There are four 'Tenant Working Groups' in which members of TPPT and any other Council Tenant who is interested, meet with council officers on a regular basis to discuss issues which have been raised by and affect tenants. The group looks at ways of dealing with these issues as well as discussing the wider issues that affect the housing service. The groups have access to the minutes of Officers meetings and can raise any issues they want more information on, or have any concerns over.

If you are interested on one of the groups, either joining one or having input as an 'absent' member please contact the tenant represenatative for that group.

The groups normally meet once every 6 weeks, generally in early afternoon Gordon House, Inverutie or at Aberdeenshire Council HQ in Woodhill House Aberdeen. The four working groups deal with:

Asset Management - repairs, new kitchens and bathrooms, upgrades to homes.

Tenancy Services - Communal areas, untidy gardens, anti-social behaviour - Rent arrears, Rent Setting, Cost of Housing.

Options - Homelessness, the time houses stand empty beween lets,

Planning for the Future - As it sounds, trying to work out future needs and be ready to meet them.

You do not need any specialist knowledge - we all started out knowing nothing. You will be most welcome on any group.

Asset Management

Phil is the Lead Tenant on this group. 

In November the group met and discussed a planned visit to the Technical Hub. 

Visit to Technical Hub – Andrew Mackie  confirmed that a visit would not be practicable at the present time due to Fraserburgh and Peterhead implementation with resultant high levels of workload for officers in the Technical Hub. He advised the Group of potential future dates when an opportunity arises.

In terms of shadowing of Clerk of Works, he highlighted that this was due to be considered at the Development Day held at the beginning of September but no nominations from the Group was forthcoming.

Repairs and Planned Maintenance Management System

 

Repairs and Planned Maintenance Management System Update

Andrew outlined progress with the roll out of the new system in Fraserburgh. A ‘go-live’ date for Peterhead has been set, 6th November 2017. A lack of resources within the Hub has been identified and unused budget will be used to fund two temporary Scheduler posts.

 

Out of Hours Service Update

AM provided an update on the Out of Hours service provided by the Technical Hub, additional resources again being sought with the use of an element of the Clerk of Works team to provide additional cover.

 
 
Quality Assurance.

Update

Andrew provided an update on activities within the Quality Assurance Team, explaining the successful roll out of scheduling and ongoing development of Clerk of Works and Quality Assurance Inspectors. Full roll out of RPMMS will enable a further focus on quality and demonstration of value for money. An overview of the ‘Infosuite’ system will be provided to the Group when they next visit the Technical Hub.

 

Clerk of Works Development Day

Andrew provided an update of the Development Day recently held with Clerk of Works part of which involved Fire Risk Awareness training.

Decoration Voucher Update

Andrew outlined ongoing good performance by the contractor. Monthly reports will be available shortly and will be provided to the Group for future consideration. Savings and efficiencies already evident.

 

Planned Cyclical Maintenance Team

Update

Andrew provided an update on activities within the Planned Cyclical Maintenance Team. Keeping FES on track with all elements of cyclical maintenance remains a challenge. Gas Servicing returning to 100% compliance levels.

 

The Group outlined particular issues with FES gas servicing visits. AM agreed to investigate and resolve.

 

 

Tenancy Services

Susan is our lead on this one.

September's meeting started with

Common Repairs presentation – Norman Landels/Petra Goddard

Norman explained that we have various tenure mixes due to the right to buy. Mixed tenure flats have resulted in the issue of how to deal with Common Repairs. Historically common repairs were met by the Council even though there were owner occupiers however now we are recovering costs from owners who have a responsibility within their title deeds and under the Tenements Act.

Norman explained that ahead of the changes a presentation was delivered to owners to explain what their responsibilities were and the Councils role in carrying out works in common areas. Four sessions were held in Peterhead with over 100 people attending

The presentation explained the tenancy agreement and that we have to ensure we look after the rights of tenants but also be open and transparent with owners. It outlined tenants’ responsibilities to report repairs and the joint responsibility of tenants and owners in terms of keeping the areas clean and tidy and free from clutter.

