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Thursday, 24-Apr-2014
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Advice

Advice

Make Your Bids Count
Lengthy Wait
Southwark Reach
Property Photographs and Housing Advice
Ground Floor or Garden Properties
Proofs of identity and residence
House Exchange
Important information needed when viewing a property
Bidding tips and issues
Successful bids and Contacting successful bidders
Making your bid
Viewing properties
Remember:  Its not first come, first served!
A guide to waiting times
Instant response on text bidding and Making Your Bid
Nominations to housing associations and Shortlists of Bidders
Bidding Issues and Nominations to housing associations
Property advert symbols and Contacting successful bidders
Life Begins at 60
Refusing an offer
Smart Move
Southwark Works
Tenant management organisations – TMOs

 

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Make your bids count!Family House Image

Some customers have refused offers of properties they had successfully bid for which can be time consuming for them as well as staff. It also delays the properties being offered to those who really want them, so here are some tips to consider before you make your bid.

Location

Is the property close to family or friends, or facilities you need, for example schools, nurseries, doctors, shops, buses or trains? Property adverts in the magazine include some local information and more details are available on this website.

Bedroom sizes

The adverts should indicate whether the bedrooms are single or double. The size of double bedrooms should exceed 10 square metres or 110 square feet.

Floor levels

The adverts will give details of the floor levels of the properties and also indicate if lifts are available. bidding

The bidding period

Remember, it makes no difference when, during the 5 day bidding period, you make your bids as the list of customers bids for each property are ranked in bands and in date order of the applications qualifying dates in those bands, not when the bid is actually made.

Successful bids

At the end of the bidding period, you must make sure we can contact you during working hours on the telephone number you have given us so that an appointment can be made for you to view your chosen property. If you change your phone number, make sure you let us know your new number so we can reach you.

You will also be sent an offer letter which you must take with you when you view the property as this contains important details about you and the proofs of identity needed to enable you to sign the tenancy agreement. Its also very important that you attend the viewing at the appointment time you have been given, otherwise you could lose your offer.

Need help?

If you need any help to choose or bid for a property on this website, please telephone 020 7525 4140.

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Lengthy Wait

Though we are delighted that Southwark Homesearch is enabling applicants to choose their homes, there are still many more who face a lengthy wait before their bids are successful. 

long queue

Such long waiting times reflect high levels of demand for a limited supply of rented council and housing association properties in London. Though councils are encouraged by the governments' Decent Homes standard to improve the quality of the housing available, there is little immediate prospect of the quantity of housing available increasing.  Given this reality, you might want to consider whether there are faster housing options available to you.

Renting privately gives you a lot of choice on where you live in Southwark , and while it is often more expensive than council and housing association schemes, if you are getting benefits or are working and on a low income, you may be entitled to housing benefit.

Again, if you are working but unable to afford to buy a home on the open market, you may be able to part-buy a home through a Shared Ownership scheme. These schemes are run by housing associations and you might only have to get a mortgage for 30% of the property value and pay rent on the rest to the housing association.

key worker

If you are a key worker with a job in an essential public service, for example some NHS staff, teachers, police, prison and probation service staff and social workers, there are other shared ownership schemes available.

There are other, often faster, housing options, such as exchanging with a council or housing association tenant, if you are already a council or housing association tenant, under the mutual exchange scheme. There are also several ways of moving away from Southwark to homes in other parts of the country, for example mutual exchange, and if you are over 55, Girlings retirement scheme or over 60, Seaside and Country Homes scheme. To qualify for these three options you need to be a council or housing association tenant.

Details of all these options plus other useful information and housing advice can be found in the booklet ‘Looking for a home' available now in all the Area Housing Offices and One Stop Shops. You can also telephone us on 020 7525 4140 for this information.

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southwark reach logo

Southwark Reach

If you are finding life difficult and struggling to cope, then Southwark Reach can help.  They can offer free and confidential support to vulnerable people.  This service, funded by the council, is available to everyone in the borough of Southwark.

If you, or someone you know, are not currently getting any support but could benefit from it, please let them know. Experienced workers can visit you at home and have access to interpreters if English is not your first language. 

brick house

You can ring Southwark Reach on free phone 0808 168 0708 or visit their website on www.thamesreach.org.uk  for more information.  Please provide your contact details so that the team can get in touch with you and find out as much as possible about you or the person you are concerned about. 

Alternatively, you can drop in to see their welfare rights adviser for a chat about Southwark Reach and what they can offer. Southwark Reach also offers assistance and access to computers for bidding.

