Coventry Homefinder Policy 2021

Section 6: The Choice Based Letting Scheme

6.1 The Choice Based Lettings Model

Coventry Homefinder is a choice-based lettings scheme. This allows applicants to express an interest in available properties, which are advertised each week. Expressing an interest in a property is known as ‘bidding’ or ‘placing a bid’. There are some circumstances in which this will not apply, and the Council will either restrict access to bidding (restricted bidding), make bids on behalf of an applicant (assisted/auto bidding), or make direct offers. The Council reserves the right to do this at any time in order to effectively manage allocations of homes against housing need.

6.2 The Bidding Cycle

Applicants may register an interest (bid) for up to three homes every week. The applicant bidding cycle will run from Monday morning (00.00am) to Sunday evening (11.59pm). Properties can be advertised on any day (Monday to Friday) and will be open for ‘bidding’ for 7 calendar days, (with the exception of the Christmas period when the bidding cycle usually runs for two weeks). After the bidding period has ended those applicants that have expressed an interest in a property are shortlisted in line with this Policy. These processes are explained in more detail in this section. The results of each bidding cycle are published on the website, showing the number of bids on each property, and the band and effective date and/or registration date of the successful applicant. This shows the priority of the successful applicant and how long they have had that level of priority and makes the system clear and easy to understand.

6.3 Who does and doesn’t have choice?

Band 1

Applicants in Band 1 where the Council has accepted the ‘main housing duty’ under homelessness legislation (Housing Act 1996, Part 7) will not have access to Choice Based Lettings at any time. Bids will be made for them by a member of the Housing and Homelessness Service. This is to ensure that the duty to secure an offer of suitable settled accommodation is complied with as soon as possible. If you are owed the ‘main housing duty’ under homelessness legislation you will have been informed of this in writing.

All other applicants in Band 1 will ordinarily have access to Choice Based Lettings and will be able to register an interest in 3 suitable properties each week (bid). Applicants are expected to bid on the all available properties that are suited to their needs. If you haven’t bid for a suitable property for 6 months or more and there were suitable properties available in that time, your application may be placed in the Reduced Preference Band. See Section 5.11 for further information.

Band 2

All applicants in Band 2 will have access to Choice Based Lettings and will be able to register an interest in 3 suitable properties each week (bid). Applicants are expected to bid on all available properties that are suited to their needs. If you haven’t bid for a suitable property for 6 months or more and there were suitable properties available in that time, your application may be placed in the Reduced Preference Band. See Section 5.11 for further information.

Band 3 and Band 4

All applicants have access to Choice Based Lettings and be will able to register an interest in 3 suitable properties each week

Reduced Preference

Depending on the reason an applicant is currently in the Reduced Preference Band will depend on whether they have access to the choice-based lettings scheme. Applicants in Reduced Preference due to behaviour or rent arrears can still bid for properties. Applicants who refused an offer of accommodation under the homelessness legislation will also still have access to the choice-based lettings scheme. It is less likely these applicants will be shortlisted for offers (as priority will be given to the applicants in higher bands).

Applicants who are currently in the Reduced Preference band due to the maximum refusal of offers or non-bidding activity will not have access to the choice-based lettings scheme to bid for properties until they have been in the reduced preference band for 6 months and returned to their housing need band. Applicants will retain access to their account in order to update their details, complete their annual review or complete a change of circumstances form.

6.4 Direct Lets

In exceptional circumstances we may make you a direct offer of accommodation. These can include where:

  • A property is specifically adapted, or can be adapted for the applicant, joint applicant or a member of their household (See section 6.11).
  • The Council retains the right to make direct offers of accommodation to those households owed a statutory homelessness duty.
  • Urgent re-housing where a specific location is required.
  • A specific property would meet an applicant’s very specific needs.
  • A property is required by a Registered Provider as an emergency move for a current tenant, for example due to fire/flood/gas explosion.
  • An agreement has been made with a supported housing provider.

6.5 How properties are advertised

Available properties are advertised on the Coventry Homefinder website.

Vulnerable customers who cannot access the system and do not have any other support available to them can contact the Customer Service Centre to arrange auto bidding.

