• Complaints & Compliments
  • Service Charge policy
  • Rent Arrears Prevention
  • Allocations policy
  • Customer charter
  • GLA Service Charge Charter

Complaints & Compliments

Complaints & Compliments

1          Statement of Intent

 

1.1        The purpose of this policy is to set out how we (Square Roots) will respond to and manage complaints in a fair and consistent way.

 

1.2        Our aim will always be to resolve complaints as quickly as possible by taking an open, accountable and outcome focused approach.

 

1.3       We recognise that complaints represent an opportunity to rebuild trust with our customers as well as providing us with opportunities to learn and make service improvements. The Executive Team reviews complaints and their responses to ensure they meet the requirements of the policy. 

 

1.4       We also like to know when we have done something well and exceeded your expectations. Therefore, we also monitor and respond to compliments that come into the organisation. 

 

2          Outline of Policy

 

Definition of a complaint

 

2.1        We adopt the Housing Ombudsman’s definition of a complaint as follows:

 

An Expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, actions, or lack of action by the organisation, its own staff, or those acting on its behalf, affecting an individual resident or group of residents.

 

Exclusions

 

2.2       The following matters are not classed as complaints under this policy:

 

  • Reports of anti-social behavior or harassment, which are covered by separate policies.
  • A first-time request for service e.g., a repair request.
  • Survey feedback e.g., from information you provide from our nominated feedback provider.
  • Complaints about services not authorised by Square Roots.
  • Where legal proceedings (by or against Square Roots), including personal injury accident claims have been initiated the case will be dealt with separately under a separate policy.
  • Complaints about any policy, process or rule of law will likely be excluded however Square Roots will review the application of these in relation to each complaint and then decide whether it is excluded or not.

 

2.3       We will only investigate complaints relating to our services that have been provided within the previous six months. However, we will review historical concerns if there is evidence of a recurring problem and will also take into consideration any circumstances that may have prevented a complaint from being raised earlier.

 

Scope of Policy

 

2.4       This policy extends to all our customers including individuals (or their advocates), groups of people or organisations who pay for, receive services from or hold reasonable expectations of the organisation as a service provider.

 

2.5       Members of the public may also complain if they are directly affected by something that the organisation has done or is planning to do. Members of the public who do not meet the definition in 2.1 do not have an automatic right to access the Housing Ombudsman with their complaint. We will address and resolve their complaint to the best of our ability as outlined in the policy.

 

2.6       Former tenants who contact us within six months of their tenancy ending will also be able to raise complaints in line with this policy.

 

2.7       Complaints received via MPs or local Councillors will be assessed in line with our definition of a complaint and dealt with accordingly. Whilst respecting the role played by MPs and local Councillors, this will not lead to a complaint being “fast-tracked”.

 

Complaint Process

 

2.8       We will deal with each complaint case on its merits and where necessary manage the complaint under a different but relevant policy or procedure. We will make this clear to you following our initial assessments of the complaint.

 

2.9       Complaints and compliments can be made in different ways:

 

  • By emailing: [email protected]
  • By calling: 0333 666 0102
  • In writing, addressed to Customer Services Manager at:

Square Roots Registered Provider Ltd

1 York Road

Uxbridge

UX8 1RN 

 

2.10     All complaints however made will be processed in line with this policy and the time frames set out in 2.13 below. All complaints will be acknowledged and logged within 5 days.

 

2.11      We will always aim to resolve any issues without needing to raise a formal complaint. However, you will always have the right to enter your concerns into our formal process if that is your preferred option.

 

2.12      We set out clear timeframes for responding to complaints and how a complaint can be escalated. 

 

2.13     We have a three-stage complaint process:

 

 

 

Officer Managing Complaint

Timeline

Next steps for complainant

Stage 1

 

Customer Services Manager. Decision – 10 working days from receipt of complaint

Satisfied with outcome or request to escalate to 

Director for relevant service area. 

Stage 2

 

Independent Review of Appeal: 

Director/Head of Service

Decision – 20 working days from request to escalate

Satisfied with outcome or 

Request to escalate to the Board. 

 

Stage 3

 

Board Panel review of complaintDecision – 20 working days from request to escalate

Satisfied with outcome or request escalate to 

Housing Ombudsman

Stages 1 & 2 can be extended by a further 10 working days if warranted – customers will be kept fully appraised of any extensions of time required.

 

 

3          Compliments

 

3.1       We accept the Cambridge Dictionary definition of a compliment: “a remark that expresses approval, admiration or respect.”

 

Compliment Process

 

3.2       You can send us compliments via the following channels:

 

  • By emailing: [email protected]
  • Phone, by calling 0333 666 0102
  • In Writing addressed to Customer Services Manager at

Square Roots Registered Provider Ltd

1 York Road

Uxbridge

UX8 1RN

 

3.3       When we receive a compliment, we acknowledge the same and inform the individual or team to whom it relates. 

 

3.4       We monitor the volume of compliments received and report on it quarterly alongside our complaint reporting.

 

4          Diversity and Inclusion

 

4.1       In line with our Diversity and Inclusion commitments all complainants will be treated fairly, equally and with respect regardless of their gender, race, age, disability, faith, marital status, sexual orientation, or other distinction.

 

4.2       Reasonable adjustments in line with the Equalities Act such as accessibility to discuss complaints of information in a different format e.g., large print, audio tape, an alternative language, with staff and or where the provision services of a translator are required can be provided upon request.

 

5          Unreasonable or Persistent Complainants

 

5.1       Should the behaviour of a complainant adversely affect our ability to adequately support other complaint investigations, then such behaviour may be deemed as” unreasonable or persistent”. Whilst always a last resort, in a small number of such cases we may decide to restrict the complainant’s contact with the organisation.

 

 

 

5.2       Such restrictions will require the approval of a Head of Service, Assistant Director or Executive Director and may include limiting contact to a specific member of staff and/or agreeing that communication is restricted to only one type such as phone, email, or letter. (We aim to agree an appropriate method with the complainant and confirm this formally in writing). Any decisions will be demonstrating regard for the Equalities Act.