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Southwark property

Property photographs

The photograph in each property advertisement is not necessarily a picture of the actual property that is currently vacant. For example, we have a library of photographs of each housing estate – usually one block on each estate is photographed and this picture is used to represent all blocks on the estate. Similarly, when a house becomes vacant, we have one photograph of the street rather than the actual property itself.

Housing advice

Southwark Councils housing advice service provides advice and help for private tenants, housing association tenants and homeowners with
advice so you can stay where you are (for example, if a private landlord is trying to evict you) Southwark property 2

  • tackling problems of disrepair in your home
  • help with rent deposit recovery
  • mortgage arrears and mortgage repossession
  • serious rent arrears if you are a private tenant
  • rehousing options
  • renting from private landlords

So please contact our Housing Advice Service on 020 7525 5950 if you need help.

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Ground floor or garden properties

medical priority

Anyone can bid for ground floor or garden properties.  However when this type of property is advertised, adverts may indicate that some priority will be given to those who have been medically assessed as needing this type of accommodation by the councils Medical Assessment Service. 

This will be applied where such an applicant is amongst
  • The first three highest bidders, who are within the same band as the highest applicant on the shortlist, or in the next band below

So if you see the MP symbol next to an advert, this means that bidders with  a medical recommendation for a ground floor or garden property will be offered the property providing they are one of the top three bidders.  If you do not have this medical recommendation you can still place a bid – but remember priority will be given to to those who medically need this type of housing.  If none of the top three bidders have a medical recommendation for this type of home, then the property will be offered to the highest bidder in the normal way.

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Proofs of identity and residence

Once you have viewed the property and decided that you want to make it your home, it is very important that you have the following documents: for each member of your household:

Proof of identity - we need one of these documents for every member of your household:

driving-license

  • Birth certificate
  • passport

Proof of Residence - we need two of the following documents for the head of the household:

Phone bill

  • Electoral registry entry/card
  • Rent book/card
  • Recent bill or credit payment book for gas, electricity or water supply
  • Pension book
  • Confirmation of address from employer or DSS
  • Tenancy agreement
  • Full UK driving licence
  • Recent bill for your telephone or Council Tax
  • A recent bank statement

Proof for children - we need one of the following for each of your children

Birth Certificate

  • Child Benefit book
  • Custody or Residence Order
  • A Solicitor's letter confirming they have acted for you regarding a dispute over a custody/residence of your child/children and how the dispute was resolved
  • Confirmation from DSS or Social Services
  • Full birth certificate

Without this information you will not be able to sign up for the tenancy.  If you are unable to provide this information, please inform the Housing Officer before viewing the property.

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House Exchange

House Exchange

Since Southwark joined House Exchange, a website for Southwark council tenants who are looking to swap their homes, over 500 tenants have registered on it. The website allows tenants to search the House Exchange database of registered applicants to identify possible mutual exchange partners. As Southwark tenants you have FREE access and use of this site.

Unlike Southwark Council's previous mutual exchange scheme, House Exchange's potential to help you to find a possible mutual Exchange partner is huge as there over 30 social landlords in London, including LB Lewisham, and across the country, who are members of the scheme so far.

property advert

It is easy to register and use the site. Simply visit the website www.southwark.houseexchange.org.uk and complete the on-line application. Once registered we will check and approve your entry and send you your unique ID number and username to allow you to carry out the full range of searches and find details of potential exchange partners.

If you do not have access to a computer or internet access, we may be able to assist in limited circumstances to register you onto the site. Please contact us on 020 7525 1336 Tuesdays to Fridays for more information.

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Important information needed when viewing a property

Offer Image

If your bid has been successful, you will be sent an offer letter, inviting you to the view property. It is very important that you bring with you the documents listed below, to the area office. This is because you will need to sign for the tenancy on the date of viewing the property, should you decide to accept it.

  1. Please bring your offer letter with you to the area office shown at the top of the first page. In addition, your first weeks' rent will be due at your sign-up. If you are already claiming Housing Benefit or think that you may qualify because you are on benefits or a low income, you must bring proof of income and/or savings with you. We will assist you to complete a Housing Benefit application form. Click here for a complete list of documents you will need to bring.
  2. You must also bring proof of identity for all members of your household, either a birth certificate or a passport. The main applicant (or applicants if you sign up for a joint tenancy), must bring two proofs of residence each, for example:
  • rent book/card
  • pension book
  • driving licence
  • recent bank statement
  • tenancy agreement

passport

For any children living with you, you must bring one of the following, for example: 

  • Child Benefit book
  • Custody or Residence Order
  • Each child's birth certificate

The complete list of these documents can be found on your offer letter.

Please note that other bidders may also be invited to view at the same time, in case you do not accept your offer.