6.6 How properties are labelled

Each of the Registered Providers has responsibility for preparing the property description and advertising their vacancies on Coventry Homefinder.

Adverts will be clearly labelled to show the main property features, and the types of households that are eligible to bid for the property. A photograph must be included with the advert.

All properties advertised will include details of:

  • The landlord of the property.
  • The location of the property (including the street name, area and a location map).
  • The type of property (house, flat etc).
  • The number of bedrooms that the property has, the minimum and maximum number of occupants.
  • The rent amount and any other relevant charges.
  • The types of households that can bid for the property (for example, any age restrictions and any family requirements).
  • Whether priority will be given to specific groups such as current social tenants.
  • Tenancy type (For example, Starter tenancy, Assured or Fixed Term).
  • The mobility assessment category of the property and details, where known, of any specific adaptations that have been made to the property.
  • Date bidding will close for the specific property.
  • Reference to any local lettings criteria/policy (applicants are advised to contact the advertising Registered Provider for more details prior to making a bid).

Applicants must consider all of these factors carefully when deciding whether to express an interest in (bid on) a property.

6.7 How to place a bid

Applicants must express an interest in a property by placing a ‘bid’ in order to be shortlisted and considered for an allocation of that property.

Applicants may express an interest (‘bid’) on up to three properties in each bidding period In order to express an interest in a property that is being advertised, the applicant can use one of several methods:

  • Online bidding – applicants can log on and see which properties they are eligible to bid on. Bids can then be placed by following the on-screen instructions.
  • Auto bidding – where an applicant has given consent, bids may be placed on behalf of an applicant. Applicants who cannot access the system themselves and have no other support available to them, can request that bids are placed on suitable properties automatically. Applicants should contact the Customer Service Centre or email [email protected] to request this service.

Applicants can withdraw a bid at any point during the bidding period (Monday to Sunday) and may then place that bid on an alternative property.

6.8 How applicants are shortlisted

The housing provider (Housing Association) who has advertised the property is responsible for the shortlisting process. At the end of each bidding period, expressions of interest for a property (bids) are shortlisted in the following way:

  • Expressions of interest (bids) for properties will be placed in the order of priority band – Band 1 highest priority, then Band 2, Band 3, Band 4 and Reduced Preference.
  • If two or more applicants from the same band have expressed an interest for the same property, the ‘effective date’ that they entered their current band will be used to determine the higher priority (see section 3.8). The applicant with the earliest effective date will be shortlisted first.
  • If two or more applicants with the same band and the same effective date have expressed an interest in a property, the date of original registration will be used.

Registered Providers may advertise an agreed percentage of their available properties with priority given to their own current tenants. This will be clearly stated in the advert. This will mean that the shortlist is arranged as described above, but they may prioritise their own tenants above other applicants within the shortlist. There may be occasions that Registered Providers do not offer properties to the highest shortlisted applicant, for example if they do not meet the individual Register Provider allocations policy or any local lettings criteria. A reference to local lettings criteria will be made in the property advert if they are to be applied. Properties that have been adapted for people with disabilities may be allocated based on the ‘best fit’ of requirements of bidders rather than in shortlist order – this is described in more detail in section 6.11. Please note:

  • Expressions of interest are shortlisted at the end of the bidding period based on priority banding and the effective/registration date of all applicants that have expressed an interest. There is no advantage to placing bids early in the bidding period.
  • When applicants express an interest in a property, they are informed of their current position in the shortlist. However, as more people place bids throughout the bidding period, this position may change. Applicants are advised to check their bid positions near to the end of the bidding period for each property, in order to make best use of their bids.

6.9 Bids that may be overlooked (Skipping)

In some situations, a property will not be offered to the highest ranked applicant who has expressed a preference for it. Short listed applicants may be overlooked for a number of reasons. The criteria used when an applicant is overlooked for an offer of accommodation will be contained within the individual Registered Provider’s Housing Allocations Policy.

The list below is not an exhaustive list and is a general guide as each case will be assessed individually and the personal circumstances of each applicant will be taken into account.

