Round up of housing law and news: July 2023

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Legislation

Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023

The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 received royal assent on 20 July 2023. The Act introduces changes to the regulation of social housing, including removing the ‘serious detriment’ test which had limited the power of the Regulator of Social Housing to act unless that threshold was met.

The Act will also introduce ‘Awaab’s law’ and give the Regulator stronger powers, such as being able to issue unlimited fines. Many provisions of the Act are due to come into force in 2024.     

Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 (legislation.gov.uk)

Landmark Social Housing Act receives Royal Assent to become law - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Social Housing (Regulation) Act: Royal Assent must kick off a transformation in social housing | Shelter

Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act 2023

The Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act 2023 received royal assent on 29 June 2023, and will come into force from 29 August 2023.

The Act gives the government the power to introduce licensing schemes and will create an advisory panel for supported ‘exempt’ accommodation. It also means a homeless applicant is not intentionally homeless where they have left supported accommodation which did not meet national standards.

Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act 2023 (legislation.gov.uk)

Case law

Court of Appeal finds that a room can be accommodation for purposes of intentional homelessness

The Court of Appeal considered the definition of ‘accommodation’ for the purposes of assessing intentional homelessness in section 191(1) of the Housing Act 1996. 

The court found that the local authority was entitled to find that the room in supported housing occupied by the homeless applicant was accommodation. The court also found that the accommodation did not need to be settled accommodation for the applicant to be found to be intentionally homeless.

Hodge v Folkestone and Hythe District Council [2023] EWCA Civ 896 (27 July 2023)

‘Fit and proper person’ from date of authority’s decision, not appeal

The Court of Appeal found that the First-tier Tribunal should consider whether a landlord was a ‘fit and proper person’ on the date the local authority’s decision was made, not the date of any appeal. Any events which occurred after the local authority’s decision are not relevant to the First-tier Tribunal’s judgment. The fit and proper person test forms part of a local authority’s HMO licensing assessment.

This decision reversed a previous Upper Tribunal decision in Hussain v Waltham Forest LBC [2022] UKUT 241 (LC).

Waltham Forest London Borough Council v Hussain & Ors [2023] EWCA Civ 733 (26 June 2023)

Council assessed public sector equality duty when evicting tenant for ASB

The High Court considered whether a local authority was in breach of the public sector equality duty by taking possession proceedings against a tenant with a disability. 

The tenant had a diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder and was served with notice on anti-social behaviour grounds. The High Court found that the authority had sufficiently considered the public sector equality duty when taking action to evict the tenant.

Reading Borough Council v Tina Holland (nationalarchives.gov.uk)

News and guidance

Government responds to Select Committee on social housing regulation

The government has issued a response to the Select Committee inquiry into the regulation of social housing. The response covers the work so far to improve standards and planned upcoming changes, including the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill and the ‘Awaab’s law’ amendment. The Act has recently received royal assent and the government aims to bring the key provisions into force from the summer of 2024.

Regulation of social housing: government response to the Select Committee inquiry - GOV.UK

Ombudsman special investigation into L&Q orders £142,000 in compensation

The Housing Ombudsman has conducted a special investigation into the social landlord L&Q. The investigation found that the landlord has ‘consistently failed’ to resolve serious issues raised by tenants. The Ombudsman recommended over 500 actions for L&Q to take, and for over £142,000 to be awarded to tenants in compensation.

Ombudsman orders L&Q to pay £142,000 in compensation after finding ‘prolonged period of decline’ in special investigation - Housing Ombudsman

Op Fortitude pathway launched for homeless veterans

Op Fortitude is a government-funded centralised pathway for veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Referrals can be made online or by phone and the service can offer help with sustaining a tenancy or referring a veteran into supported housing.

New government-funded hotline to end veteran homelessness now live across the UK - GOV.UK

House of Commons Library briefing: Housing and the cost of living

This House of Commons Library research briefing covers the impact of inflation on rent and mortgage payments and the Government response.

Housing and the cost of living - House of Commons Library

Ombudsman reminds councils of duty to investigate disrepair in private rentals

A private tenant complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman about how Worcester City Council dealt with their complaint about disrepair in her private rented accommodation.

The council found category 1 and 2 hazards, and the tenant had to move out for seven months for remedial works. The council did not take formal action on the category 1 hazards, despite being legally required to do so. The council’s email to the landlord missed key details and it did not keep the tenant updated.

Councils reminded of duties to investigate renters’ housing concerns

Toolkit for councils to help residents claim Council Tax Support

Policy in Practice have released a Council Tax Support toolkit for local authorities, with material for councils to use in communications to encourage residents to claim any CTS that they are eligible for.

Policy in Practice: Council tax support take up toolkit

Mobile homes factsheet: pitch fee increases now based on CPI

The Mobile Homes (Pitch Fees) Act 2023 changes the basis of pitch fee increases under the Mobile Homes Act 1983 from RPI to CPI. The government has published a factsheet on this change.

Park homes - Gov.uk

Data and trends

Record numbers in temporary accommodation: March 2023

The government has released its latest statistics on homelessness. The figures show that between January and March 2023:

  • over 104,000 households were in temporary accommodation, the highest level ever

  • over 131,000 children in temporary accommodation

  • 83,240 households were assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness, up by 5.7% on January to March 2022

Gov.uk: Homelessness statistics

172 families served with section 21 notices every day: July 2023

New figures show the frequency with which private renters are served with section 21 notices, and the instability of private renting. Analysis by Shelter of Yougov polling shows that:

  • more than 188,000 private renters have received a section 21 notice in the last three years

  • nearly one in five families renting privately have had to move three or more times in the last five years

  • 172 families receive a section 21 notice each day

Shelter: 172 families per day are served with a no-fault eviction notice

Benefit cap pushing families to live on £44 per week: July 2023

Research from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has found that the benefit cap, introduced ten years ago, is pushing families into poverty. The research found that:

  • after the benefit cap, some families in London have only £44 per week in disposable income

  • without the benefit cap, the same household would have £276 per week in disposable income

  • 250,000 children live in households affected by the benefit cap

The research also shows that the benefit cap is affecting more areas around the country. When it was first introduced, it primarily affected London as the area with the highest rents, but as rents have increased, the cap would now affect a single parent with three children in over half of the rental areas in the country.

Child Poverty Action Group: Benefit Cap Forcing Families to Live on £44/week - new research

Migrants face discrimination in private rented sector: July 2023

Research by Generation Rent into the experiences of migrant communities in the private rented sector has found that, of those surveyed:

  • 42% found that they had struggled to find a landlord or agent to let to them

  • 74% had struggled to find somewhere affordable to rent

  • 40% had struggled to find the money for a tenancy deposit

Generation Rent: Migrant groups fact obstacles in accessing safe and secure housing

The monthly round up of legislation, cases, news and data from Housing Matters