12. Managing a Housing List
This section looks at how people access a landlord's housing list and how landlords should manage that list.
By working through this section readers will:
- be aware of the General Data Protection Regulation.
- understand the stages of gathering and verifying information and seeking references.
- be aware of the need to review a housing list.
Landlords must make sure that all people have fair and open access to their housing list and assessment process.
Scottish Social Housing Charter Outcome 1: Equalities. Every tenant and other customer has their individual needs recognised, is treated fairly and with respect, and receives fair access to housing and housing services.
12.1 Holding information on applicants
Landlords should make sure that how they gather and hold information about applicants is fully complaint with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Information Commissioner's Office has provided a Guide to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It is available from their website at: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/
12.2 Application stage
Applications should be processed as quickly as possible and timescales for doing so should be set out in the allocation policy and on the application form.
Landlords should make it as easy as possible to apply to join their housing list and application forms should be clear, concise and written in plain English. Although online application systems are now generally used, landlords should also have paper-based forms for those who prefer to use them.
Some applicants may have difficulty with completing an application form and landlords should have a system in place to help them do so. This will help ensure that the applicant has provided all the information requested on the application form and enable any priority for housing to be assessed. Having the form filled in correctly will also help to minimise delays in processing the application.
The application form should also include a declaration signed by the applicant that the information they have provided is correct to their knowledge. Under the 2001 Act landlords can raise action in the courts for recovery of possession includes where a tenancy has been given on the basis of false information supplied by the applicant.
Where information is missing landlords should have a clear process and timescale for asking the applicant to provide it as well as making them aware of how it may affect their application if they fail to provide it.
Every landlord, or group of landlords should have clear process in place for checking and verifying applications. Checks may be done when the application is received, and the initial assessment of priority is carried out. Alternatively, landlords may choose to carry out any checks, or carry out additional checks, when an offer of housing is likely in the near future.
Landlords should ensure that all the information they need to verify the applicants' circumstances and assess priority for housing is asked for on the application form.
Although landlords need to have a robust verification process in place, they should make sure that they do not make unreasonable or onerous requests for information and should only request information needed to assess any priority for housing. In cases involving harassment or risk of domestic, sexual or other abuse, landlords should never ask the alleged victim for evidence and it is good practice to take the applicant's stated fears as sufficient.
Practice example - Quick access to the housing list, Loreburn Housing Association
Working with its housing management software supplier, Loreburn Housing Association has designed an easy-to-use housing application system which allows applicants to bid for properties as soon as they have submitted an online application.
Using an online registration form, the customer completes their application for housing. Loreburn uses a Choice-Based Lettings approach and the application is instantly awarded a Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze priority depending on their needs and whether they have supplied proof of ID and any relevant medical information where priority may be awarded on health or disability grounds.
The approach is based on trust and no back-office verification is done at this stage. This means people are able to bid as soon as they complete their application form. Applicants with support requirements can ask for staff to place bids on their behalf.
When a vacant property has been advertised, the successful bidder is contacted on the bid closing day and the details provided on the original application are checked and verified. Tenancy references are also sought.
Once all checks are complete the offer is then made to the applicant.
This approach means that Loreburn Housing Association can usually re-let a property within two weeks.
Most landlords will seek references from the applicant's current and former landlords. Some landlords have data sharing protocols with neighbouring landlords for exchanging tenancy references. Landlords should however only seek references with the applicant's consent and in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Landlords will want to consider whether they should take up references from private landlords bearing in mind that they may not keep detailed tenancy records and may or may not reply to requests.
References that go back more than three years may not provide a useful indicator of how a prospective tenant would manage a new tenancy.
Landlords should review their housing list regularly to make sure that they have up-to-date information about their applicants. An effective review system helps landlords manage their allocations processes efficiently and minimises offers to people who have moved away or who no longer need or want to be housed. It also ensures that landlords have an accurate picture of housing need and demand.
Landlords should have clear timescales for reviewing their list. An annual rolling review, contacting applicants on the anniversary of their application, provides an opportunity to confirm that the applicant's housing needs have not changed and that they are happy with any choices of property type or area they have made.
12.6 Cancellations and reinstating applications
There are a limited number of circumstances when landlords can remove an applicant from their housing list. These are:
- the applicant asks them to cancel their application;
- the death of an applicant; or
- the applicant repeatedly fails to respond to a review of the list or to other correspondence, such as requests for information or an offer of housing.
Landlords should have a clear process when applicants don't respond at a review. They should not cancel an application simply because an applicant doesn't respond to a first letter or email and a follow-up should be sent.
Landlords should reinstate an application if someone gets back in touch within a set period, usually of up to six months. This should be a simple process with no need for applicants to have to fill in a new form. If they do reinstate an application, landlords should keep the date of application as for the original application.
Landlords should have processes and procedures which result in applications being handled fairly, consistently and within suitable timescales.
References from the applicant's current and former landlords should only be sought with the applicant's consent.
Landlords should review their housing list on a regular basis to make sure that they have up-to-date information about their applicants needs and preferences.
There are a very limited number of circumstances in which landlords can remove an applicant from their housing list.
Email: Claire McHarrie