 

5.3       We will aim to resolve the complaint in line with our timeframe in section 2.13 above. 

 

6          Housing Ombudsman Service

 

6.1       If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome of your Complaint you have the right to either refer your complaint to a ‘Designated Person’ to help solve the complaint immediately or wait 8 weeks and then contact the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS).

 

6.2       A ‘Designated Person’ can be an individual such as an MP or local councilor in England or a group such as a Tenant Panel that is recognised by the organisation.

 

6.3       Should the ‘Designated Person’ be unable to resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of you they may arrange for it to be forwarded to the HOS for its consideration.

 

6.4       As a member of the HOS (as required by the Housing Act 1996 (amended by the Housing Regeneration Act 2008)) we will cooperate fully with the Ombudsman making all files and records available on request. Actions required because of any determinations will be overseen by either the Managing Director or the relevant Director supported by organisations staff as required. We will ensure full compliance of the Ombudsman’s “Final Destination” barring any exceptional circumstances.

 

7          Value for Money

 

7.1       All complaint responses will be subject to review by the Customer Services Team, who will ensure that potential opportunities for improvement are identified. Service Managers are responsible for developing and implementing improvement work discovered during a complaint investigation. We will publish learnings outcomes from complaints as part of our annual value for money resident report, on our website

 

 

 

7.2       In certain cases, there may be times when residents or customers may suffer some disadvantage or loss because of actions, errors or mistakes made by the organisation. In these instances, compensation may be considered. 

 

7.3       We will regularly review the cost and quality of the complaints handling service and seek efficiencies. To assist with this process, we will obtain relevant benchmarking information provided by other housing providers.

 

8          Consultation

 

8.1       The executive team will review this policy to the dates outlined below and consider any feedback from resident’s reviews and surveys.

 

9          How will the policy be implemented?

 

9.1       All staff across the organisation are responsible for the implementation of this policy. 

 

9.2       We will engage with our customers, the Housing Ombudsman and maintain relevant compliance under the current legislation (see Section 12).

 

10        Monitoring

 

10.1     This policy will be reviewed in line with any changes in legislation, regulation, residents’ feedback, and sector best practice.

 

10.2     Performance measures and targets have been developed to help determine the efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation’s complaint service. Internal and external feedback will be used to obtain complaints performance information and identify progress and service improvements. 

 

These will be reported to senior management within the organisation and 

 

its Board. The Board will receive 6 monthly reports detailing the volume of complaints received, at which stage they were resolved, and any trends or themes within the complaints.

 

11        Review

 

This policy will be formally reviewed every three years by the board subject to significant changes in legislation, regulation or governance arrangements that require an immediate update. 

 

12        Legislation relevant to this policy and other documents

 

  • The Housing Act 1996
  • The Housing and Regeneration Act 2008
  • The Localism Act 2011
  • Data Protection Act 2018 and UK GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)
  • Equality Act 2010
  • Membership of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme is mandatory. 

 

 

 

 

 

Adopted:                              5th October 2021

 

Reviewed:                            8th September 2022

Reviewed:                            8th February 2023

 

Next Review:                       8th September 2025
 

Service Charge policy

Service Charge policy

Square Roots Registered Provider Ltd

1    Introduction

1.1    The purpose of this document is to present the general policy on service charge, setting out the aims, principles and values that will be followed by Square Roots in its operation of them.

1.2    Service charges are payable by assured tenants and by leaseholders. In the rest of this document assured tenants are referred to as “tenants” and “leaseholders” shall be taken to include residential, shared ownership and non-residential occupiers.

1.3    This policy has been written having regard to the Square Roots vision and values and to reference material from Homes England/GLA and RSH (Regulator of Social Housing), guidance, relevant legislation, leases and tenancy agreements and industry-wide best practice. The policy is underpinned by operation al procedures which have been formulated and developed in consultation with solicitors and staff as appropriate.

 

2    Statement of Intent

2.1    Square Roots is committed to meeting its responsibilities to all residents under the terms of their tenancy agreements or leases and to providing them with value-for-money services in the management and maintenance of their homes and estates.

2.2    Square Roots is bound by the terms of the tenancy agreements and leases issued either by it or by relevant legislation.

2.3    Service charge items are defined by the lease or tenancy agreement. If the lease or tenancy agreement does not provide that a charge for a particular service can be recovered by Square Roots, then the cost can not form part of the service charge until there has been a formal variation of the tenancy or lease.

2.4    Square Roots variable service charges are the recovery of costs which do not necessarily fluctuate in line with inflation or the rent formula, however Square Roots will aim to obtain value for money at all times.

2.5    Square Roots will seek to recover all reasonable service charges to which it is entitled.


3    Definition of Service Charges

3.1    Residential service charges can be either fixed or variable. Square Roots operates variable service charges.

3.2    Service charges are costs payable directly or indirectly for services, repairs, maintenance, insurance, or Square Roots costs of management in respect of a dwelling where the amount of the charge varies in accordance with the costs incurred by Square Roots Management Company, and which are required to be paid by the tenancy agreement or lease in addition to the rent. Square Roots will aim to set service charges at a level which covers the full costs of providing the required services to the communal areas.

 

4    Calculation and Recovery of Service Charges

4.1    Service charges to tenants will be made in accordance with the tenancy agreement and with relevant legislation.

4.2    Service charges to leaseholders will be made in accordance with the lease and with relevant legislation.

4.3    In principle service charge costs will be apportioned to properties on a square foot basis. Where any apportionment of costs is undefined by the lease or by the tenancy agreement, Square Roots will calculate the share to be paid based on reasonable assumptions.

4.4    In accordance with its tenancy agreements and lease, Square Roots will issue an estimate service charge for the financial year (1st April to 31st March) so that it is received at least 28 days before 1st April in each year. The estimated service charge will be based on existing cost data and on known cost projections for the year to come.

4.5    In accordance with its tenancy agreements and leases Square Roots will issue a service charge statement in sufficient time for it to be received by service charge payers no later than the end of September following the end of the financial year. This will show actual costs incurred by the property.