  • If there is evidence which had not been identified at initial application, that an applicant or a member of their household has committed anti-social behaviour. In this case, the application will be reviewed and may be deemed non-qualifying due to seriousness of unacceptable behaviour or placed in the Reduced Preference Band.
  • If there is evidence which had not been identified at initial application, that an applicant owes money to a Registered Provider partner, Local Authority or private sector landlord due to rent arrears, sundry debts, damage to property or any other identified costs. In this instance the application will be reviewed and may be deemed non-qualifying due to the significant amount of rent arrears or placed in the Reduced Preference Band.
  • If the Individual Registered Provider considers that the applicant or any member of their household has the financial means to resolve their own housing situation in accordance with their allocations policy. Having regard to income, equity, savings, and the price of buying or renting a home privately. In this instance the application will be reviewed and may be deemed non qualifying due to the amount of household income or savings.
  • An applicant in Reduced Preference who cannot demonstrate a change in their circumstances since they were place in Reduced Preference due to the fact that they or a member of their household has displayed unacceptable behaviour or have current or former rent arrears;
  • The applicant or a member of their household has assaulted or harassed an employee or agent of one of the partner Registered Providers or Coventry City Council;
  • The applicant cannot demonstrate that they can afford to pay the rent. Consideration will be given to the welfare benefits that may be paid to the applicant;
  • The applicant bids for a property and their household details do not match the household criteria set out in the advert;
  • The applicant or their household do not meet a local lettings criteria that was specified on the advert;
  • The advert specified that priority will be given to current tenants of that Registered Provider, and the applicant is not currently a tenant of that organisation;
  • The property is specialist or has been adapted and the applicant does not require these adaptations;
  • The applicant requires specific adaptations that cannot reasonably be provided in that property;
  • If the applicant has already bid for another property and this has been offered to them
  • The applicant has unmet support needs that would mean they would not be able to sustain a tenancy.

In the first instance, Housing Providers will notify the applicant through their Coventry Homefinder Account when a bid has been skipped, and the reasons for the bid being skipped. This will include details of how the applicant can resolve any issues to prevent further skipped bids (if possible). Depending on the reason applicant was ‘skipped’ the Housing Provider may contact the Coventry Homefinder Team to request the applicant is placed in the Reduced Preference Band or that the qualifying criteria are reassessed. See section 5.11.

Applicants may then continue to be skipped until they can demonstrate that the reason for skipping has been resolved (for example, if the applicant has been skipped due to rent arrears, they may have to demonstrate that the arrears have been paid off or a re-payment plan has been adhered to for a certain period of time).

6.10 Notification that your bid has been overlooked (Skipped)

If the applicant’s bid is overlooked and the individual Registered Provider has requested that the applicant be placed in the Reduced Preference Band a message will be sent to the applicants Coventry Homefinder Account to say their application has been suspended pending a confirmation by the Council’s Housing and Homelessness Service as to whether the applicant should be placed in Reduced Preference under this policy. Once the Council has made this decision, another message will be sent within the Homefinder system to confirm the outcome. If an applicant has been placed in Reduced Preference, they can request a review of this decision within 28 days.

For all other reasons a bid might be overlooked a message will be sent via the Coventry Homefinder System to the applicant by the Registered Provider to notify them their bid was overlooked and the reasons why.

The decision to overlook a shortlisted bid or any reason that is not linked to the Reduced Preference criteria is taken by the partner Registered Provider and it is the individual criteria/policy for each Provider that will be applied in all cases of allocating a property or skipping a bid. Appeals against a decision to skip a bid should be addressed to the Registered Provider that made the decision.

6.11 Adapted properties

As part of the application process, applicants will be asked whether they require an adapted, specialist or purpose-built accessible property. Applicants will also be asked whether they currently have any mobility issues in order for their housing need to be assessed. This may involve a referral to the Council’s Adult Social Care Department.

