1. What is Choice Based Lettings (CBL)?
Westminster Council has operated a Choice Based Lettings (CBL) scheme for priority housing applicants since November 2004. Applicants eligible to be re-housed via CBL choose where they want to live by placing 'bids' on properties that are advertised each week. Westminster's CBL Provider is Home Connections.
2. How does CBL work?
Whenever a suitable property becomes ready to let it is advertised on the CBL website on a weekly basis. The number of properties will vary each week depending on what properties are available. The bidding opens every Wednesday and closes at midnight the following Sunday. On occasions bidding may be extended for example over Christmas/New Year. We will notify applicants of any bidding or CBL-related changes on the Home Connections website.
During the bidding period applicants will be able to 'bid' for a home and their position for a property will depend on their priority (the number of points they have) and not when the bid is placed. If two applicants bid for the same property and have the same number of points, the property will be offered to the household who has been on the list the longest or has the highest mobility category.
3. What is a Mobility Category?
A Mobility Category determines the extent to which someone has, or does not have, mobility issues. To make the best use of our housing stock all properties are graded so that those with the highest medical needs get the most suitable properties. The categories are;
||Applicants who use a wheelchair all the time.
||Applicants who need a home which is wheelchair accessible but may not need to use it inside the home.
||Applicants with severe mobility problems who require a ground floor or lifted property with level access and no internal stairs. Property may be lifted.
||All other applicants.
Every application and property is given a 'mobility category' to ensure properties are offered to the most suitable household. For example if a property is suitable for a mobility category 3 applicant, applicants with mobility category 3 will be given priority over an applicant with mobility category 4 even if the applicant with mobility category 4 has more points.
Properties suitable for wheelchair users will not be advertised through CBL. Applicants requiring Mobility Category 1 or 2 properties will be given a direct offer. This is due to the limited supply of this type of property and the relatively small number of people registered for this type of property.
4. How is the Mobility Category assessed?
Mobility Categories are determined by taking in to consideration all of the medical information provided by the applicant. If an applicant feels they have a medical condition that affects their mobility and it has not recently (within the last year) been assessed, they will need to complete a Medical Assessment Form. Applicants should contact the Housing Solutions Service on 020 7641 1000 to request a Medical Assessment Form to complete and return.
5. How are properties advertised?
Properties are advertised on the Home Connections website.
6. How are bids placed?
Applicants eligible to bid are issued with a confidential User ID and PIN number and a step-by-step guide on how to bid. Bids can be placed via the Home Connections App, texts from a mobile phone or on the Home Connections website. Applicants with rent arrears are unable to bid until the arrears have been cleared.
7. What happens if someone is unable to bid?
If anyone needs help with bidding they can contact the Choice & Lettings team at the Housing Solutions Service on 020 7641 1000. Anyone bidding on behalf of an applicant will need the applicant's ID and PIN numbers.
8. Can bids be placed every week?
Some applicants may not be able to bid every week as we need to ensure that all priority groups have an opportunity to bid successfully. For example;
- Applicants will not be able to bid if the quota for their re-housing list has been met. Applicants registered on smaller quotas will therefore face a longer wait than others requiring the same bedroom size from another priority group.
- If applicants are waiting for a larger family sized home they are likely to be waiting a lot longer than applicants who require a smaller sized property. This is because we have less family sized accommodation for the number of people waiting for this type of property.
It is therefore important that applicants think carefully about what properties to bid for and whether to accept a property or not as their list may not be to bid the following week or for the remainder of the financial year.
9. What properties can applicants bid for?
A range of properties with different tenancy terms and conditions are advertised and not all will be suitable for everyone. Applicants will need to decide what property is best for them. Further information about the individual schemes can be found on the Home Connections/WCC website.
10. Can applicants bid for a larger/smaller property?
Applicants can only bid for the size of property that they have been assessed for, or for a smaller property (normally one bedroom less). Applicants cannot bid for a property larger than they need.