4.6    In line with legislation and upon request, tenants and leaseholder will be entitled to see supporting evidence of the information contained in their service charge statement. This request must be made within six months from the date that the statement was issued. After that time, it is a matter for Square Roots discretion. Square Roots may deny this request after the expiry of the six-month period if it considers the request to be frivolous or vexatious, or if it considers sufficient information has already been provided.

4.7    Credits or debits arising from the statement (i.e., the difference between the estimate and the statement for the same year) will, although due, be by default carried over to the financial year following the statement issues. If after taking into account the current years estimated charges raised, there is still a credit, then the leaseholder or tenant will be offered a refund.

4.8    In accordance with legislation Square Roots considers the charge to belong to the property, not to the tenant or leaseholder. Credits or debits arising from the service charge statement will be issued in accordance with respective tenancy agreement or lease.

4.9    For tenants Square Roots may, after consultation introduce modify or withdraw services and adjust the service charge accordingly.

4.10    For leaseholders the services provided, and the accompanying service charge will be defined solely by the lease. Any deviation from this will require a Deed of Variation (s), the enactment of which is to be paid entirely by the requesting/requiring party.

4.11    Legislation generally requires service charges to be demanded within 18 months of the cost being incurred. The point at which a service cost is considered to have been incurred is the date on which Square Roots made the associated payment or received the demand for which payment should be made, whichever comes first.

4.12    Services will be delivered under either short-term or long-term contracts. The estimated service charge set will divide the service charge up into 12 equal monthly instalments.

 

5    Major Works (Section 20)

5.1    Square Roots will comply with the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (as amended) and the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002, in consulting with individual leaseholder and/or tenants on any service charge costs which exceed certain prescribed amount. This applies to Qualifying Works such as repairs and some improvements (major Works), or to contracts known as Qualify Long Term Agreements (QLTA’s) which exceed 12 months.

5.2    Where a service charge item will be greater than a certain amount per dwelling (at the time of writing, £250 for a one-off cost or £100 for a contract of more than 12 months), Square Roots will carry out the statutory (or Section 20) consultation procedures. The leaseholder and/or tenants is provided with a notice that Square Roots intends to carry out works or enter into a contract and then given the estimated costs and a proposed contractor before the work is carried out. The leaseholder and/or tenant may comment on Square Roots intentions and the proposed costs and Square Roots will give due consideration to the comments received in line with its statutory obligation. In certain circumstances the leaseholders and tenants have the right to nominate a contractor or supplier from whom we are obliged to try and obtain a cost estimate. The consultation process takes a minimum of three months.

5.3    Major Works (S.20) costs to leaseholder, where statutory consultation has been carried out, will be billed separately from the annual service charge bills. QLTA costs however will be included in the annual service charge.

5.4    Square Roots will begin to seek payment of all leasehold Major Works bills after one month of issue, to be settled within 12 months of issue.

5.5    Major Works costs to tenants (this will mostly be for QLTA’s such as security contracts), where statutory consultation has been carried out, will be included in the annual service charge. They will not receive a separate bill.
5.6    Major Works bills will be issued to leaseholders as soon as Square Roots is able to verify the costs with an acceptable audit trail, but no later than 18 months after the costs were incurred.

5.7    If it is not possible for an accurate Major Works bill to be issued within 18 months of the cost being incurred, service charge payers will be formally advised via a S.20B Notice and the bill will be issued as soon as possible after that.

 

6    New Developments

6.1    Square Roots will draft leases and tenancy agreements in new developments that allow Square Roots to recover costs fairly and according to the services enjoyed by the individual leaseholders and tenants.

6.2    New developments will aim to be designed to make service charges affordable to leaseholder’s and tenants, and to provide the best value for money possible.

7    Sinking Funds

7.1    Leases in new developments where Square Roots is not subject to a superior agreement may, at Square Roots discretion, include a sinking (or reserve) fund.

7.2    Sinking fund contributions will be calculated as realistically as possible to cover projected relevant life cycle costs, but if at any time the sinking fund has insufficient resources to affect a repair Square Roots consider necessary, the difference will be levied as a separate charge.

7.3    Square Roots will not operate informal or voluntary sinking funds. It will only operate sinking funds which have been included in the lease or in a Deed of Variation.

7.4    Where Square Roots is subject to a superior agreement in a larger mixed-use development and the individual property’s share of sinking fund contributions will be as per that agreement. (Though tenants will not be liable for Square Roots repairs contributions)

 

8    Budget Monitoring

8.1    Spending is monitored by the appointed managing agent and overseen by the Square Roots estates team, depending on the service being provided. The finance department provides monthly spend to date information to all budget holders.
8.2    The estates team in conjunction with the individual managing agents are responsible for estimating service charge information for each scheme and block.

 

9    Disputes over the Service Charge

9.1    Challenges to the service charge will primarily be dealt with by the managing agent according to the lease or tenancy agreement and according to legislation.

Escalation to Square Roots may be appropriate if the dispute is not resolved.

9.2    Challenges to service charges will not be dealt with via Square Roots complaints policy.

9.3    Leaseholders and tenants have the statutory right to challenge Square Roots service charge in the First Tier Property Tribunal.

 

10    Equality and Diversity

10.1    In line with Square Roots Diversity and Inclusion Policy, our leaseholders and tenants will be treated fairly and equitably without discrimination or prejudice regardless of their age, disability, gender, reassignment, marital status, race, faith, gender, sexual orientation, or pregnancy/maternity.

10.2    If a leaseholder or a tenant wishes to receive information in a different format, e.g., large print or as a recording, or requires information in an alternative language or the services of a translator, this can be provided as long as the cost is reasonable.

 

11    Value for Money

11.1 Square Roots will benchmark performance against similar organisations to monitor quality, performance, and cost effectiveness. It will also strive to deliver best practice and achieve top quartile performance.

 

12    Consultation

12.1    Square Roots will consult with tenants and leaseholders about the development of service charge practices which affect them.

