Starter Tenancy Policy

Policy Information

PurposeTo effectively manage starter tenancies in order to build sustainable communities where people want to live
Applies toAll residents who are issued with a starter tenancy and all housing services team members
Date first implemented24 August 2022
AuthorAssistant Director of Housing Services
Date approved by Senior Leadership Team20 July 2022
Review FrequencyEvery 3 years
Service AreaHousing

Document Status: This is a controlled document. Any printed copies of this document are not controlled. As a controlled document, this document should not be saved onto local drives but always accessed from the Policy Library.

Version History

Revision DateVersion No.Revised byApproved by
March 2022Version 1.0Assistant Director of Housing ServicesSenior Leadership Team

Current Policy Revision

Date revisedMarch 2022
Revised byAssistant Director of Housing Services
SLT approval date20 July 2022
Next revision dueMarch 2025

1. Policy Statement

1.1 Mount Green Housing Association (“Mount Green”) effectively manages its starter tenancies to build sustainable communities where people want to live.

1.2 Mount Green will engage with residents and local agencies to ensure that neighbourhoods are safe, well-managed and peaceful places to live. We will employ a wide range of remedies, including the introduction of starter tenancies, to tackle anti-social behaviours (ASB), nuisance and harassment and rent arrears. This policy addresses how Mount Green will manage starter tenancies.

1.3 Starter tenancies are a form of assured shorthold tenancy, automatically converting to an assured tenancy after 12 months if the tenancy has been managed responsibly. Starter tenancies aim to improve the sustainability of tenancies, and to thereby contribute to the creation of settled and stable communities. If the tenancy has not been conducted satisfactorily, Mount Green will follow this policy to extend or terminate it.

1.4 This policy will deliver its aims by outlining how Mount Green will manage starter tenancies, including how decisions will be made to grant assured tenancies at the end of the starter period, extend a starter tenancy or terminate the tenancy.

2. Policy Principles

2.1 The key principles that underpin this policy are:

  • Neighbourhoods should be safe, well-managed and peaceful
  • That tenancies should be sustainable and should contribute to the creation of settled and stable communities

2.2 The government acts that relate to this policy are:

  • Housing Act 1988

3. Implementation

3.1 New residents will be made aware of this policy in the New Home Handbook, which is provided at sign-up.

3.2 Changes to this policy will be communicated to all residents who have been issued with a starter tenancy through external communication channels, all Housing Services team members through internal communication channels, including email, and to all key partners and stakeholders where relevant (e.g. nominating Local Authorities).

3.3 All Housing Services team members will be required to read this policy, and to confirm that they have read and understood it.

4. Other Policies

4.1 This policy should be used in conjunction with the following policies:

  • Arrears Policy
  • Anti-Social Behaviour Policy
  • Complaints Policy
  • Vulnerable Residents Policy

5. Responsibility

5.1 The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on behalf of the Board has overall responsibility for ensuring that Mount Green has the appropriate processes in place which adequately and appropriately support its team members and residents to adhere to this policy.

5.2 The Assistant Director of Housing Services has responsibility for hearing, and making decisions about, appeals against notice to end or extend starter tenancies.

5.3 The Housing Services Manager has responsibility for approving starter tenancy extensions or terminations, following discussions with the relevant Income Officer, if the resident is in rent arrears.

5.4 The Housing Services Coordinator has responsibility for ensuring that Neighbourhood Officers carry out starter tenancy review meetings within timescale and that outcomes are documented.

5.5 Neighbourhood Officers, Independent Living Officers and the Housing Services Coordinator have responsibility for arranging and carrying out starter tenancy review meetings, and for discussing these review meetings with the relevant Income Officer if the resident is in rent arrears.

5.6 All team members are responsible for feeding back any improvements that could be made to this policy or problems they have found while trying to implement it.

Policy Detail

6. Conditions of the Starter Tenancy

6.1 Starter tenants will not have the same rights as an assured tenant until after the first 12 months or after any extension period has been successfully completed. In particular, starter tenants will not be able to:

  • Transfer to an alternative property
  • Exchange or acquire their property
  • Take in lodgers
  • Make alterations and improvements

6.2 Tenancies will be terminated for serious or continual breaches of tenancy such as anti-social behaviours and rent arrears.

7. Managing Starter Tenancies

7.1 We will provide full information to new residents on the implications of signing a starter tenancy agreement to ensure that the rights and obligations of starter tenancies are understood. We will provide all new residents with a copy of their tenancy agreement and a New Home Handbook, as well as information on how to access the Starter Tenancy Policy at the start of their
tenure.

7.2 The starter tenancy will be monitored during the starter period so that any problems can be addressed as soon as they arise. Starter tenants will be visited as a minimum on the following intervals:

  • By the first two months from the commencement of their tenancy
  • By the end of the fourth month from the commencement of their tenancy. This review can be carried out over the phone.
  • By the end of the eighth month from the commencement of their tenancy
  • Additional visits may be scheduled to discuss and monitor any specific problems which have arisen.