In most cases, we will allow households to bid for one bedroom less than they have been assessed for. Very large households (normally those requiring five or more bedrooms) may be able to bid down two bedrooms less, however, only if they will not make the new property statutorily overcrowded. Different rules on the size of households occupying a property will apply if it is managed by a Registered Provider.
11. Can applicants bid for more than one property?
Applicants can bid for as many properties as they like. However, they can only be shortlisted for a maximum of three properties in any given week. If the viewing times clash, applicants will have to choose which one they want to attend. We will tell bidders which property they are most highly placed for to help them decide.
12. When will applicants know if their bid has been successful?
Once the bidding is closed applicants are shortlisted the following Monday (or the next working day if it is a bank holiday) and usually the top three bidders are invited to view the property the next day. Applicants will not be contacted if they have not been shortlisted. Shortlisted applicants will be contacted by telephone on the Monday, to view the property on the Tuesday of the same week, i.e. the next day! This means it is very important we have the right contact number for applicants.
After viewing the property the bidder with the most points (highest priority) who wants the property will be offered the tenancy. If that household decides not to take the property it will be offered to the household in position two etc. The property will be let to the household in the highest position that accepts the property.
13. What happens if applicants cannot be contacted by telephone?
If an applicant has been shortlisted and does not have a phone, we will try and contact them by other means. If we have an e-mail address or mobile telephone number for the applicant we will send an e-mail or text. Otherwise we will hand deliver a letter to them.
14. What happens if applicants cannot view a property on the Tuesday?
Most viewings for Westminster Council properties will take place on the Tuesday. Unfortunately, if applicants are unable to view on this day, they will not be able to continue their interest in the property. Applicants will be advised by the Registered Provider of the viewing dates and times for their properties.
15. Can someone else view the property on behalf of an applicant?
This will not be possible as applicants need to decide if they want the property on that day and be ready to sign for it on the Wednesday. If applicants have made a joint application with their spouse or partner, they can view a property without them however both applicants will have to be available for the sign up.
16. What happens if an applicant decides they do not want the property?
If an applicant views a property and is then offered it, in nearly all cases, there will be no penalty for refusing it. Applicants simply check the website again each week and bid for the properties they are interested in. However, an applicants’ bidding position will change for each property as it is depends on who else is interested in the same property.
Some people will have a limited time in which to successfully bid for a property, we will notify applicants individually if this applies to them. If applicants have not been successful during their bidding period, they may be given one direct offer of a property. If they refuse the property we may end our housing duty to them. If this happens they will have to make arrangements to find their own accommodation and their application will be closed. It is therefore important that if someone has been time limited for bidding that they think carefully about the decision before turning down a property.
17. Can applicants get more points?
Applicants will have already been given priority points based on their housing need, so we do not need to re-assess anyone. However, if an applicant has had a change in their circumstances, for example if they (or a member of their household) have a serious medical problem that we are not aware of, please let us know.
Applicants may also be able to get extra points if the main applicant or his/her partner are currently employed and have been employed for the last two years. Applicants will need to provide sufficient documentation to prove that they are employed. Applicants can only apply for additional employment points if their application does not already have these points.
Employment and Residence points do not apply to households requiring studio or 1-bedroom properties.
18. How long will applicants have to bid before they get re-housed?
We are unable to say as applicants will only bid for properties that they want, in the areas they want and their bidding position depends on the number of applicants also interested in the same property and what their priority is. Applicants will be better positioned to obtain the property they want if they are highly pointed on the housing register and bid as widely as possible.
Restricting their areas of choice is likely to mean they will have to wait longer before the type of property they want becomes available. Applicants will need to check what properties become available each week and decide if they want to wait for a specific area or block, or if they want to consider widening their choices.
Applicants placing their bid on-line can see their bidding position. The bidding position will change during the bidding period as more applicants place bids on the same property. Details of the successful bidder are published each week, this will give them an indication of where they are.
19. What happens if someone does not have priority?
If someone is not in any priority group they will not be able to bid for properties.