12.2    Square Roots will follow statutory Major Works (S.20) consultation procedures where required.

 

13    How the Policy will be implemented

13.1 The Asset Manager is responsible for ensuring the implementation and operation of this policy.

 

14    Performance Measures and Monitoring

14.1    The following service charge information is monitored by Square Roots:

  • Leasehold service charge recovery percentage
  • Leasehold service charge arrears
  • Total Rent arrears (including tenants service charges)

14.2    The Asset Manager is responsible for monitoring this performance.

 

15    Review

15.1 The Operations Director will review this policy after three years or before if required by legislation or by best practice.

 

16    Legislation and other Documents

16.1    Relevant legislation:

  • Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002
  • Housing Act 1985
  • Housing Act 1996
  • Housing Act 2004
  • Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
  • Leasehold Reform Act 1967
  • The Service Charges (Consultation Requirements) (England) Regulations 2003 (as amended)
  • Service Charge Charter (GLA) 2021
AuthorBarbara Richardson
Job TitleManaging Director
Adopted by BoardApril 2022
Review DateApril 2025

Rent Arrears Prevention

Rent Arrears Prevention

Rent Arrears Prevention & Recovery Policy

1    Purpose and Scope

1.1    Maximisation of income is imperative to our effective operation. Square Roots recognises that effective rent arrears management is fundamental to high performance and therefore our aim is to ensure and recover all monies that are due.

1.2    Square Roots has a firm but fair policy that recognises the need to balance our responsibilities to support customers who fail to pay their rent with our responsibilities to our wider customer base to ensure we collect income efficiently and effectively with due regard to the cost of collection.

1.3    This policy will apply to all customer, both leaseholders and tenants, albeit the legislation that can be called upon to assist with rent recovery will be different.

1.4    This policy will not differentiate between those customers who make payment direct to Square Roots and those where the rent is paid by Housing Benefit, Universal Credit, Department for Work & Pensions, or Disability Benefit. Square Roots will provide support to all customers regardless of their income status.

 

2    Definition

2.1    Square Roots will ensure the effective management of rent collection, as this is critical to our financial viability. For the purpose of this policy, rent arrears are defined as any rent payment not made in accordance with the leasehold or tenancy agreement in place.

 

3    Policy Statement

3.1    Our vision is Unlocking Great Places, Unlocking Quality Homes. Square Roots recognises the detrimental effect rent arrears have on the quality of our service provision to customers and the impact on their lives and the importance of prevention of rent arrears. The aims of the Policy are to ensure that:

  • We provide timely information and support to customers
  • We will ensure that we have effective systems for rent arrears prevention
  • We will adopt and establish clear procedures for the recovery of arrears.

3.2    Information and Support
    Square Roots will:

  • Promote a payment culture emphasising the responsibilities for rent payment from initial contact with prospective customer and throughout their relationship with us.
  • Make every effort during the sales or nominations process, when in contact with customer, to inform them of their responsibilities to pay rent in line with their lease or tenancy agreement. We will also seek to identity any support needs to help a customer manage their rent account and protect their interest in their lease or tenancy agreement with Square Roots.
  • Maximise income for vulnerable customers by actively referring them to any local welfare advice or citizens advice service, to provide advice and guidance on financial matters including benefit advice, budgeting, debt counselling and promotion of good money management. We will promote these services through a wide range of media sources including our website.
  • Issue rent statements for all leaseholders and tenants on a monthly basis so that customers are aware of the current position of their rent account. These are also available on demand if requested.
  • Develop and maintain links with local statutory and voluntary agencies to provide support and assistance to customers in managing or preventing arrears.
  • Offer support to customers impacted by welfare reforms, or other economic or financial implications to find the most appropriate payment plan and payment method, and to assist with applications for benefits, and/or applications for more suitable accommodation where appropriate.

3.3    Arrears Prevention
Square Roots will:

  • Enable customers to pay arrears using a variety of payment methods that are flexible, accessible, and convenient to use. We will encourage and actively promote the use of cost-effective payment methods including direct debits and standing orders as our preferred methods of payment.
  • Have a clear and consistent approach to rent arrears recovery that promotes consistent monitoring or rent payments, early intervention, arrears prevention and regular contact with our customers throughout the life of their lease or tenancy agreement.
  • Capture and record changes to customer profiling data and encourage residents to inform Square Roots and welfare benefit providers of any changes in their personal circumstances.

3.4    Clear Procedures
Square Roots will:

  • Take prompt action to recover rent arrears when required and aim to recover debt within the shortest possible timescale to maximise income. Debt payment will be prioritised towards service charges arrears first and then rent, to make sure that contributions to common parts and estate service are maintain for the benefit of all customers.
  • Take appropriate action through all relevant legislation and as a last resort through the County Courts to action the recovery of arrears.
  • We will adhere to the County Court’s pre-action protocol on possession claims for rent arrears, with regards to customer who hold the benefit of a tenancy agreement in order to take possession of a property (eviction) only as a last resort.
  • Request a direct payment of any housing element of Universal Credit from Department of Work and Pensions in line with their Alternative Payment Arrangement guidelines if a customer is in receipt of such benefit.
  • Give advice to Assured Shorthold tenants on their obligations to fulfil their contractual obligations within their tenancy agreement. In the absence of exceptional circumstances, we will use the provision of mandatory Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 for those residents who are in persistent rent arrears during their probationary tenancy.
  • Give advice to Leaseholders on their obligations to fulfil the terms of their lease agreements.
  • Make use of the provision of mandatory Ground 8 of the Housing Act 1988 in very exceptional circumstances. This would be for persistent non- payment without cause and where all other avenues of ensuring recovery of rent due have been exhausted.
  • Ensure customers are always paying rent monthly in advance, rather than in arrears, and where possible encourage them to be one month in credit at all times.
  • Ensure our staff are knowledgeable and equipped with the right tools to provide an effective income management service by regularly training our staff in procedures to recover arrears, welfare benefits and welfare reform matters.