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Bidding tips and issues

Bidding

To avoid unnecessary refusals, only bid for a property if you are really interested in it. You wont be penalised if you dont place a bid every week as it is your choice!

Before you make your bid, check the actual location of the property you are interested in, look at the types of public transport links – are they accessible for you to travel to work, school, child care, relatives etc?

local map

Amenities within the property are important too, for example, check if there is a lift or stairs to its entrance and the floor level it is on, as well as for example,  the type of heating it has. The bidding symbols in the Guidance section at the back of the magazine and on the website will help you. Remember, if the property is within a block that does not have a lift, the symbol will show a flight of stairs meaning that the block has stair access only to the property.

If possible, it is always a good idea to have a look at the property from the outside before the end of the bidding cycle. This will also give you an opportunity to have a look at the surrounding area. You will then have time to withdraw your bid if you change your mind and place it on a property more suitable to your needs. Alternatively, you can wait for the following weeks bidding cycle.

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Successful bid

bidding online

Remember, if you have a successful bid and are offered a property, your application will be suspended until the outcome of the offer is known and you will not be able to place a bid in the following weekly cycle.

If you have been advised that your bid is second on the shortlist, you can still view the property and be able to bid in the next weekly cycle. However, if the applicant with the successful bid refuses the property and you are offered it, your application will then be suspended as stated above.

Successful Bid

Contacting successful bidders

We try to call customers with successful bids on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after the bidding closes to arrange viewing times.

We are trying to speed up the process of reletting empty homes so please be prepared for things to happen very quickly. We will invite you to view the property as early as the Wednesday. It is very important that we are able to contact successful bidders so please watch out for our call.

Unfortunately, it is becoming more difficult to speak to customers because the telephone numbers on their applications are no longer available.

Please keep your contact details up to date. You can do this by telling your area housing office or phoning the housing options advice line on 020 7525 4140.

Also, don't forget to check your telephone regularly for messages and to keep your mobile switched on immediately after the bidding period closes.

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Making your bid

Kiosk

As well as using our website to bid on line at www.southwarkhomesearch.org.uk and our multi-lingual hotline on 0845 270 6055, dont forget that there are 8 free touch screen kiosks available across the borough to view properties and place bids.

mother and son image

Text bidding is also available and messages should be sent to 0778 148 6526. Remember to use the number 0 and not the letter o, and to check your housing register number, date of birth and property reference number before you send your text message to us and dont forget to separate the day, the month and the year of your birth by using the / symbol. Once you have sent your bid by text, you will receive a text message back instantly to say whether your bid was accepted or not.

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Viewing properties

searching for a home

When the bidding period closes, the top three bidders are contacted to invite them to view the property they have placed a bid on.

You will be asked to meet one of the housing team at the property and be given the full address of it when we call you. Full details of the address will also be in the letter offering you the property.

family picture

Dont forget to bring all the necessary documents with you when you come to view the property, as you will be expected to return to the area housing office to sign the tenancy agreement straightaway if you decide to accept it.

Remember, you must keep your contact details up to date by telling your area office or phone the housing options advice line on 020 7525 4140 if any of your details have changed.

 

 

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Band and waiting time is important, not when you place your bid

Remember:  Its not first come, first served!

You can place a bid on the property of your choice any time between Thursday and Sunday.  For example, some applicants bid early on Thursday morning and they may be told at that time that they are first in the queue for the property. However, as other applicants later place bids on the same property, or withdraw them, queue positions can change. It all depends on your priority on the housing list. So if you are told you are queue position one, remember that someone may place a bid after you who has a higher priority on the list, and you will then go down to queue position two and so on.

bricks

After bidding closes, a computerised shortlist is produced for each property, listing every applicant who has placed a bid. The applicant in the highest band with the earliest qualifying date will appear at the top of each list. The property is then offered to this applicant. If it is refused, it will then be offered to the next applicant on the shortlist and so on. This means that you could still be offered a property some weeks after it was advertised.

 

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A guide to waiting times

Have you ever wondered how long you need to be on the housing register before your bids are successful?

Waiting

Waiting times for each property advertised depend on how many bids are placed and who places them. This also depends on the type of property, the amount of bedrooms it has, its location, its floor level and accessibility.

Houses have the longest waiting times, especially those with three bedrooms or more. Flats and maisonettes have the shortest waiting times, particularly if they are above the fourth floor.

The most reliable guide to waiting times is the Summary of Recent Bids table published at www.southwarkhomesearch.org.uk, and in most magazines. This table lists the details of each property previously advertised, the number of applicants who bid for it, and the registration date of the successful bidder. 

hands and keys image

This information can help you assess your waiting time prospects for each type of property and location. Waiting times are generally long, reflecting growing levels of demand for a restricted supply of rented council and housing association properties.

