What’s new

The pages on Shelter Legal are updated regularly to reflect changes in the law. This page lists the most recent updates to Shelter Legal.

User testers required

Changes made 04 December 2018

We are reviewing the content of Shelter Legal and are looking for professionals that use it as a resource in their day-to-day work to test ideas for a new design and improved user experience. The test exercises take between 30 to 45 minutes and involve an online activity that can be completed in own time or a scheduled telephone conversation with our researcher. If you'd like to participate, please send us a reply using this form.

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Making a claim for universal credit

Changes made 21 March 2019

The Universal Credit Live Service helpline is now closed. From 2 March 2019, claimants with residual 'live service' queries should contact the 'full service' helpline on 0800 328 5644. [Previous What's New: 1 February 2019] With effect from 1 February 2019, the Universal Credit (Restriction on Amounts for Children and Qualifying Young Persons) (Transitional Provisions) Amendment Regulations 2019 SI 2019/27 removes the restriction on a person who is responsible for more than two children making a new claim for universal credit. In addition, a child element will continue to be allowed for a third, or subsequent, child born before 6 April 2017.

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Restrictions on use of section 21

Changes made 21 March 2019

Landlords of assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs) can regain possession of their properties, without having to prove any reason, by giving a valid section 21 notice to the tenant. At the expiry of the notice, the court will grant possession only if the notice was valid and the landlord complied with all the prescribed legal requirements prior to the service of the notice. For ASTs granted or renewed on or after 1 October 2015, one of the requirements is to provide a copy of the current gas safety certificate for gas appliances in the dwelling. While there is no binding case law confirming whether a failure to provide copy of the certificate at the outset of the tenancy would invalidate a section 21 notice, county courts have repeatedly agreed with this interpretation. In Trecarrel House Limited v Rouncefield, Exeter CC, 13 February 2019 (reported on Nearly Legal), another county court judge held that the failure to provide a copy of the current gas safety certificate ‘before’ the start of the tenancy could not be rectified by providing a copy at a later date, even if this was done before the service of the section 21 notice.

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Fitness for human habitation

Changes made 20 March 2019

With effect from 20 March 2019, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to give tenants of residential property in England new rights to redress poor housing conditions in their dwellings. There is a new implied term into tenancy agreements that premises must be reasonably suitable for occupation at the beginning and throughout the tenancy. Where a landlord fails to ensure that the property is fit for habitation, the tenant can apply to the county court for an order for specific performance requiring the landlord to improve the conditions in the property, and damages for breach of contract. A new page has been added to Shelter Legal to provide further details and other pages on the site are in the process of being updated.

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Change of landlord

Changes made 18 March 2019

In response to user feedback, the information on Shelter legal about the protection of a tenancy deposit following a change of landlord has been revised and expanded to give more details about the possible consequences of inaction in relation to both insurance and custodial schemes. Other pages relating to the return of the deposit have also been updated.

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Payment of housing benefit

Changes made 15 March 2019

Regulation 95 of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 makes limited provisions for housing benefit to be paid directly to the landlord, including where the tenant is eight weeks or more in arrears on their rent. In ST v Sunderland City Council (CH) [2019] UKUT 33 (AAC), the Upper Tribunal held that arrears on rent in advance can be taken into account when calculating the eight weeks’ threshold, as long as they are genuine and not engineered to allow the landlord to take advantage of the housing benefit regulations.

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Powers and duties of enforcement

Changes made 15 March 2019

Most tenants in the private rented sector have limited security of tenure and can be evicted fairly easily. Some landlords may choose to evict a tenant following a complaint from that tenant about the condition of the property rather than carrying out the necessary work. Formal enforcement action by the local authority under the Housing Act 2004 may allow a tenant to defend possession proceedings. However, where only category 2 hazards exist, authorities have discretion whether to use formal enforcement steps. In Humber Landlords Association v Hull City Council (2019) EWHC 332 (Admin), the High Court held that a local authority was entitled to amend their private sector housing enforcement policy and take a tougher line against retaliatory eviction by making formal action under the Housing Act 2004 the default position where either a category 1 or 2 hazard existed.

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Succession: Secure and flexible tenancies

Changes made 06 March 2019

The statutory succession regime under the Housing Act 1985 differentiates between children of divorced joint tenants and children of deceased joint tenants. This is referred to as the ‘death-divorce dichotomy’. In Haringey LBC v Simawi [2018] EWHC 2733 (QB), the High Court held that the difference in treatment of these two groups was not without foundation and was compatible with Article 14 ECHR read in conjunction with Article 8 ECHR, because the differential treatment was objectively justified by the need to address different policy objectives: on one hand, the fair distribution of limited social housing, and on the other, the need to adjust property rights following divorce or other matrimonial proceedings. However, the Court of Appeal has since granted permission to appeal. The hearing has been listed for October 2019 and similar cases in county courts should be stayed pending the outcome.

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Right to rent immigration checks

Changes made 01 March 2019

Under the Right to Rent provisions in sections 20-37 Immigration Act 2014, certain people subject to immigration control do not have a right to rent or live in private residential accommodation. In order to avoid sanctions, landlords affected by the provisions must check the immigration status of any adult occupier of residential accommodation they let out and be satisfied that such occupiers have a right to rent at the start of their occupation and throughout the letting. In specified circumstances, occupiers without a right to rent can be evicted without a court order. The provisions are currently in force in England only but are due to be extended to the whole UK. In R (on the application of Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] EWHC 452 (Admin), a challenge against the lawfulness of the Scheme in which the Residential Landlords Association, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and Liberty where permitted to intervene, the High Court has declared the Scheme unlawfully discriminatory and sections 20-37 Immigration Act 2014 incompatible with Article 14 ECHR in conjunction with Article 8 ECHR. The Court has also declared that a decision by the Secretary of State to extend the Scheme to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland without further evaluation of its efficacy and discriminatory impact would be irrational and would constitute a breach of the public sector equality duty in section 149 Equality Act 2010.

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Landlord’s duty of care for repairs

Changes made 01 March 2019

Under section 4 Defective Premises Act 1972, a landlord who has an implied or express obligation to repair or maintain premises, or has a right to enter the premises to carry out certain repairs, owes a duty of care to ensure that all persons who could reasonably be affected by 'relevant defects' in the state of the premises are reasonably safe from personal injury or damage resulting from the defects. The duty is triggered if the landlord 'knows or ought to know of the relevant defect' regardless of whether the landlord was informed of it. In Rogerson v Bolsover DC [2019] EWCA Civ 226, the Court of Appeal held that whether a landlord is under a duty to implemented a system of regular inspections of the premises in order to comply with the section 4 duty is a question of fact and must be determined in light of all the circumstances of the individual case. This question would arise when considering whether the landlord ought in all the circumstances to have known of the defect. As such, while the question of having a continuing duty to inspect premises to ensure that defects do not develop is not a specific statutory requirement, it may be relevant if such an inspection would reveal a likely defect.

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