Valuation Office Agency
Boarded up properties
Where properties are boarded up.
Introduction dealing with boarded up properties
All information relating to boarded up properties should be held on the VICTER system, which cross-matches addresses with any housing benefit or fair rent cases.
It is important for the rent officer to make notes of all boarded up properties within their area to assist with valuations and with socio-economic data. The information will also be displayed in GIS.
Housing Benefit cases
If a property listed on the boarded up database receives an HB referral for it a pop-up box will appear during the input stage. This information should be noted within the case notes. All cases that are flagged this way should be put out for inspection. If this pop-up occurs when entering a PTD the rent officer should make arrangements with the landlord to view the property.
Fair rent cases
At the input stage a similar pop-up box will appear. As with the HB referral the case notes should reflect the fact that the property is included on the boarded-up database and an inspection should be arranged.
Any property flagged in this way will be inspected, which should enable the rent officer to provide a more accurate valuation. All valuations should reflect the standard of the property found at the inspection.
If the property is no longer boarded up then it should be removed from the database and noted accordingly. Alternatively if a rent officer discovers an empty, boarded property during normal inspections then this should be entered onto the system as a matter of good practice. If a planned inspection turns out to be a boarded up property then the rent officer should complete an external inspection and should annotate any LA decision with the comment Property boarded up please investigate.
Health and safety
Under no circumstances should a rent officer enter a property where there could be a risk to their safety or security. If there is insufficient light, or other such hazards, then an external inspection should be completed. It is imperative that a common sense approach is used.
Large boarded up areas
In areas that have significant numbers of boarded up properties, local arrangements should be made within the team to continue to monitor and record the changes. This good practice will help maintain a strong, accurate, database.
- Inspection policy
- Inspection practice
Rent officer Housing Benefit valuations are principally made using the comparative valuation method. This requires using confirmed comparable lettings information; in other words looking for other properties and tenancies that match the subject property closely.
Closely in this sense means not just geographically closely, but closely in accommodation detail (i.e. the number of rooms and what facilities the property has) and also closely in time (i.e. the lettings information should not be old or relating to a period when the local market was different). In a fast moving market, lettings information collected relatively recently may already be out of date, but in a more stable market, information may have a longer shelf life. Current RO guidance is that property specific valuations (i.e. the significantly high rent, size and rent and exceptionally high rent determinations) should be made using recent lettings information, recent in this instance being preferably no more than 3 months older than the relevant time for the case. LRR determinations should be based on 12 months of lettings information, to even out short term trends and distortions.
However there may be occasions in which the available confirmed lettings information is not suitable. The lettings information in question might be distinctly different, or have different features, or it might be some distance from the subject property. In such situations suitable adjustments can be made to the values shown by the available confirmed lettings information, to reflect the disparity. For instance if you have confirmed lettings information from the area of the subject property, but the properties do not have a particular amenity that your subject property has, and you know that that this amenity adds 10% to the value, you can add 10% to the rents of the confirmed lettings information that you do have, to come to a representative figure.
In some limited situations you may find that there is just not enough confirmed lettings information available from the relevant area to come to a reliable determination. This may happen in 2 situations:
where there is no directly comparable lettings information at all (usually a property specific determination), orthere is some but not enough to come to a reliable determination (more likely for a LHA, LRR or SRR determination)
These situations can be remedied by interpolation, extrapolation, and rental differential or by using information from outside our normal basis. These are broadly similar processes and involve taking lettings information which doesnt fit the question at hand and taking a view of the missing element from whatever information or trend is available.
In effect all interpolation means is coming to a logical conclusion as to a missing value when you have values on either side of it to base your conclusion on. For instance if you know the values of 2 room (100) and 3 room properties (110) and 5 room properties (130) and 6 room ones (140) you can make an informed valuation of a 4 room one as being somewhere between the value of the 3 and 5 room lettings information, at, say, 120.
Extrapolation is slightly different in that it extends a range based on the trend that the available range suggests. An example of this would be where we had values for 2 room properties (100), 3 room ones (110), 4 room ones (120) and 5 room properties (130). In such a situation it might be reasonable to conclude that 6 room properties would be around 140 and 7 room properties 150.
These very basic examples of interpolation and extrapolation above assume that we have information from the area in question and that we can use this information to fill in gaps in our knowledge. They are mainly used for property specific determinations as they rely on us having some information from the relevant area to work with; its just that we have to read between the gaps in that information.
We can also use the market differential technique to help when there is some lettings information but not of the particular property type in question; in effect this is an extension of interpolation or extrapolation. This involves taking information from a comparable area to the one in question and applying it to the subject area. Instead of using actual rent levels from that area, rent officers will look at how rents differ between different categories of property, and apply those differentials to whatever lettings information is available from within the subject area.
Local Reference Rent and single room rent determinations
This section is about the use of lettings information from outside the Broad Rental Market Area (LRR), or aspirational, or Housing Benefit information.
Whilst the above techniques are useful for property specific valuations, we may be in the situation where we have some information but ideally wed like more to provide a better perspective for a local reference rent or single room rent determination. The determination of H and L require a body of information to provide a broad overview of the range of the market to enable us to determine where rents become exceptional. Whilst rent officers may have background general knowledge we still have to demonstrate that our determinations are based on market information and to do so we must be able to point to the lettings information used in the determination process. A rent officer estimate may arrive at the right level but it would be impossible to demonstrate that this was an objectively taken decision.
In such situations rent officers can extend either the geographical area of the search or the type of information searched for. It must be stressed that primarily rent officers should endeavour to use confirmed lettings information from the right time period from within the same BRMA(LRR), or within the same locality for determinations made on cases with a relevant time prior to 5th January 2009. This may include HB referral data which may be looked at as well to get a full picture of the local market.
There is no set amount of lettings information that must be available for a LRR determination, obviously this will depend on the extent of the BRMA(LRR), its nature, and the category of LRR. Rent officers must take an objective view of the available lettings information and decide whether this is sufficient and representative of the market in the BRMA(LRR). If it is there is no need to extend the search. Where there is not enough information from within normal parameters to come to reliable determinations, extrapolation may be considered.
Where there is not enough confirmed lettings informati