7.3 In order that starter tenants are not discriminated against, evidence-based procedures for dealing with nuisance and anti-social behaviour will be the same as for assured tenancies, with the exception of the legal process to end the tenancy. We will use appropriate legal and non-legal measures to effectively prevent and reduce nuisance and anti-social behaviour.

7.4 All starter tenancies will be continuously monitored, and a decision will be made three months before the end of the starter period, if not before, to either allow the tenancy to automatically convert to an assured tenancy, or to follow the procedures to extend or terminate the starter tenancy.

7.5 At the end of the starter period, starter tenants should generally have the status of their tenancy convert to a full assured tenancy if:

  • There are no rent arrears
  • There have been no substantiated complaints of nuisance or ASB against them
    or
  • Any nuisance or ASB has been remedied or reduced to a level acceptable to us and in either case there have been
  • No other serious breaches of the tenancy agreement

8. Terminating the Tenancy

8.1 We will assist starter tenants to sustain their tenancies through a programme of scheduled visits, early intervention and clear communication of remedies for tenancy breaches, including rent arrears.

8.2 Particular care will be taken in the case of vulnerable residents to ensure that referrals to appropriate support agencies are provided. However, where persistent breaches have been proven and behaviour has not been improved to an acceptable standard following appropriate action, we will take the appropriate steps to extend or terminate.

8.3 Warning letters should clearly stipulate the following:

  • Reason for the breach in line with the tenancy
  • The change of behaviour required to be deemed acceptable
  • Timeframe of when the change is necessary
  • Any additional support available to assist with the change of behaviour

8.4 The Assistant Director of Housing Services must authorise all decisions to end a starter tenancy. An authorisation request with supporting evidence must be provided to prove not only breach of tenancy, but also that the tenant has had reasonable time and opportunity to positively change their behaviour. Only in extreme cases of ASB should warning letters and a review
period be dispensed with.

8.5 Where a decision authorised by the Assistant Director of Housing Services has been made to end the tenancy, a notice will be served, and a court application will be made after the expiry of the notice. The appeal process should be started when the notice is served. In this type of case possession will always be made.

8.6 Mount Green can end a starter tenancy by obtaining a court order for possession of the Premises either:

  • On one of the grounds listed in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 as amended by the Housing Act 1996, particularly where debt recovery is required
    or
  • Because we have served two months’ Notice of Seeking Possession of the premises pursuant to Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. This notice does not require the Association to show any grounds for possession.

8.7 Where possession is sought due to rent arrears the income team will serve the relevant notice and will seek a money judgement.

8.8 Where no money judgement is sought and possession is either under other grounds or by way of Section 21, housing services will serve the relevant notice.

9. Extending the Tenancy

9.1 A starter tenancy cannot continue indefinitely, but where the behaviour of a tenant is still being monitored after a breach of tenancy, a management decision may be taken to extend the tenancy for up to a maximum of six months. The evidence compiled to support this decision must be comprehensive and all information received from the tenant must be considered by the Housing Services Manager when reaching this decision.

10. Appeals

10.1 Mount Green provides access to an appeals process for starter tenants wishing to appeal the decision to extend or terminate their tenancy. Information on appeals will be provided at the point where action to extend or terminate is initiated.

10.2 Residents have ten working days in which to appeal in writing following service of the notice or of the letter advising of a tenancy extension period or termination. The Assistant Director of Housing Services will hear appeals for extension, and the Director of Business Operations will hear appeals for termination. Where an appeal for termination fails, possession action will be continued.

10.3 If the tenant does not leave the property on or before expiry of the two-month notice period, we will apply for a court order for possession. No grounds for possession will need to be proved, as the end of an assured short hold tenancy is a mandatory ground in itself. Where the tenant does not abide by the court order for possession, we will apply to the court for a warrant of possession.

11. Monitoring

11.1 We will:

  • Record the number of starter tenancies issued
  • Record all individual incidents of nuisance and anti-social behaviour and the number of notices on starter tenants
  • Monitor the number of appeals and the number of appeals rejected or upheld
  • Monitor and record all starter tenancy evictions and will also monitor evictions by ethnicity and household details to ensure that discrimination is not occurring
  • Monitor the use of starter tenancies wherever they are applied and review their effectiveness in helping reduce anti-social behaviour.

11.2 This policy will be monitored in line with the Housing Act 1988 and will be amended to reflect any change to the act.

11.3 Any team member who believes that this policy has been breached should bring this to the attention of the Assistant Director of Housing Services. Any tenant who believes a team member has breached this policy should raise their concerns using Mount Green’s complaints process. Disciplinary action may be taken if a team member is found to be in breach of this policy. A breach could include, but is not limited to, not carrying out starter tenancy meetings, or not giving the correct amount of notice to end or extend a tenancy. Tenant breaches of starter tenancies will be managed as detailed under sections 7-10 of this policy.

12. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

12.1 For Mount Green, diversity is about respecting people’s individual differences and ensuring that all people that come into contact with us have access to the same high standards of behaviour and service.

12.2 We are committed to ensuring that no resident will be treated less favourably because of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex or sexual orientation.