Applicants with needs requiring adapted properties must have an assessment from an Occupational Therapist to determine the type of property or adaptations required; this information will be added to their Coventry Homefinder Account. The assessment will include but not limited to the following information:

  • Applicant's specific housing need
  • ­ Specific location required (if any)
  • ­ Description of the type of property required
  • ­ Restrictions in the location – e.g. ground floor
  • Specific adaptations required

The occupational therapist assessment will be arranged by the Housing and Homelessness Service. Accommodation for households that need specific adaptations is in high demand with limited supply available. Therefore, an outcome of the occupational therapist assessment could be that aids and adaptations could be provided to the applicant’s current accommodation rather than be registered for an adapted property.

In order to make the best use of available accommodation that is either a purpose-built disabled persons property or has substantial adaptations installed, these will be advertised on Coventry Homefinder to support the identification of suitable applicants. Whilst all applicants can bid for these properties (apart from purpose build disabled persons accommodation); priority will be given in the first instance to those applicants requiring an adapted property, secondly to applicants who require adaptations to a property and only following this to applicants who require general needs housing.

The property will be allocated on the basis of ‘best fit’ of an applicant’s specific requirements and how the property is adapted in consultation with an Occupational Therapist (where required). This may mean that offers made are not prioritised in order of priority band or effective date. In the event two or more applicants bid for the property with similar needs, the property will be allocated by priority band and/or effective date.

For applicants that require adaptations who are shortlisted for an adapted property, the landlord will consider whether it is reasonable to provide adaptations in the property, in conjunction with an Occupational Therapists (where required) to ensure that it is suitable for the household's needs.

Property categories
Mobility Assessment Category Category description Applicants assessed as being eligible for these categories
Category 1 Purpose built wheelchair housing Disabled persons Bungalow, flat or house which has been adapted to be fully wheelchair accessible on the ground floor. People with severe disability who are unable to stand or walk unassisted i.e. people who need to use a wheelchair both indoors and outdoors
Category 2 Partly Adapted House House with a through floor lift or stair lift Access to the property will be level, ramped or step lift Other adaptations may include changes to bathroom/ kitchen People who:
  • may be a wheelchair user outdoors or use walking aids
  • are not able to climb stairs and need a through floor lift or stairlift
  • require assistance to access bathrooms/kitchen
  • have dependent children (under 16) in the household
Category 3 Partly Adapted Flats Flats with level access into the property and with some adaptation(s) This would include adapted flats in high rise blocks which have a communal lift People who do not use a wheelchair indoors but have mobility needs and cannot climb stairs or steps

A property with a level access shower and/or wet room combined with a stairlift would be considered by most Registered Providers as a partly adapted property. A property with a level access shower and no other adaptions would not be considered an adapted property and would normally be advertised as general needs housing.

6.12 Viewing properties and receiving offers

All applicants, other than those assessed as statutorily homeless and waiting for an offer to discharge the main housing duty will be contacted by the Registered Provider if they are successful in bidding for a property. All Registered Providers will telephone the applicant on all contact numbers provide and where an email address is provided they will attempt contact by email.

If the Housing provider is unable to contact within 24 to 48 hours the successful bidder may be skipped and a viewing will then be arranged with the next successful bidder in the shortlist.

It is therefore important that the applicant ensures that all contact details on their application are kept up to date (see section 7.1).

The Housing provider will arrange for the successful bidder to:

  • Complete a pre-tenancy assessment
  • View the property at a jointly agreed time.

Offers will be made based on the outcome of the viewing and pre-tenancy checks in the individual allocation policies of the Registered Providers. Tenancy checks may include:

  • A discussion about the applicant's housing history and any support needs for themselves or a member of their household
  • An assessment of household income to ensure that the tenancy can be afforded;
  • Provision of documents confirming the identity of the household members
  • Police checks if a declaration of conviction or antisocial behaviour has been made

Once these checks have been completed and both parties are happy to continue with the offer of a property, the Housing Provider will arrange for the applicant to sign a tenancy agreement, at which point the keys to the property will be provided. As part of the pre tenancy process, applicants may be required to pay rent in advance.

Multi-Views

Some Housing Providers will arrange a multi-view for a property. A multi-view is a single viewing but a range of applicants in the top shortlisted positions will be invited to view the property at the same time. The offer of the property will still be made first to the applicants in order of their shortlisted positions, however it serves to confirm those who are genuinely interested and will make the process quicker in letting the property.