You can also find the final queue position of each bid you have placed by logging onto the website and going into 'bidding history'.

For further information on how to best use Southwark Homesearch or if you are interested in other rehousing options, contact the Housing Options Advice Line on 020 7525 4140

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Instant response on text bidding

text help

Dont forget, if you place your bid by text message, you will know instantly whether you bid was successful or not. You will receive a text message back with this information.

To text us successfully, you must send a text using only numbers, spaces and slashes to separate the numbers in your date of birth (for instance 27 September 1973 would be 27/09/1973).

You can bid anytime between 12.01 am on a Thursday morning and 11.59 pm Monday night. It doesn’t matter you will be just as likely to get the property.

Please follow the guidance in how to bid by text  and send your text to 0778 148 6526.

Making your bid - it's not 'first come first served'!

Please remember, you can place your bid any time from Thursday to Sunday at midnight – it doesn't matter how early or late you are within the bidding cycle. At the close of bidding, all bidders for each property are listed in order of their priority on the housing list, and not because they have placed their bid first!

When you place your bid, you will be told your queue position for the property. However, other higher priority applicants may then place their bid after you (or withdraw their bids), so you can go up or down the queue at any time until the bidding closes.

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Southern Housing Logo

Nominations to housing associations

If your bid was successful for a housing association property, we will write to tell you and advise that the housing association will contact you. The housing association will then invite you to view the property and to sign the tenancy agreement.

Please be aware that if your bid was successful on a newly built property, there could be a delay of two or three months before it is ready for you to move into. The housing association will keep you updated on the progress and advise you when it can be viewed.

London and Quadrant Housing Logo

Shortlists of bidders

Once bidding closes, the computer produces shortlists of bidders for all the properties advertised, listed in order of band and then date. Although the successful bidders are contacted straight away, it is quite usual for other bidders to be contacted a few weeks after the bidding cycle closes.

This is because customers higher up the shortlist may have refused the property or accepted something else, so even if you are not successful initially, you could be contacted a few weeks later and asked to view it.

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Bidding issues

Floor plan

Property adverts give an indication of bedroom sizes by stating single – suitable for one person, or double – suitable for two people. Please make sure that the property you bid for is big enough for your household's needs.

You can bid for a Southwark council property that is smaller than your needs. For instance, a property with two large bedrooms when your need is for three bedrooms. However, do not try to bid for a property that has two bedrooms less than you need, as the bidding IT system will not accept the bid.

Remember, housing associations will not accept successful bidders who have bid for one of their properties that is smaller than their needs.

Nominations to housing associations

signing image

If your bid was successful on a housing association property, we will write and advise you that the housing association will contact you. The housing association will then invite you to view the property and to sign the tenancy agreement.

Please be aware that if your bid was successful on a newly built property, there could be a delay of two or three months before it is ready for you to move into.

 

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Property advert symbols

property has stairs

To avoid any confusion when looking at the property adverts, the stairs symbol refers to the block the advertised property is in, not the individual flat or maisonette. So for example, a ground floor flat advertised within a block will have the stairs symbol. This symbol is only used when the block does not have a lift.

lift icon

Similarly, if a ground floor flat or maisonette is advertised showing the lift symbol, this means that the block has a lift and not the individual property.

Contacting successful bidders

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday following the close of bidding, we will call as many customers with successful bids as we can to arrange viewing times.

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Having one bid each week means that it is very important to keep your contact details up to date so that if you have a successful bid, we can call you to arrange a viewing time. You should keep us informed of any change to your details  by informing your area housing office or by phoning  the housing options advice line on 020 7525 4140.

Dont forget to check your telephone for messages and keep your mobile switched on every week after bidding closes. Also, do accept calls from 'withheld numbers' as it could be us offering you a property!

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Life Begins at 60

couple

If you are independent minded, over 60 and want to get more out of life, why not consider sheltered housing?

Southwark sheltered schemes offer the privacy of self contained flats (bedroom, kitchen, living room and bathroom) with attractive common rooms, communal gardens and a laundry.

A floating support officer provides support, if you need it, together with a 24 hour pull-cord alarm system in each room. After 4pm and at weekends security checks and emergencies are covered by the SMART Service.

Older lady 2 All the schemes have a lively range of social activities; for example, most schemes have morning or afternoon tea or coffee sessions and games or bingo evenings. Nearly all have regular social events including suppers or musical events and several offer arts and crafts activities and organise outings to entertainment venues or places of interest. Many schemes invite hairdressers, the mobile library service and other practical or advice surgeries. We provide help with gardening and a handyman service to do odd jobs and general financial surgeries at all schemes.

