Bath & North East Somerset Council
Cllr Vic Pritchard Cabinet Member for Adult Social Services and Housing
On or after 10th October 2009
Exceptional circumstances decision for an individual case under the Housing Renewal Policy 2009 - outside of current policy (Ref 08/00584/OO)
EXECUTIVE FORWARD PLAN REFERENCE:
AN OPEN PUBLIC ITEM
List of attachments to this report:
1 THE ISSUE
1.1 The applicant lives in a park home which is in poor repair. The current policy makes no mention on park homes and how the Council can assist owners to undertake repairs. The current policy allows for a Wessex Reinvestment Trust loan to be provided and secured by land charge against a property. However a park home is regarded in law as a "chattel" so a land charge can not be placed against the property. Wessex Reinvestment Trust have agreed a loan if the Council acts as guarantor. Therefore an exception is required to allow assistance to be provided to the vulnerable owner to undertake repairs to their park home and for the Council to act as guarantor.
The Cabinet member is asked to agree that:
2.1 Proposal 1: Financial assistance in the form of a Wessex Loan is approved to the value of £4620.00. The Council will act as guarantor for the loan in the event that the applicant fails to pay back the loan. As part of this application Care and Repair fees will be paid at a sum of £436.50 which will be in the form of a grant.
3 FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS
3.1 The Council will act as guarantor for a Wessex Reinvestment Trust loan of £4620.00. This loan is a capital repayment loan, with monthly repayments of £31.60 over 180 months. The total amount repayable is £5742.00.
3.2 In the event the applicant defaults on the loan the Council would be liable for repayment of the loan. This would be funded from the housing renewal capital budget placing increased commitment on the budget.
3.3 Wessex Reinvestment Trust has undertaken a detailed financial assessment of the applicant and their circumstances to ensure the applicant is able to pay back the loan without financial hardship and fully understands their financial commitments. The loan of £4620.00 is a capital repayment loan fixed over 180 months. The total amount repayable is £5742.00 with monthly instalments fixed at £31.90. The financial assessment has shown the applicant has £170.65 disposable income per month. Therefore the applicant can afford the monthly repayments of £31.90 without suffering any financial hardship. This makes defaulting on payments unlikely.
3.4 In the event the applicant defaults in the first instance Wessex Reinvestment Trust will investigate whether the term can be extended to reduce monthly payments. If this is not possible the Council will be liable for repayments. The Council will continue to pursue the applicant for the recovery of debt.
3.5 A tri-agreement between the site owner and applicant will be signed to assist the Council with recovering monies paid by the Council to Wessex Reinvestment Trust. If the site owner is not willing to participate, an agreement with the applicant will be signed to assist the Council with recovering monies paid by the Council to Wessex Reinvestment Trust.
3.6 In this case, Bath and North East Somerset Care and Repair are acting as agents for the applicant. Their fees are £436.50 which will be paid as a grant. This is as per normal in the Housing Renewal Policy where Care and Repair are the agents.
4 CORPORATE PRIORITIES
5 THE REPORT
5.1 The applicant lives in a park home which is in a poor condition.
5.2 The windows are single glazed windows and are in poor condition. The lack of double glazed windows leads to Excess Cold in the property. People living in cold homes are at risk of suffering ill health, with elderly people are at greatest risk. The works will replace the windows with double glazing to improve the thermal efficiency of the property.
5.3 The electrics of the park home are old and in poor condition. Poor condition electrics lead to a risk of electrical shock and could be the cause of a fire. The electrics are in such a condition as to pose a risk to the safety of the occupants and any visitors. The works will renew the electrics to leave in a safe condition.
5.4 The front steps of the park home are in poor condition. This leads to risk of a fall. Elderly people are at risk of falling and, if a fall does occur, likely to suffer a serious injury. A serious injury could lead to a long stay in hospital. The works will repair these steps and provide a handrail.
5.5 The Housing Renewal Policy 2009 provides secured loans where the loan is registered as a local land charge, either through Wessex Reinvestment Trust Loan or a Council Home Improvement loan. Loans can not be secured against park homes because a local land charge can not be registered. For this reason the applicant falls outside the current Housing Renewal Policy. There is no specific mention of park homes in the Housing Renewal Policy and how assistance can be provided to park home owners.
