Stafford & Rural Homes (SARH) are currently reviewing all tenancy agreements and associated tenancy terms and conditions. This page offers further information on what we are proposing and what it means to you.

Why SARH are undertaking the review

SARH began in 2006 when Stafford Borough Council transferred all of its housing stock over to SARH to own and manage.

Those of you who were SBC tenants prior to the transfer will have had your tenancy for many years, with only minor variations to reflect the change to SARH as your landlord.

Those customers who became SARH tenants after the transfer have different tenancy agreements and associated terms and conditions to the pre-transfer tenants, and over there course of the 12 years since the stock transfer there has been several different tenancy agreements used due to legislative and policy changes.

SARH are now seeking to make our tenancy agreements standard for all customers, so that you have the same or similar rights and obligations as others customers as far as possible.

 

What the review will mean for customers

SARH have reviewed all current tenancy agreements and are proposing that a new, standard set of tenancy terms and conditions be introduced for all tenants.

For existing tenants with a lifetime tenancy, SARH are proposing that the new standard tenancy terms and conditions are adopted. In order to do this SARH is seeking your consent to vary your existing tenancy agreement, to reflect your agreement to the updated terms and conditions. Following full consultation you will be required to sign a Variation Agreement to confirm that you agree to the new tenancy terms and conditions. Any existing customer with an assured tenancy has a lifetime tenancy.

Existing tenants who have a fixed term tenancy will also be asked to agree to the new standard tenancy terms and conditions. In order to confirm your agreement SARH will ask you to sign a new assured non shorthold tenancy agreement. This will replace your current fixed term tenancy agreement and will be a lifetime tenancy rather than a tenancy for a fixed period of time.

For all existing joint tenants, both of you will be required to sign to confirm your consent to the proposed changes.

All new customers will be offered a 12 month starter tenancy, which will convert to an assured non shorthold tenancy at the end of the 12 months providing there has been no breach of the tenancy terms and conditions. This tenancy will include the standard tenancy terms and conditions developed as part of this review.

 

The benefits of the review

By updating tenancy terms and conditions SARH can ensure that:

  • A more consistent and efficient service is offered to all customers
  • Our relationship with you as landlord will reflect current law and practice
  • The responsibilities of Stafford and Rural Homes and its customers (tenants) are clear
  • The agreement you have with us, and any associated information, is clear and understandable

Please note the following:

  • The proposed changes are not intended to impact upon your tenancy rights
  • The proposed changes will not affect the rent, service charges or other charges you currently pay and you must continue to pay them as before
  • If you are currently in rent arrears those arrears will continue to be owed and you must pay them off
  • If you are a fixed term tenant and are subject to possession proceedings these changes will not apply to you until any breaches of your current tenancy agreement have been rectified.
Your Tenancy Terms and Conditions - what has changed?

As part of the review of tenancy agreements, SARH has also reviewed the tenancy terms and conditions.  The terms and conditions are a legal document setting out the obligations and rights of both SARH, as landlord, and of customers and it is therefore important that these obligations are set out clearly and in a way that is understandable to all.

The proposed new terms and conditions have been re-worded to make things clearer and the order of the document has also changed slightly to make it easier to read. Please click here to see the new terms and conditions.

A summary of the key changes are set out in the table below:

Current Terms and Conditions New Terms and Conditions
Rent and service charges paid monthly in advance **for some customers only** All rents and services to be paid weekly in advance
Service charges will be administered using a variable service charge model Service charges will be administered using a fixed service charge model
Consent Where consent from SARH is required for any change or activity, the way SARH will deal with this is summarised at the beginning of the terms and conditions rather than in individual sections
Repairing obligations The Repairs sections of the terms and conditions have been re-worded to make the obligations for both parties clearer and more concise
Access section The Access section has been re-worded to make it clearer around the obligation for customers to allow access to their home in certain circumstances
Health and Safety The Health and Safety section of the terms and conditions have been re-worded to make customers’ health and safety obligations clearer and more concise
Service Charges

For some SARH customers one of the terms and conditions of their tenancy agreement is to pay for any service charges relating to their home. SARH receive a number of calls each year asking for clarification of the service charges bills and therefore as part of this review the administration of service charges and also the format of information sent out to customers has also been reviewed.

