The primary purpose of this policy is to provide guidance to housing staff to respond effectively to tenants with complex needs. It is anticipated such a response will create more sustainable and positive outcomes for tenants as they are able to successfully manage their tenancy.
Housing Plus will manage tenancies in accordance with:
Both the tenant and Housing Plus have rights and obligations under the above Act, the residential tenancy agreement and Housing Plus policies.
Term: Complex Needs
Definition: A framework for understanding multiple, interlocking needs that span health and social issues. People with complex needs may have to negotiate a number of different issues in their life, for example learning disability, mental health problems, substance abuse. They may also be living in deprived circumstances and lack access to suitable housing or meaningful daily activity .
The following needs are considered as having a compounding effect: mental illness, substance misuse, hoarding, discrimination based on ethnicity, sexuality, domestic and family violence, history of homelessness, poverty and history of involvement with the criminal justice system.
Term: Sustaining Tenancies
Definition: A sustainable tenancy is one that can be maintained successfully by the tenant throughout the life of the tenancy. For this to happen, certain conditions need to be in place, the property needs to be appropriate for their needs, the tenant needs to possess the skills required to maintain their tenancy and they need to meet their tenant responsibilities.
Housing Plus recognises the importance of effective tenancy management in providing homes and communities where people aspire to live, and understand that well managed tenancies can provide a positive impact on the wider community.
Housing Plus will undertake the following considerations and procedures when responding to applicants/tenants with complex needs:
Housing Plus believes that sustainable tenancies are created by allocating the right property to the right tenants where complex needs have been identified for the applicant. Housing Plus will ensure that all new tenants are allocated properties that maximise the opportunity to create a sustainable tenancy.
This will include contacting the applicant’s support provider (if relevant) in relation to any proposed offer to the applicant (where appropriate consent has been provided by the applicant).
It is recognised that prevention strategies are more effective than reacting to issues once they develop.
Therefore, Housing Plus will undertake a risk assessment process for all priority housing applicants at the point of allocation to build a detailed profile of the risks an applicant might have in creating a sustainable tenancy. This assessment will help to determine appropriate referrals that could be made prior to the lease sign up to assist the new tenant to prepare to move to their new accommodation and to maximise opportunities for a sustainable tenancy.
The following documents will assist the assessment:
The outcome of the risk assessment will be recorded in a Tenancy Response Plan. For applicants who have a history of debt and/or rental arrears, they will be supported to link in with financial counselling and/or financial management to assist with developing a budget and increase their budgeting skills. Establishing this prior to the tenancy commencing will assist the tenant to sustain their tenancy. Such referrals and agreement to link with support will be recorded in the Tenancy Response Plan.
Housing Plus will provide information in an easy to read format, if this is considered appropriate/necessary, to assist new tenants understand their responsibilities as a tenant and their requirement to meet tenancy obligations such as payment of rent on time and being a good neighbour.
The new tenant will be encouraged to bring a support worker with them to the lease sign up in order to assist the tenant to understand what they can do to sustain their tenancy. The new tenant should be informed about what they should do if they do experience difficulties sustaining their tenancy. This will involve informing their tenancy worker and support worker if they are experiencing problems with their tenancy so strategies can be put into place to assist them.
The tenancy worker undertaking the lease sign up will review the Tenancy Response Plan developed during the allocation stage and make any appropriate changes in consultation with the new tenant and the support worker.
New tenants who have a previous history of debt and/or rental arrears will be encouraged to link in with financial counselling and/or financial management to assist with developing a budget and increase their budgeting skills. Establishing this at the beginning of their tenancy will assist the tenant to sustain their tenancy. Undertaking an early intervention approach through discussion with the tenant about possible supports they might need and referral to relevant support services will assist the tenant establish a successful tenancy.
In accordance with our Tenancy Agreements and associated procedures, Housing Plus will undertake a combination of tenancy management strategies to ensure tenants can be supported to sustain their tenancies and also remain an inclusive part of our communities.