3.5    Withdraw of Services
If there is debt due to Square Roots by the customer, we will consider withdrawal/denial of the following services:

  • Transfer to another Square Roots property
  • Mutual exchanges with another customer (for tenanted customers)
  • Tenancy renewals for customers in rented properties
  • Staircasing (for leasehold customers) – unless the arrears are recovered as part of the staircasing process

 

4    Equality and Diversity

4.1    Our customers are diverse, and this will be taken into account during the implementation of this policy:
 

  • We will take into account the individual needs of our customer and tailor our approach and actions appropriately.
  • All correspondence and literature will be in plain English and jargon free.
  • If required, we can provide information in alternative formats such as large print or Braille and translation by the us of Language Line.
  • We will take account of a customer’s vulnerability and will contact
    customer by their preferred method of contact.
  • We will seek to monitor the profile of customer who fall into arrears or are evicted to ensure we are treating everyone fairly.


5    Value for Money

5.1    Square Roots believes that arrears prevention is more effective in the long term than arrears recovery. This policy is designed to ensure the best use of resources, and the delivery of a value for money service.

5.2    Square Roots will use a range of preventive measures to help sustain tenancies and minimise the use of possession action.

5.3    Square Roots will benchmark performance against similar organisations to monitor quality, performance and cost effectiveness and strive to deliver best practice services and achieve top quartile performance in the sector.

 

6    Consultation

6.1    Square Roots has adopted a Customer Charter which promotes Respect, Communication, Impartiality, Transparency, Improvement, and Empowerment. Square Roots will consult with its customers on a regular basis to make sure that their policies and procedures are fair, transparent, and effective.

 

7    How will the policy be implemented?

7.1    In complying with this policy Square Roots will ensure that:

  • Clear and consistent procedures are in place
  • Arrear’s prevention information is clear, straightforward, and promoted proactively to customers
  • Rent Recovery procedures make best use of I.T. and communication methods in order that the management of arrears is effective and efficient.

 

8    Performance Measure and Monitoring

8.1    Rent Arrears prevention will be measured by the following indicators:

  • Current rent arrears as % of gross rent
  • Number of recovery cases, or budget plans as % of overall property numbers
  • Number of evictions, court hearings and notices of seeking possession served on an annual basis (tenanted properties only)

8.2    The Operations Director will monitor this policy to ensure it meets positive practice and statutory requirements.

8.3    The policy will be monitored through KPI’s to the board on a quarterly basis.

 

9    Review

9.1    We will review this policy on a three-years cycle, or when a business need arises.


10    Legislation and Other Documents

10.1    Legislation around debt advice requires that Square Roots ensure that any staff have the necessary training and licence to provide specific advice on debt and budget management, or that if this skill is not captured in house, then they have the appropriate skills to signpost customers to the most appropriate welfare advisors, or citizen advice bureau.

AuthorBarbara Richardson
Job TitleManaging Director
Adopted by BoardApril 2022
Review DateApril 2025


 

Allocations policy

Allocations policy

The allocations and lettings policy is used for allocating and letting homes to tenants and managing applications for affordable home ownership properties. It sets out:

  • The aims of our approach to allocations and lettings
  • Who we will and will not house
  • Routes by which people can apply for a home
  • Routes by which existing tenants can move to a new affordable home
  • How tenancies and leases will be granted and managed
  • Details of decision makers and how to challenge decisions.

It is aligned with the regulatory standards published by the Regulator of Social Housing, and the requirements for allocations specified in the Capital Funding Guides published by Homes England and the London Mayor.

Where planning obligations require specific approaches to allocations for schemes, local lettings policies will be adopted to implement these requirements.

 

1    Policy aims

Square Roots is committed to providing a range of quality affordable homes that will meet local housing requirements and therefore assist local authorities in the delivery of their housing strategies. In doing this Square Roots will:

  • Promote and enable choice of accommodation for people whose housing options are restricted by virtue of their income in relation to local house prices
  • Encourage and promote social inclusion whilst creating sustainable communities
  • Ensure that access to housing is on a fair and equitable basis while ensuring that allocations optimise the best use of Square roots’ assets
  • Let properties in accordance with legal and regulatory requirements and with the intention of incurring minimal loss of rent and service charge income
  • Comply with financial and regulatory controls relating to the allocation and sale of affordable housing properties.


2    Policy scope

This policy covers our approach to allocations for all affordable housing, specifically:

  • Social and Affordable Rent, including London Affordable Rent
  • Shared Ownership
  • Discounted Market Rent/Intermediate
  • London Living Rent.

 

3    Social and Affordable Rented homes (including London Affordable Rent)

Social and Affordable Rented housing offers households in the greatest need of accommodation access to secure, affordable and well managed homes.

The approaches to allocations set out in this policy will help Square Roots to:

  • Build and sustain diverse and balanced communities
  • Maximise opportunities for mobility among tenants of social housing
  • Minimise the cost of homelessness to local authorities and to council taxpayers
  • Make efficient use of housing resources, including incurring minimal rent loss
  • Ensure that access to housing is on a fair and equitable basis
  • Let properties in accordance with legal and regulatory requirements
  • Let properties in accordance with relevant nominations agreements.

 

Who we house?

Our primary purpose as a Registered Provider is to provide accommodation for people in housing need who are unable to afford to buy or rent housing on the open market. It is expected that all applicants will meet the eligibility criteria, which will normally be set by the relevant local authority. All applications for housing will be considered carefully before an offer of accommodation is made and, in some cases, we may request additional information.

Where prospective tenants require support to enable them to access or maintain a tenancy Square Roots will take those needs into account and aim to provide the support required through our own services or through other agencies. Support needs will not be a bar to applicants providing that the necessary support can be provided and is in place at the start of the tenancy agreement.

 

Who we cannot house?

By law, certain households (provided that they are not existing tenants) are not eligible, including:

  • households subject to immigration control, including asylum seekers (although there are exceptions to this rule, each will be treated on its merit by the Local Authority responsible)
  • households who have come from abroad and do not qualify for public funds (e.g., social security benefits).

Local Authorities also have powers to treat as ineligible any applicant who has behaved badly enough to make them unsuitable to be a tenant. This may have happened in an existing or a previous tenancy. Examples of such behaviour include:

  • repeated or significant non-payment of rent
  • certain breaches of tenancy conditions
  • behaviour (either that of the applicant(s) or of someone living with or visiting them) that is likely to cause nuisance or annoyance to others
  • using the home for immoral or illegal purposes
  • committing an arrestable offence in or near the home
  • serious neglect of the condition of the home
  • getting a tenancy by providing false information or paying someone for it

An applicant who has behaved in such a way will be ineligible for allocation to a Square Roots property. Applicants have the right to request a review of any decision on eligibility and a right to be informed in writing of the decision on review and clear grounds for that decision.