SARH are proposing a change to the way service charges are administered by the Finance team to make it a more efficient process behind the scenes. It is also proposed that the format of the service charge bill be changed to make it clearer to customers what they are being charged for. You can see an example of the proposed new format by clicking here.

SARH are keen to hear customers views on the proposed new service charge bill format as part of this consultation exercise.

This table demonstrates which service charges may fall under each of the headings in your service charge bill. Not all of these services are provided to every customer, and you will only be charged for those which are applicable to your own scheme or block.

SERVICE CHARGE BILL HEADING WHAT THIS SECTION MAY INCLUDE
Annual contracted works and inspection ·      Cleaning

·      Window cleaning

·      Door entry maintenance

·      CCTV and intruder alarms

·      Fire alarms

·      Emergency lighting

·      Fire extinguishers

·      Fire safety equipment

·      Grounds maintenance

·      Lift maintenance

·      Water testing

·      Pest control

·      Laundry

·      Sewerage works

·      Hoist inspections

·      Gritting

·      Litter bin cleaning

Service call out costs ·      Door entry repairs

·      CCTV and TV aerial repairs

·      Fire alarm repairs

·      Lift repairs

·      General repairs

Utilities ·      Water rates

·      Gas

·      Electricity

Caretaker services ·      Caretaker costs
Depreciation charges ·      External management fees

·      Sinking fund items – related to specific schemes/blocks

·      Furniture and equipment

·      TV aerials

·      Car parking areas

·      Maintenance

·      monitoring

 

Management Fee ·      The cost of managing and administering service charges. This includes staff time in calculating and reconciling accounts, inspection of estates and maintenance issues and dealing with queries.

 

Next Steps

SARH will be consulting with our tenants for the next 6 weeks (ending 19th October) and are keen to hear any comments or questions you may have. Please use the 'your feedback' tab below to complete an online feedback form.

At the end of the consultation period all responses will be considered and a recommendation will be made to the SARH Board with regard to bringing the proposed changes in from 1st January 2019.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Will the proposed changes affect me?

The proposals will apply to the majority of SARH customers, with the exception of those listed below:

  • Fixed term tenants who have rent arrears – SARH expect all arrears to be cleared before offering a new tenancy
  • Tenants against whom SARH have started legal proceedings for arrears, anti-social behaviour or any other breach of tenancy
  • Leaseholders
  • People living in a shared ownership property

I am a secure tenant – will this change any of the rights I have under my current tenancy agreement?

No – you will not lose any of your current legal rights, such as succession rights, as a result of these changes. As a secure tenant the only changes you may notice relate to things like a firming up of health and safety responsibilities and repairing obligations.

 

Will the changes mean an increase in my rent and/or service charges?

No – the proposed changes will not specifically lead to any increase in your rent or service charges.

The government sets out the guidelines on how housing associations calculate rent. In July 2015 the government announced that rents would be reduced by 1% each year for the four financial years from April 2016. After this, the calculation will revert to the usual formula of the current rent and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) % rise plus 1%.

The calculation of your service charges is based upon the cost of delivering those services in the previous year together with an estimate of the likely cost of delivering the services in the following year.

As such, any changes in your rent and/or service charges for 2019/20 will be as a result of the above two points rather than because of the proposed changes to tenancy terms and conditions.

Why have you changed the service charge bill headings?

We have listened to comments from a number of our customers who feel that the service charge bill does not make it clear what people are paying for. We hope that the suggested new format of the bill is clearer to customers. Please see 'Service Charges' for more information.

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