Housing Plus will conduct routine inspections to all properties in accordance with inspection procedures. There will be a home visit conducted within an agreed timeframe (typically 6 weeks) after the tenancy has commenced to determine if there are any early signs of tenancy issues and to reiterate the tenant’s and landlord’s rights and responsibilities as per the Tenancy Agreement. In addition to assessing the condition of the property, the routine inspections will allow Housing Plus to determine whether there are any tenancy issues; discuss any concerns the tenant may have; and refer tenants to any relevant services to help sustain the tenancy.
When an issue has been identified as placing the tenancy at risk, the housing worker will make a referral to the appropriate support provider. The Tenancy Response Plan will be reviewed and modified to outline the response/s to the identified tenancy issues. Future tenancy visits to monitor the progress of the tenancy may be included in the Tenancy Response Plan and should be agreed to by the tenant.
Housing Plus understands that some tenants will need support for varying amounts of time to enable them to establish and sustain a tenancy. Housing Plus has a range of partnerships with local support services that enable a collaborative plan to be established with the tenant to assist them with this goal.
Tenants may present with a range of needs throughout their tenancy. Housing Plus will assess the needs of tenants and develop a response based on a tenant’s individual needs.
The Vulnerability Assessment Tool (VAT) will be used to determine the severity and likelihood of a tenancy being at risk. The information can be used to indicate the tenants’ vulnerability for sustaining their tenancy.
Based on the VAT outcomes Housing Plus will collaborate with the tenant and partner organisations to develop or modify a Tenancy Response Plan to address the identified risks/needs. The response plan will outline the required response/s to manage the identified risk/s and articulate the required interventions if the risk escalates.
The response plan will be implemented in consultation with all stakeholders and regularly monitored according to the changing needs of the tenant.
Housing Plus recognises that domestic and family violence can happen to anyone, regardless of social background, disability, age, gender, religion, sexuality or ethnicity.
For further information about how Housing Plus supports tenants experience Domestic and Family Violence please refer to our Identifying and Responding to Domestic and Family Violence Policy (Community Housing).
Housing Plus is committed to supporting tenants to manage their finances and meet their debt commitments. Housing Plus will promote a rent first approach that focuses on providing early advice and support to ensure that tenants do not fall into arrears and that any enforcement action is proportionate.
Housing Plus has a range of strategies in place to support financial inclusion for tenants. A ‘payment culture’ will be fostered and tenants with identified complex needs (particularly those tenants that have a previous history of rent arrears/debt), will have regular direct contact (face to face/phone) during the first three months of their tenancy to establish a good rent payment habit. This process will continue for any tenants who have been identified as experiencing financial difficulties in paying their rent and other charges. Early, swift and direct contact will be made with the tenant once arrears are detected.
Tenants will be encouraged to contact Housing Plus if they are having trouble paying their rent. Tenants who are identified as being vulnerable to rental arrears will have a tailored approach in accordance with their needs. This approach will be outlined in the Tenancy Response Plan.
Such a plan will include Housing Plus working with other services and partners to provide appropriate support services.
Tenants will be empowered through the provision of information, advise and support to determine how to address their rental arrears.
Housing Plus seeks to understand the experiences of tenants who struggle to sustain their tenancies to support a quality review mechanism that strengthens service delivery practices. During the tenancy, information will be collected to ensure that accurate and up to date records are maintained in relation to all tenants and other household members. Details in relation to support needs will also be collected. This information will inform our review of tenancy failures to determine the reasons why tenancies don’t succeed and establish any reviews/changes that may be appropriate to our policies and procedures to improve tenant sustainability.
Updated – November 2018
Housing Plus is a progressive social enterprise that re-invests ALL profits back into improving social outcomes for individuals and communities in regional NSW. Housing Plus is a registered not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, and is a Tier 1 accredited community housing provider.
Suite 8, Level 2, 113 Byng Street
Orange NSW 2800
PO Box 968 ORANGE NSW 2800
Phone: 1800 603 300
Fax: (02) 6361 1609