The Tenements Act was explained in terms of roof repairs etc. where each property owner has a responsibility to maintain and repair

Norman explained that the title deeds are registered in Registers of Scotland and these will set out the owners’ responsibilities.

Occupiers have a general responsibility not to do anything to endanger others

Insurance requirements – council insures the structure but tenants must have their own contents insurance. Owners need to have their own buildings and contents insurance. Ruth raised the issue of common areas and implications on insurance if security doors are not kept closed off there are items blocking the areas for emergency service access.

Title Conditions Act became lawn 2001 and prior to this there was a feu superior but this was abolished there is no leasehold in Scotland so there is no land ownership of the land a property is built on. Ownership of areas will be set out in title deeds. Conditions within title deeds can be legally enforced – they vary across the ‘Shire so each one has to be scrutinised.

Where the conditions are silent or ambiguous the Tenements Act comes into force. The council has no more responsibilities than any other owners.

Norman explained that with the introduction of the Tenements Act majority voting now applies, prior to this all had to agree to repair work. If there is no majority it would depend on the nature of the work. If it is an emergency this would have to be done.

Norman explained that the HRA should not be subsidising owners but owners are consulted on most repairs and it is important that they are also treated fairly.

Work is carried out with owners including scheme meetings. Owners can negotiate repayment plans for those who can’t afford full cost immediately. Petra advised she also issues a leaflet explaining things to owners and Satisfaction Surveys are carried out.

Petra advised that she identifies and liaises with owners and checks title deeds. She offers one point of contact and liaises with the services and the owners. Owners will sometimes come to the council to propose works often generated by Home Reports when they are looking to sell. Housing Repairs will determine if the repairs are required and get a quote and the majority rule will apply when making a decision on whether to go ahead with the work

Susan Sim highlighted issue of chipboard floors in her property that were deemed unsafe in another property being put on the market. She raised ongoing concerns of the risk of going through the floor – Phil to raise at AM group

Petra explained there are different categories of repairs – emergencies can be carried out by any owner without notifying the other owners. If other owners get the work done the Clerk of Works will inspect. Petra explained that if there is a leak from another flat then the owner would claim on their insurance. If the leak was from a council flat it would be done though the council insurance.

If the owner has arranged the repair the owner would need to settle the bill

Petra advised that she gets a monthly report detailing all emergency repairs and from this identifies owners and contacts them about the costings. Owners are charged the amount without VAT as it is an emergency and won’t be billed under £10.

The other categories are:

Routine repairs – leaking gutters, cracked chimneys

Planned Repairs – 3-5 years painting, cleaning gutters

Capital Works – insulations, reharling

Petra advised that she has had very few owners resisting works being carried out including cases where the council is in a minority. Sometimes tenants will want work and the council agree but they are in a minority need to explain to the tenant that we need to get agreement from the other owners.

Repairs can be identified by tenants, owners and letting agents or property inspections.

Aberdeenshire Council will get an estimate from approved contractors, write to owner with the estimate and will advise owners to contact their solicitors regarding their title deeds if they have any issues. If agreement is reached works are arranged. The owner will get a letter at that time and when works are completed to advise of invoice being raised. They will also get a satisfaction survey and Petra will report back anything raised to contractors and the repairs team.

Petra explained that works under £10.000 1 quote was required, if the works were £10k-£60k she would try to get 4 quotes but this was not always possible and for works over £60k this goes to tender.

Owner can get another estimate if they want which would be sent to the Clerk of Works and if approved the owners contractor could be used. Petra would get a start date from the owner to inform tenants but the owner would have to manage the work and pursue other owners for their share of the cost.