 

Choice Based Lettings

We will participate in local and regional choice-based lettings schemes to give applicants greater choice in meeting their housing needs, within the context of any Local Lettings Plans adopted. As required by the Mayor, in London we will offer 5% of our grant funded homes in each scheme via the Housing Moves scheme, to support mobility around London1.

Applicants are expected to actively look for and express their interest in advertised vacant properties that they want to live in. This expression of interest is known as a ‘bid.’ Bidding will occur for all vacant properties advertised through a choice- based lettings scheme. The rules for bidding will be those that are set by the local choice-based lettings scheme.

Homes for Londoners Affordable Homes Programme 2016-21 Funding Guidance https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/homesforlondoners-affordablehomesprogrammefundingguidance.pdf
 

Square Roots, working with the Local Authority and other partner agencies, will assist applicants to express interest where they:

  • Do not have access to the internet
  • Have a disability or health condition that would prevent them from accessing the web site
  • Are absent due to illness
  • Require additional assistance

Where an applicant is put forward for accommodation through the choice based letting scheme their individual circumstances will be considered prior to allocation in every case using the information provided by the applicant on their application form and any information provided subsequently.

 

Waiting list

Generally, it is not the intention of Square Roots to hold a waiting list.

Square Roots will usually adopt a 100% nominations agreement with relevant local authorities for its social and affordable rented properties. This means that all lettings will be made to people on the local authority housing register who bid through the choice-based lettings scheme or who are directly nominated by the Council. Lettings will occasionally be made outside of this agreement, for example where Square Roots allows a discretionary succession to a tenancy. However, in London, 5% of properties in each grant funded scheme will be made available through the Housing Moves scheme, rather than to Local Authority nominees, to support pan-London mobility.

In exceptions where allocation through a formal nomination’s agreement is not possible then approved local referral agencies, or 100% nominations to the GLA via their Housing Moves Scheme will be used.

 

Housing need and priority

As demand for affordable housing to rent is greater than the number of properties available, Square Roots prioritises allocations of vacant properties to applicants in the greatest need. This system of prioritisation will be facilitated by our participation in nominations agreements and choice-based lettings schemes and will be linked to Local Lettings plans where appropriate.

Generally, vacant housing will be offered to the top applicant identified through choice-based lettings at the time of the vacancy, whose housing needs and requirements best match the property type available. However, in certain circumstances this may not be the case, for example, where a property has been adapted and that adaptation may be more suitable to an applicant with fewer points, or if the lifestyle of the applicant with the highest number of points is considered to be unsuitable for that property.

Where an offer to the top applicant is not made, this will be recorded together with the reason for the decision.

Where an offer of housing has been made and accepted and it transpires that the applicant has given false information, we may commence legal action for repossession to end the tenancy.

 

References

Potential tenants nominated through choice-based lettings schemes will need to provide two satisfactory references that demonstrate their ability to pay their rent and, where appropriate, how well they have conducted any previous tenancy held by them. One of the references must be from a current landlord. Where there is no current landlord, the reference must be from a former landlord.

A limited number of applicants (including homeless persons) may not have to provide references. References will not normally be accepted from friends or family members except where there has been no other housing history. Applicants will be asked to consent to information being shared with other housing providers and housing service providers.

 

Identification and reference verification

Before an offer of accommodation is made, Square Roots will need to be satisfied that information provided by the applicant at registration accurately reflects their housing circumstances. In most cases, this second verification process will be carried out shortly before an offer of accommodation is made.

Prospective tenants will also be subject to Know Your Customer checks, in order that we can meet our obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations.

 

Transfers

Existing Square Roots tenants wishing to move to another Square Roots property are subject to the same needs criteria as other applicants. However, where they live in a home that is in high demand, or they are seriously under occupying a property and are prepared to move to properties in lesser demand or of a more appropriate size, then they may be given additional priority.
 

Decants

Where existing Square Roots residents are required to move because essential works are to be carried out that cannot be undertaken with the residents in occupation, an offer of accommodation within permanent stock, in an area of choice for the tenant, will be provided where possible. However, this will not always be possible due to lack of supply.

 

Mutual exchange

Square Roots subscribes to online services which will enable its tenants to seek a mutual exchange with another social housing tenant.

 

Number of offers

Square Roots will not normally restrict the number of offers made. However, where an offer is unreasonably refused by the applicant, further offers of the same type of property in the same area may not be made.

Tenants transferring and those being decanted will normally receive two reasonable offers of accommodation. For transfers, if offers are rejected tenants will be removed from the list and can only re-apply 12 months later unless there is a substantial change of circumstances. In the case of decants, Square Roots would consider its legal position with regards to gaining possession.

A reasonable offer should meet the essential needs of the household e.g., in terms of size or level of accommodation. Square Roots will note preferences for area and attempt to take this into account when offering property, but this may not always be possible.

 

Homes for people with a disability

These properties are usually purpose built or specially adapted for use by disabled people. When these properties become vacant, they are reserved for households needing the specialised facilities offered by the property, regardless of the priority of other applicants. However, where there is little interest, Square Roots may choose to make these properties available for general purpose lets.

 

Pets

Except in the case of assistance dogs, pets will be permitted only in Square Roots properties where our own interest in the property does not require us to restrict this. Applicants should seek the written permission of Square Roots if they wish to keep a pet in their home.

 

Registered sex offenders

Registered sex offenders are required to inform Square Roots when they apply for housing that they are a registered sex offender as it is a criminal offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for offenders to withhold this information. The risk posed by Sex Offenders cannot be assessed by Square Roots who will be guided on this by agencies charged with the management and monitoring of sex offenders including the police and social workers.

 

When we may not offer accommodation

There are a small number of people that Square Roots will not allow to live in our homes. This helps Square Roots to provide a better quality of life for all of its customers and the wider community.

