the move is deemed to be "essential" during the coronavirus pandemic.

As with so many other aspects of housing management during these unprecedented times, this guidance will undoubtedly impact upon business planning and financial modelling for organisations as a result of void losses over unconfirmed timeframes. Measures will also need to be put in place to protect empty properties from the risk of vandalism, arson and criminal damage in neighbourhoods which are categorised as "ASB hotspots".

Furthermore, housing practitioners will be faced with the challenge of managing customer expectations, particularly those who have endured a long and difficult journey to finally obtain their own home. Whilst it is currently impossible to offer customers a "move in date", it is vital that they are kept fully updated every step of the way via their preferred method of communication. This includes key messages on the respective organisation's website.

The following circumstances are categorised as being essential by the government:

  • Supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse - We are noticing a significant increase in the number of domestic abuse reports during the coronavirus pandemic throughout the UK. Housing Associations are working collaboratively with organisations such as the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA), Safe Lives and Respect to identify support for vulnerable victims as well as sharing knowledge, ideas and innovation. The seriousness of this situation was highlighted by an increase of 97% in calls to the Respect Phone Line. Wherever possible, Registered Housing Providers are encouraged to free up available properties where appropriate via service level agreements in localities where refuges are full to capacity. Housing practitioners are asked to obtain an awareness of available accommodation throughout their respective region, including properties outside of their organisation. Greater collaboration with the private rented sector is also welcomed and processes should be put in place to rehouse victims as a matter of urgency when a Domestic Violence Protection Notice / Order has been served.
  • Preventing severe overcrowding - This will be dependent on the availability of larger properties and / or the ability to identify suitable accommodation in close proximity to the family home for care and support purposes.
  • Facilitating a move on from temporary accommodation - This should be as part of a co-ordinated, multi-agency approach with other partner agencies and support providers. Ideally these mechanisms should already be in place.
  • Facilitating discharge from hospital to free up bed space for others requiring care - We have historically seen gaps in partnership working between Housing and Health. However, situations like the one which has arisen due to the Covid-19 Pandemic often help to create effective ongoing relationships.
  • Supporting those living in unsafe accommodation, or without settled accommodation, which poses a risk to their health.

Registered Housing Providers should avoid moving customers who are self-isolating, either because they are symptomatic or someone in their household is symptomatic for the duration of the isolation unless there are clear safety reasons.

Each case will need to be assessed on an individual basis and consistently monitored. In the event that void works are authorised, maintenance operatives must be issued with the necessary PPE and be able to conform to safe distancing requirements in order to protect themselves, their colleagues and neighbouring residents in the immediate locality. It is also recommended to actively engage with any external contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers to ensure their wellbeing and provide regular updates.

For more information contact Darren Burton in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 01257 240827. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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