6.13 Multiple Refusals (refused offers of housing)

Applicants who refuse three offers made to them following successful bids on the Choice-based Lettings Scheme may have their application moved into the Reduced Reference Band and will be informed of this in via a message in the Coventry Homefinder System. An applicant will be required to contact Coventry Homefinder within 28 days to show that the refusals were reasonable in order for their application to remain in their housing need band and for this to be agreed by the Housing and Homelessness Service. If they do not or their reasons are not agreed to be reasonable the application will be placed in Reduced Preference for a period of 6 months or closed if the application is not renewed. Coventry Homefinder will consider the individual circumstances of each case. Not responding to contacts made regarding the offer of a property, failing to attend a viewing or refusing a property following a viewing will all be considered to be a refusal.

It will not be considered reasonable to refuse a property on grounds that were made clear in the property advert (for example, the location of the property) unless there are exceptional circumstances. Applicants must consider all factors carefully when deciding whether to express an interest in (bid on) a property.

6.14 Local Lettings Plan

Partner Housing Providers may agree local lettings plans for managing the allocation of particular properties in certain areas. Examples include:

  • Restricting the age ranges of certain tower blocks
  • Limiting the number of children in a particular area to create sustainable communities
  • Lessening the impact of anti-social behaviour to create sustainable communities Reference to any local lettings plans will be made in the property advert and applicants are advised to contact the advertising Registered Provider for more details. Some Housing Providers have restrictions on the maximum income and savings an applicant can have to be eligible for their properties because of their charitable status (in addition to the qualifying criteria described in section 4.3). When considering an applicant for an offer of accommodation they will check the details of income and savings and notify the applicant in writing if they are not going to make the offer of accommodation. If the applicant does not agree with the decision the applicant has the right to request a review of their decision from the Housing Provider.

6.15 Age Restricted Properties

Registered Providers have certain properties that are ‘age restricted’. This refers to properties that have a minimum age set for tenancies of a property or group of properties. The details of any restrictions relating to age will be included in the advertisement details.

Most Housing Providers will only let bungalows to people over the age of 55 or over the age of 60, if an age restriction applies, it will be clearly stated in the advertisement details. Some Registered Providers will consider applicants who are younger than the age restriction if the applicant has a health or social care need for bungalow accommodation.

6.16 Eligibility for houses

Registered Providers may restrict the allocation of houses to households that have children under the age of 16. Households made up entirely of household members aged 16+ would not normally be considered for the allocation of a house.

6.17 Properties excluded from Coventry Homefinder

Some properties are excluded from being advertised on Coventry Homefinder; in these instances, the property will not be advertised; these include but are not exclusive to:

  • ‘Housing with Care’ These properties are generally in schemes specifically for older people with a range of care or welfare needs. Access to these properties generally follows an adult social care assessment. Further details can be gained from Adult Social Care Initial Contact Team on 024 7683 3003
  • Hostel accommodation and other ‘supported housing’ Supported accommodation is not provided through Coventry Homefinder.

6.18 Garages

Garages owned by Citizen (formerly WM Housing and Whitefriars Housing Group) are advertised through the Coventry Homefinder website and applicants can register for garages as well as for social housing; however, the allocation of garages is not subject to legislation relating to allocations of social housing and is not covered by this Policy.

Applicants should contact Citizen directly for details of their policy on letting garages.

6.19 Feedback/Lettings Results

Applicants are informed of their current shortlist position as they bid for properties but are also notified that this may change throughout the bidding period as other applicants place bids. The shortlist position of individual applicants for previous bidding periods is also available on their own 'Bid History' page once the applicant has logged in. Following the bidding period, information is published on the Coventry Homefinder website showing the outcome of previously advertised properties. This will include the number of bids received, and the band and effective date of the successful bidder. Direct Lets made outside of the Homefinder Policy (see section 6.4) will also be listed for information only. This information will allow the applicant to assess the potential likelihood of them being allocated a property in light of their own priority banding and effective date. The applicant will then be able to make a more informed decision as to whether they want to consider other property types, other areas of the city, or other housing options.

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