Petra explained that in one case she had become aware of an owner who was trying to sell their house without paying their share of the repairs so a notice of potential liability (registered at Registers of Scotland) was put on the property when the property went on the market. This stopped the sale from going ahead until the cost was met.

The council offer repayment plans to owners who can pay monthly and with no interest. This has to be paid by Direct Debit and there must be no Council Tax arrears. This is dealt with by the Finance Service. Petra advised that she is currently in negotiations with regard to Capital repayment plans due to the higher amounts. A charge can be put on the property to ensure the money has to be repaid if property is sold.

Prospective buyer’s solicitors should check if there is an works planned.

Petra reported the percentage recovery rates

2014/15 – 89% paid in full, 7% entered into a repayment plan and 3% went to debt collector and one case had a charge served

2015/1 90% paid in full, 7% entered into a repayment plan and.3% went to debt collector

2016/17 87% paid in full, 8% entered into a repayment plan and 5% went to debt collector

She advised some bills are quite small and it is mostly small amounts are not repaid

Majority voting has had a positive impact and the success is also down to how owners are dealt with.

Concerns have been raised by Finance regarding not using approved contractor but if we are in a minority we cannot insist on using these

Petra also picks up from monthly reports issues with works that have been done where a new works order has been raised and avoided the extra cost.

Any feedback both positive and negative is sent to contractors

 

Performance Monitoring

Anti-social Behaviour Cases

Household rubbish higher in the north which is historically the case. Norman advised that this is in part because of communal areas with flats and tenements which are in greater number in the north.

Ruth queried why we could not identify a solution. Norman advised that we cannot identify who is doing this and action is taken reactively.

Phil queried if it was just down to the type of housing. Norman advised that this wasn’t the only reason but it was a contributing factor. Norman also reported profile of tenants is different with more social deprivation and chaotic lifestyles.

Norman advised that we will be clearing the rubbish and that the cost will come from rental incomes

Phil asked if ASBOs could be used – Norman advised this has happened for fly tipping. Norman advised that they would be recharged but only if we know who it is.

Norman to ask for comments from Team Leaders about the issues of household dumping and what these are

Phil asked about the veracity of the statics and what is reported and what isn’t. Norman advised regular organised crime meetings with Council and the police – Norman to ask Community Safely staff to provide information on issues in the Stonehaven area and what these are.

The issue was raised about the Community Safety meetings that no longer happen. Norman suggested this could be raised by TPPT.

Phil asked about year on year comparisons. Norman advised there are 800-1000 cases reported as anti-social behaviour per year. Per 100 tenancies Aberdeenshire has 5.3 cases which is half the Scottish Average. Norman to provide year on year stats for charter return for next Working group meeting on Tenancy Management.

Phil asked how Aberdeenshire Council compared to other local authorities and Norman advised that with regard to anti-social behaviour figures Council was “mid-table”. Phil said that repeatedly he was advised that Aberdeenshire Council’s performance was “not the best and not the worst”. Phil and other tenants will raise issue of Council’s overall performance at Housemark presentation in November when annual performance is discussed.

 

Permissions

Phil asked about pet numbers – and if you need permission to keep a cat which was confirmed that you do

Norman updated on what was defined as a pet and what you needed permission for and what is not permitted. One pet is allowed apart from flats and sheltered housing.

Ruth asked about alteration requests – Norman advised it was a wide range of things including satellite dishes, putting up walls, new heating systems etc.

Settling In Visits

Susan raised issue of first letter being late. Ruth raised that this issue is recurring. Ruth requested a reason for lateness in figures for Settling in Visit letters, 75% late up to end of July. Susan queried why a letter could not be sent out on time– Norman to request information from TL (KM&M). Norman to ask for feedback from Team Leaders.

Untidy Gardens

Norman advised some of these are being picked up by Housing Officers.