5.6 The applicant is vulnerable (over 70) and on low income and meets all the criteria for eligibility for Housing Improvement Assistance and a Wessex Reinvestment Trust loan. Wessex Reinvestment Trust provides low interest loans to owner occupiers for undertaking essential repairs to their homes. Wessex Reinvestment Trust has agreed that if the Council acts as guarantor then a loan to the applicant can be provided. Wessex Reinvestment Trust undertakes a detailed financial assessment of an applicant's circumstances to ensure the applicant can afford to pay back a loan. This assessment has shown the applicant has £170.65 disposable income per month and can afford the monthly repayments fixed at £31.90. Wessex Reinvestment Trust is satisfied that the applicant can afford the repayments of the loan. The detailed financial assessment by Wessex means default rates are low.
5.7 The cost of works to repair the mobile home is £4617.00. Wessex Reinvestment Trust has approved a loan to the value of £4620.00. The total amount repayable is £5742.00 over a term of 180 months at £31.90 per month.
5.8 Under the Mobile Homes (England) Regulations 2006 should an owner of a park home (the applicant) wish to sell their home, they must pay 10% of the sale proceeds to the site owner. As well as this, if the owner wishes to gift the home or for another person to occupy the property they must obtain the agreement of the site owner. For this reason the Site Owner will be approached to sign a tri-agreement with the Council and applicant to inform the Council if the park home is sold or the occupation transferred to another party. This will assist the Council in gaining information on when the loan must be repaid to Wessex Reinvestment Trust.
5.9 If the site owner is unwilling to enter into a tri-agreement, an agreement with the applicant will be signed to state the applicant must inform the Council when they sell or gift the home to another.
5.10 In this case, Bath and North East Somerset Care and Repair are acting as agents to arrange the application for home improvement assistance. As per the Housing Renewal Policy the Council will pay Care and Repair fees as a grant.
5.11 An exception is required to allow a loan of £4620.00 to be approved and for the Council to act as guarantor. This loan will allow essential repairs to be undertaken, improving the mobile home for the health, safety and comfort of the applicant and promoting the independence of the applicant.
5.12 Further details can be found in the attached Case Officer Report 1.
6 RISK MANAGEMENT
6.1 The report author and Cabinet member have fully reviewed the risk assessment related to the issue and recommendations, in compliance with the Council's decision making risk management guidance.
6.2 The risk of similar circumstances occurring has been identified. To mitigate this risk, all park home sites have been surveyed by the Housing Improvement Team to establish the extent of problems with park home conditions. The data gathered by this survey is currently being analysed. This survey will inform the Housing Renewal Policy 2010. This will mean any future similar circumstances will be covered in future renewal policies.
7.1 Currently this applicant is excluded from the Housing Renewal Policy due to the type of home owned. This decision will widen access to Local Authority assistance. An Equality Impact Assessment will be undertaken on the Housing Renewal Policy as part of a rolling program of equality impact assessments.
8.1 Providing assistance will allow the owner occupier of the property to undertake repairs to their home. Undertaking repairs will allow the owner occupier to continue to live in their home and the property will be in reasonable repair and free from serious hazards.
8.2 The improved condition of the property may have a positive impact on the health, safety and comfort of the occupier. This could promote the occupiers' independence.
8.3 The owner of the property concerned meets the criteria for this type of financial assistance as outlined in the housing renewal policy.
9 OTHER OPTIONS CONSIDERED
9.1 A grant could be offered to cover the cost of the works. However the preferred method to provide assistance is via a loan. A loan allows money to be recycled to provide further assistance to other people in the future. If a grant was offered the Council could not recycle the money and would not be able to help as many people. A loan is preferred to a grant to allow the Council to recycle money and help as many people as possible.
9.2 Doing nothing. The Council could decide not to offer assistance. However if this occurred, then an elderly vulnerable person would be left at risk of suffering poor health due to the condition of their home. This is not a preferred option.
10.1 Staff; Stakeholders/Partners; Section 151 Finance Officer; Chief Executive; Monitoring Officer
10.2 By meeting and email
11 ISSUES TO CONSIDER IN REACHING THE DECISION
11.1 Customer Focus; Sustainability; Property; Human Rights; Corporate; Health & Safety; Other Legal Considerations
12 ADVICE SOUGHT
12.1 The Council's Monitoring Officer (Council Solicitor) and Section 151 Officer (Strategic Director - Support Services) have had the opportunity to input to this report and have cleared it for publication.
Katherine Coney (01225 396736)
Housing Renewal Policy 2009
Please contact the report author if you need to access this report in an alternative format