Square Roots may not re-house people in the following circumstances, if the applicant, the applicant’s spouse, partner, or someone who lives with the applicant:

  • has been evicted from a social letting in the past
  • owe Square Roots or another Registered Provider money and has not made and kept to an agreement to pay this debt
  • have been subject to an Anti-Social Behaviour Order or ASB injunction
  • pose a threat to the community
  • has previously failed to maintain a probationary tenancy
  • has given false information on the application form or during an interview to obtain one of our homes
  • has been evicted from interim housing and has made themselves homeless
  • has sensory or physical impairments and need help from external agencies to help them sustain a tenancy but have refused such help
  • has serious mental health problems that result in them being unable to sustain a tenancy even with assistance from specialist support agencies.

Appeal against ineligibility

If an applicant is unhappy with the decision not to grant a tenancy, their complaint will be dealt with in line with the Complaints Policy and Procedure.

 

Lettings

All new tenants will be provided with a copy of

  • The tenancy agreement
  • The support agreement (if relevant)
  • Appropriate tenant information
  • Relevant fire and gas safety information
  • A housing benefit form or information on how to claim Universal Credit, if applicable
  • Contact details for Square Roots and our managing agents.

 

Tenure

Probationary tenancies will be offered to all new tenants. This will be a 12 month Assured Shorthold Tenancy which will be reviewed to determine if the tenancy has been satisfactorily maintained. If a further tenancy is offered, then this will be for a fixed term of five years. A probationary tenancy may be extended in accordance with the terms of the tenancy agreement.

 

Joint tenancies

Square Roots will grant joint-named tenancies on all occasions when individuals seek housing as a couple, unless any one of the joint tenants are ineligible for accommodation in which case a joint tenancy will not be granted.

 

Confidentiality

The privacy of applicants will be respected, and care will be taken to maintain confidentiality. Personal data will be collected and stored in line with our GDPR data protection policy. Responsible information sharing can play a key role in the letting of our homes, and GDPR compliant information sharing protocols with local authorities and partners will be followed where they are in place.

Relevant information from landlords, doctors, etc. may need to be obtained and applicants are required to sign a declaration giving permission for this to be done.

 

4    Discounted Market Rent / Affordable Private Rent homes/Intermediate

Affordable Private Rent offers tenants the opportunity to access a quality rented home for less than the local average market rent.

 

Eligibility

To be eligible for Affordable Private Rent, applicants must:

  • Have a household income of between £60,000 and £90,000
  • Have insufficient savings to purchase a home in their local area
  • Be registered on their local authority intermediate housing waiting list if one exists.

 

Viewings and applications

All our properties will be advertised on our website and through other property marketing services including, where available, those offered by local authorities to target households in need of intermediate housing. All allocations will be made to eligible households who apply directly to Square Roots or our agent.

Households should apply for the specific property they wish to rent, by using the form available on our website. Property viewings will be arranged for potential applicants by us or our agent.

Square Roots, or our agent, will conduct checks to establish that applicants are eligible to hold an assured shorthold tenancy in the UK, are eligible for Affordable Private Rent, and are able to afford the accommodation applied for. Prospective tenants will also be subject to Know Your Customer checks, in order that we can meet our obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations.

If a joint application is made both applicants must become joint tenants i.e., be named on the tenancy agreement.

There is no restriction on the number of applications a household can make for Square Roots properties.

 

Prioritisation

Allocations will be managed in line with the s106 agreement relevant to the individual property or other agreement with the local authority. This may specify that applicants must have a connection to the local area, or that priority must be given to such households. We will advise households of any criteria that restrict allocations or determine prioritisation of applications when we advertise properties and when we process applications.

Where there are no restrictions imposed by planning or funding conditions, we will prioritise completed applications in the order in which we receive them. A completed application is one which is accompanied by all the required supporting information.

We will not accept further applications for a property after it has been allocated.

 

Tenure and tenancies

Square Roots residents of Affordable Private Rent homes will be subject to an Assured Shorthold tenancy of up to 3 years in duration, with a 6-month tenant break clause. It is expected that the tenancy would not be terminated in the first three years, subject to the tenancy being satisfactorily maintained.

On signing the tenancy and receiving keys, all new tenants will be provided with a copy of

  • The tenancy agreement
  • Appropriate tenant information (including estate management guide and contacts)
  • Relevant fire and gas safety information
  • Contact details for Square Roots and our managing agents.

 

Shared Ownership

Shared Ownership offers households the opportunity to buy a share of a property whilst paying rent on the part they do not own. Initial shares sold will be between 10% and 75% of the value of the home. If the lease allows it, households can usually choose to buy larger shares until they own the property outright.

 

Eligibility

To be eligible for a shared ownership property, applicants must:

  • Have a household income of less than £80,000 (£90,000 in London) and be otherwise unable to purchase a property suitable to meet their housing needs on the open market
  • Be able to fund the deposit and other purchase costs through savings or other funds
  • Not own or have an interest in another property (although households may apply while they are selling or discharging interest in another property, including a shared ownership property).

 

Viewings and applications

Households must apply for the shared ownership scheme and also apply for the specific property they wish to purchase.

Households interested in purchasing a shared ownership property should apply to register with the relevant HomeBuy agent, through the GLA portal or local authority website in the first instance, who will check their eligibility for the shared ownership scheme.

All our properties for sale will be advertised through the relevant HomeBuy agent, the GLA portal, the local authority website and our own website.

Households should indicate their interest in specific Square Roots properties by using the form available on our website. Property viewings will be arranged for potential applicants by us or our agent.

Households wishing to apply for a property should complete and submit an application to an independent mortgage broker, who will conduct an affordability assessment.

If a joint application is made both applicants must become joint owners i.e., be named on the lease and on any mortgage on the property.

There is no restriction on the number of applications a household can make for Square Roots properties.

 

Allocation’s criteria and process Affordability

Square Roots, or agents acting on our behalf, will assess whether applicants are able to afford the mortgage, rent and other costs of being a homeowner without hardship. We will also carry out credit checks on applicants.

 

Identity and source of funds

Prospective owners will also be subject to Know Your Customer checks, in order that we can meet our obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations.