Ruth raised the issues of the national focus on patch work working so that everyone knows the tenants in their patch

Phil advised that he was unaware of staff visiting his area and queried why this was – time constraints or management decisions. Norman advised that there are constraints including geographic but that staff should be visible. Phil suggested that reason KM&M figures were low was that HOs were not picking up on Untidy Gardens as he was aware of a considerable number of Untidy Gardens near his home in Stonehaven, many to rear of the property and he thought that HOs weren’t inspecting these. The tenants agreed that they want the staff to be more visible. Phil asked that this be raised with Team Leaders – proactive tenancy and estate management

Linda raised the issue late second inspection.

Norman confirmed that the letters would be looked at in this group

Gypsy/Traveller sites – update

Aikey Brae has not gone out to tender yet – Ruth asked why it was late Norman advised that this should be brought up at the Planning For the Future meeting – Linda to raise

Greenbanks – Strategy to progress but major expenditure required to bring up to Scottish Government standard.

 

 

 

Planning for the Future

 ,;
 

 

Low Cost Shared Equity Leaflets - Elise Young, Development Officer, Affordable Housing
 

Gary welcomed Elise to the meeting. 

Elise explained that the Affordable Housing Team had undertaken the review of Low Cost Shared Equity information leaflets, particularly in the light of the scheme being rebranded from Low Cost Home Ownership. 

The information was originally on one document, in a Question and Answer format.  The document was expanding and was not user friendly, so the decision was taken to separate the information into five separate leaflets:

 

         What is Low Cost Shared Equity and how do I apply?

·         Purchasing a Low Cost Shared Equity Property

·         Increasing my Equity Share

·         Carrying out alterations

·         Selling my Low Cost Property

 

The leaflets will be reviewed and updated regularly and in response to any significant changes.  They are designed to provide basic information and applicants are encouraged to seek their own legal and financial advice, as the Affordable Housing staff are not qualified to provide such information. 

They are designed to be in Plain English and understandable, but Elise would be happy to consider any suggestions and amendments from the group.

 

A question was raised about renting LCSE properties.  The premise is that the property should be occupied by the purchaser, however, in exceptional circumstances, permission to rent would be considered.  The Team is circumspect about producing such an information leaflet, mindful that this may encourage purchasers to consider this possibility. Each request would be considered on its own merits.  If permission is granted to rent the property, then there should be no profit made and restrictions will be put in place.  Rent would be at the Local Housing Allowance or less.  The mortgage lender would also have to be involved and give approval.  But most purchasers wish to live in their homes. 

The group agreed that highlighting examples on tables in the leaflets was helpful. Weblinks are included for ease for those searching online, however the leaflets can be printed off for those requesting information by post.  Alternatively they can go through the links by visiting the local Housing office. There also links to the properties for sale.

For re-sales, there is a three month timescale to advertise the property and identify another purchaser from the waiting list. If this is not possible, the Council or an RSL are given an option to purchase, or the property can be sold on the open market (with the council’s share retained).  If a property is repossessed then it is permanently lost to the Council. 

 

The downturn in Oil and Gas has had an effect on the sales of LCSE properties, although properties nearer to Aberdeen City do tend to sell more easily, than those in Peterhead and Fraserburgh for example. 

 

The team is considering how to better advertise the properties.  Currently the team uses the Website, Posters in local Housing Offices, Facebook, Twitter, mail shots and Press articles. 

Are there any additional options for promoting the scheme to those who are unaware of it at present?   Elise would appreciate any suggestions.  The group suggested posters in Libraries, Community Centres, Sports Centres and displaying information in the windows of Housing offices, to save people from having to actually go into the building.  

 

Gary raised concerns about financial implications for those purchasing LCSE properties, in particular the requirement for deposits; reservations to developers and deposits to mortgage lenders. 

 

Each development is different but for some developments there may be;

  • a reservation fee payable to the developer when you reserve the property, which may be non-returnable
  • a deposit payable to the developer on conclusion of missives, which may also be non-returnable. It is highlighted that by concluding missives, applicants are entering in to a legally binding agreement, therefore it is important that they continue to take legal and financial advice throughout the process.