  • Lunch clubs are held at Deynesford, Lew Evans House, Hughes House and Harry Lamborn
  • Exercise classes take place at Rock Grove, Linden Grove and Russell Court
  • Church services at Jack Jones, King Charles Court, Ray Gunter House, Keetons, Lettsom and Lucy Brown
  • Help with shopping delivery and organised transport to a local supermarket is done at Lucy Brown House
  • Computer classes are held at Brook Drive

Older gentlemen

You need not necessarily pay more than your existing rent.

Weekly Charges include rent and service charges, most of which are eligible to be paid by Housing Benefit. There is also a supporting people charge which is not charged to Housing Benefit recipients.

If you are interested in Sheltered Housing, please complete a Housing Register or Transfer form (L.B.Southwark tenants) at your local Housing Office and contact Richard Owens (Sheltered Housing) on 0207 525 4231. You will be interviewed at home and then put on the Sheltered Housing List. Once on the Sheltered list it shouldnt take long to be rehoused. You simply bid for an available sheltered flat under the Homesearch scheme. We can help you do this.

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Refusing an offer

Street Image

Since Southwark Homesearch was launched in September 2005, applicants have not been penalised for refusing their offers by having their housing applications suspended.

If you do bid for a property, and we offer it to you and then refuse it, there is still no penalty, but if you have refused 10 offers since 1 October 2008, you will be invited to attend a meeting at the Southwark Homesearch Centre to discuss your reasons for refusing the properties and to advise you on what to bid for in the future to ensure you accept your offer.

refusal

There are no penalties if you do not bid every week. Likewise, you will not build up any extra priority by bidding every week. So if you do not see a suitable property in a particular week, it is better not to bid at all than bid and refuse properties many times which are unsuitable. This is because it takes us longer to let properties when they are refused as it delays the process. It also means we lose revenue as properties take longer to let.

If you wish to check out the area or property you have bid for before the viewing date, try to do this before the end of the bidding period. You will then be able to withdraw your bid if unsuitable and can either wait for the next bidding cycle or bid for another property.

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Smart Move scheme

Older lady

Is your home too big?  It could be that your children have grown up and moved away.  Perhaps the stairs are getting difficult or you would like cheaper heating bills.  Whatever the reason, the council's Smart Move scheme is there to help you move within Southwark.

If you have one or more spare bedrooms, for example, you live in a three-bedroom property and would like to move to a one or two-bedroom property, you would qualify.  Or you could be living in a four bedroom property and want to move to a two bedroom property. You will be placed in Band 1 for re-housing once you are accepted on the scheme and will receive financial and practical support to assist you to move.

Money house image

To apply, contact your Area Housing Office and fill out a housing transfer application form. If you want to talk it through, please ring the Housing Initiatives Officer on 0207 525 4193.

 

 

 

 

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Southwark Works

Southwark Works

With the current economic outlook you might be worried about needing some extra help to find work.

If you are looking for a job, want careers advice or want to find out about a change of career, then why not make an appointment to speak to a Southwark Works advisor. They are available Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 9am to 4pm, and Wednesday 10am to 4pm, at the Housing Options Centre at 25 Bournemouth Road, SE15 4UJ.

Work

They can help with a whole range of issues, including writing or updating your CV, help with completing application forms and advise on interview techniques. If you have been out of the job market for a while they can show you the best places to look for jobs or training opportunities.

There is a drop in service available, or you can ring to make an appointment on 020 7525 5950.

Why not contact Southwark Works today, and let them help you achieve your full potential.

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Tenant management organisations – TMOs

painting

You will often see vacancies advertised in this magazine from TMOs, for example Brenchley Gardens and Leathermarket Gardens. There are a total of 13 TMOs in Southwark. Tenants and leaseholders in these areas have formed registered groups and have been trained to manage their estates. This involves them acting as the councils agent to conduct some, or all of the landlord's duties.

Moving box

Each TMO has different functions. When the TMOs were first set up, they told the council which parts of the landlord duties they wanted to take over. Larger TMOs have taken over all of the landlord duties, while the smaller ones have chosen to carry out just a few of the duties, for example repairs and ground maintenance. All TMOs receive funding from the council to carry out their landlord duties.

The top three bidders of TMO vacancies, are contacted by Housing Options staff, to advise them that they will be referred to the TMO for consideration. The TMO then invites them for an interview, asking them about their understanding of TMOs, their suitability for the vacancy, and to view the vacant property. There is of course no penalty for refusing the property after viewing and the TMO will make the offer to the next suitable bidder.

 

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