 

Prioritisation

Allocations will be managed in line with the s106 agreement relevant to the individual property or other agreement with the local authority. This may specify that applicants must have a connection to the local area, or that priority must be given to such households. We will advise households of any criteria that restrict allocations or determine prioritisation of applications when we advertise properties and when we process applications.

After applying local planning requirements, we will give priority to armed forces personnel who are currently serving or who have left service in the two years prior to their application. This is in line with government guidelines on allocation of shared ownership properties.

Where there are no restrictions imposed by planning or funding conditions, we will prioritise completed applications from non-armed forces personnel in the order in which we receive them. A completed application is one which has been approved by the independent mortgage broker and is accompanied by all the required supporting information.

We will not accept further applications for a property after it has been allocated.

 

Fees

When applicants have been offered a new build property and wish to proceed, we will ask for a reservation fee up to the value of £500. This will be deducted from the purchase price when the sale completes.

A 14-day cooling off period commences after the fee is taken. If the reservation does not proceed past this period, the reservation fee is refunded in full. After this period, the reservation fee is non-refundable.

 

Time scales

For sales of new build properties, we normally expect exchange of contracts within 21 days of receiving a reservation fee unless other timescales are specified. Completion should take place two weeks afterwards, subject to the completion date of the development. We may withdraw an offer of sale if these timescales are unreasonably delayed by the purchaser.

For off plan sales, the purchaser will move forward to exchange, within 21 days, with completion on notice.

For resale homes, the timescales will be agreed between purchaser and seller.

 

Leases

All shared owners will be issued with a standard shared ownership lease with a lease term of 990 years. A lease will be issued whether the leaseholder has purchased a flat or a house.
 

Where a shared owner’s lease states an approach to rents that is different from

our rent setting policy, the lease takes precedence.


6    London Living Rent offers tenants the opportunity to save for a deposit whilst paying an affordable rent, and to purchase their home (including on a shared ownership basis) within 10 years.

Eligibility

To be eligible for London Living Rent, applicants must:

  • Be renting within London, in either a social or private tenancy
  • Have a household income no higher than £60,000
  • Have insufficient savings to purchase a home in their local area

 

Viewings and applications

All our properties will be advertised through the Share to Buy portal. All allocations will be made to eligible households who apply directly to Square Roots.

Households should apply for the specific property they wish to rent, by using the form available on our website. Property viewings will be arranged for potential applicants by us or our agent.

Square Roots, or our agent, will conduct checks to establish that applicants are eligible to hold an assured shorthold tenancy in the UK, are eligible for London Living Rent, and are able to afford the accommodation applied for.

If a joint application is made both applicants must become joint tenants i.e., be named on the tenancy agreement.

There is no restriction on the number of applications a household can make for Square Roots properties.
 

Prioritisation

Allocations will be managed in line with the s106 agreement relevant to the individual property or other agreement with the local authority. This may specify that applicants must have a connection to the local area, or that priority must be given to such households. We will advise households of any criteria that restrict allocations or determine prioritisation of applications when we advertise properties and when we process applications.

Where there are no restrictions imposed by planning or funding conditions, we will prioritise completed applications in the order in which we receive them. A completed application is one which is accompanied by all the required supporting information.

We will not accept further applications for a property after it has been allocated.

Tenure and tenancies

Square Roots residents of London Living Rent homes will be subject to an Assured Shorthold tenancy of up to 3 years in duration, with a 6-month tenant break clause. It is expected that the tenancy would not be terminated in the first three years, subject to the tenancy being satisfactorily maintained.

On signing the tenancy and receiving keys, all new tenants will be provided with a copy of

  • The tenancy agreement
  • Appropriate tenant information (including estate management guide and contacts)
  • Relevant fire and gas safety information
  • Contact details for Square Roots and our managing agents.

7    Lettings and sales to staff, board members or their relatives

Where a member of Square Roots staff or board, or their close relative, applies for accommodation, Board approval must be given before an allocation can be made. A report will be made to the Board for decision. This also applies to any other member of Square Roots parent or sister companies.

 

8    Persons by whom decisions are made

Decisions under the Allocation policy, and any discretion shown in the Allocation policy as belonging to the board, may be taken by officers of Square Roots or other organisations who have been given the appropriate delegated authority by the board.

 

9    Appeal

If an applicant wishes to appeal an allocation decision, including a decision not to grant a tenancy or make a sale, their representation will be dealt with in line with the Complaints Policy and Procedure.

 

10    Review

This policy will be reviewed every three years. The board of Square Roots will consider and take into account the housing policies of relevant local authorities (e.g., the tenancy and planning policies), those of the Greater London Authority, and regulatory requirements when updating the policy.

 

Adopted 5th October 2021

Reviewed 8th September 2022 

Next Review: 8th September 2025


 

Customer charter

Customer charter

RESPECT

At Square Roots we are dedicated to building a capital for everyone who wants to live and work here. We strive to provide exemplary customer service, respectful and courteous at every stage of your journey with us.

COMMUNICATION

Building homes requires precision and meticulous detail, much like finding your new home. To keep things simple, we will always ensure the information we provide is clear and easy to follow. For the best experience with us we ask you do the same, so we can meet your needs to our fullest potential.

IMPARTIALITY

We are an independent body and undertake all work fairly and impartially, regulated by the RSH.

TRANSPARENCY

Our word is our bond. We’re honest and operate a process of visibility and openness. We will publish information about our work and service complaints system whilst never compromising confidentiality.

IMPROVEMENT

Evolution is constant. We operate a policy of continuous improvement, to ensure we build homes we want to live in and with the level of care we would expect. Your feedback is essential for us, and by answering our customer surveys you can help us meet our goal to make London even greater.

EMPOWERMENT

We want to help people find a home in places they want to live, to set down roots and be part of a community. We will support our customers to develop and implement opportunities for involvement and empowerment, especially with property management and maintenance of their homes.

GLA Service Charge Charter

GLA Service Charge Charter

View the GLA Service Charge Charter PDF

Square Roots has signed the Service Charge Charter with our Partners at the Greater London Authority.

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