 

Deposits may not be refundable.  However by this stage applicants should already have taken some mortgage advice and be aware of the financial implications.

LCSE means that applicants are taken off the housing waiting list, helping to reduce the numbers on the list. 

Elise informed the group that the team takes every opportunity to reiterate to applicants, the need to double check their position every step of the way, to ensure they are informed and aware of the implications of buying an LCSE property. 

 

The information leaflets are generic, but there are specific guidance notes tailored to individual schemes and properties.

Applicants should be aware that choosing to purchase a property, rather than rent from the Council, RSLs or privately, means they are responsible for repairs and maintenance and the team does highlight this.

Similarly if they choose to sell their property, then they are responsible for any costs associated with the sale. 

The maximum equity share is 95%, but the purchaser is wholly responsible for repairs and maintenance.  The Council holds the security but the owner holds the title (and thus responsibility for the property).

 

If an owner wishes to improve, extend or alter their property, then they are subject to the same process as non LCSE home owners, i.e. they require to seek planning permission and building warrant, if required.  However the owner must also secure the permission of the Affordable Housing Team, before proceeding.

If the owner goes on to sell the property after carrying out alterations, then they must inform the team and also provide two Market Valuations, one showing the current open market valuation with the alterations and another valuation without the alterations being in place. 

 

The LCSE scheme is a good way to access the property market, although it was acknowledged that not everyone would be able to afford the cost of a deposit. 

Although there is a push for social rent, new developments aim to have a mix of tenures. 

Elise asked the group to get in touch with any other suggestions for advertising the scheme, or with any queries. 

Gary thanked Elise for an interesting discussion and for taking the opportunity to consult the group on the leaflets. 

 

Aikey Brae Planning proposal update:  Approval for planning was granted at Full Council on the 9th March 2017, after lively debate.  Thanks to Linda, who made representation in support of the application, on behalf of the Planning for the Future Group and Lynne Tammi from Article 12, who also spoke in support of the stopover site.  Moyra has advised that once Property Services has been informed that Planning permission has been granted, Property will finalise a site plan, which will be issued for tender.  Moyra hopes to involve Gypsy/Travellers, as part of this discussion. 

As part of the process, Jen, the Gypsy/Traveller Liaison Officer will be responsible for the management of Aikey Brae, on a similar basis to the management of Clinterty Travellers Site.

Liz will circulate the link to the Full Council webcast.

The private site at Boddom, initially refused, has been granted by the Scottish Government, on appeal, with three years planning, with conditions attached.

The planning application for the private site at Quarrywood Kemnay was refused at Full Council on the 26th January 2017.

The Scottish Government is anticipates that the full report on North Esk, will be submitted by the end of March 2017, but a decision is unlikely to be forthcoming for a number of months, until it has been considered by Scottish Ministers.

 

 

 

 

Equalities

 

Liz informed the group that:

 

·         The Equalities Outcomes for Aberdeenshire’s Mainstreaming Report, to be in place from April 2017, are being reported to
Full Council on the 27th April 2017.  Minority Ethnic Communities (including Gypsy/Travellers) have been recognised as a priority.

·         The remit of the Equalities Team has been extended to include community engagement.

·         The Equalities Team is working with Community Planning, CLD and Areas, to shape the scope of community engagement. 

·         The Data Sharing Protocol for dealing with Gypsy/Travellers - unauthorised encampments, is still out for consultation and will be finalised in due course.

 

 

Options and Homelessness

Carol is our lead on this one.

At the October meeting:-

Operational Update

Shared Accommodation Pilot

Gone well – 2 tenants in Inverurie successfully moved on. Lorraine has 2 properties being used, one Huntly and one Stonehaven. North areas to look at suitable properties now. Will look at continuing this but no longer as a pilot. Discussion around mixed sex households and tenants would be keen to see this trialled.

Discussion around temporary accommodation and B&B costs being unaffordable. Hannah advised that herself and Allan are attending a meeting next week with Scottish LAs to look at this but the best route forward is difficult to plan for until we know the impact of UC in temporary accommodation.

Ruth asked how the Early Intervention Officers (EIO) were affecting numbers of people who require re-housing and if there had been a decline in applications. Hannah advised that this would have to be discussed with tenancy services.

A brief discussion also took place around New Scots. Hannah advised again that Tenancy Services may be able to provide an update but she had heard nothing from an Options side.

Operational Update

Shared Accommodation Pilot

Gone well – 2 tenants in Inverurie successfully moved on. Lorraine has 2 properties being used, one Huntly and one Stonehaven. North areas to look at suitable properties now. Will look at continuing this but no longer as a pilot. Discussion around mixed sex households and tenants would be keen to see this trialled.

Discussion around temporary accommodation and B&B costs being unaffordable. Hannah advised that herself and Allan are attending a meeting next week with Scottish LAs to look at this but the best route forward is difficult to plan for until we know the impact of UC in temporary accommodation.

Ruth asked how the Early Intervention Officers (EIO) were affecting numbers of people who require re-housing and if there had been a decline in applications. Hannah advised that this would have to be discussed with tenancy services.

A brief discussion also took place around New Scots. Hannah advised again that Tenancy Services may be able to provide an update but she had heard nothing from an Options side.

Options Guidance

Went live 1st October. Some positive feedback from staff. Some comments on processes have been received and this will be reviewed in January. Too early to say how it’s going.

Create Homes

2x vacancies in Ellon and 1x vacancy in Westhill. No other update. Tenants raised concerns about rent levels. Hannah advised that Strategy are the lead on this and discussions on rent levels would need to be discussed there.

Housing First Pilot

Referrals have been received and pilot ongoing. Further information to be provided at December’s meeting.

Apply4Homes

Specification has been submitted. Timeline as follows:

W/c 9th October specification to be finalised and invitation to quote issued;

13th November – closing date for tenders

w/c 27th November – evaluation meeting

4th Dec – Award contract.

There has already been delays due to procurement contact going on leave but still hope to award the contract early Dec.

In the meantime, it was agreed to continue with A4H as it is and Allan will be discussing with Housing Partners the possibility of a rolling month to month contract for 6 months to allow us time to progress the procurement of the system. Paper applications may still be required as a back-up.

House Exchange Event

Update received was that event was rather quiet. Assisted a couple of people with House Exchange applications.

Local Housing Strategy

Draft has been submitted to strategy but this has not yet been confirmed as correct. Draft due to go for consultation shortly and approval due by the end of the year.

Mutual Exchange Procedure

Last joint meeting with AM it was agreed that Andrew Mackie would do some more work with local RSLs re timescales prior to any further work being carried out by Options.

There was discussion around the ‘mini void’ period and tenants raised real concerns about this. They felt that mutual exchanges should be made as easy as possible.

Voids

Void report went to September’s Committee and now further area committees

Want reports on voids in their area. These reports will be presented end

Nov/Dec.

Slight improvements in communications with AM recorded in some areas.

Tech hub due to go live soon in Peterhead.

Discussions took place re numbers of voids being held for major works and

concerns over contracts not starting. Hannah advised that this would have to

be raised with Asset management tenant group.

 

 

Local Lettings Plan

Allocations have been completed for the first phase in Alford and the next set are being looked at. Increase in workload. No feedback on how this has gone yet.

 

Participation with waiting list applicants and those in temporary accommodation/ Allocation Policy Review

Hannah advised that a report will be going to Committee in December suggesting the postponement of the review of the allocation policy until October 2018. This will allow for LHS & Apply4Homes contract to be completed, amongst other priorities. Tenants agreed that this would be a good way forward.