Round up of housing law and news: March 2023

A member of Shelter staff takes down notes while she speaks to someone on the phone or helpline in the office

Legislation 

Changes to Support for Mortgage Interest qualifying criteria 

From 3 April, the qualifying period to receive a Support for Mortgage Interest loan will be reduced from nine months to three months. The zero earnings rule will also be removed, meaning that Universal Credit claimants with earnings are eligible. 

The Loans for Mortgage Interest (Amendment) Regulations 2023 (legislation.gov.uk) 

New register of higher-risk buildings  

New regulations will require ‘higher-risk’ buildings to be registered with the Building Safety Regulator and information to be provided regarding safety factors, such as the materials of external cladding. The regulations come into force from 6 April.  

The Building Safety (Registration of Higher-Risk Buildings and Review of Decisions) (England) Regulations 2023 (legislation.gov.uk) 

Case law

Rent repayment orders can only be made against immediate landlord 

The Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal's decision that a rent repayment order can only be made against an immediate landlord and cannot be made against a superior landlord. 

Rakusen v Jepsen & Ors [2023] UKSC 9 (01 March 2023) (bailii.org) 

Councils making out of area offers failed to comply with duties 

The Court of Appeal ruled that local authorities which made out of area private rented sector offers failed to comply with their duties to find accommodation 'as close as possible to the borough as is reasonably practicable’ as required in their accommodation policy. 

Nadia Zaman v London Borough Of Waltham Forest - Find case law (nationalarchives.gov.uk) 

News and guidance 

Spring Budget: LHA rates remain frozen 

Many homeless organisations signed an open letter to the Chancellor calling for an increase to rates of Local Housing Allowance in the Spring Budget. LHA rates have been frozen since 2020. 

Following the budget, with LHA rates to remain frozen, Homeless Link described the budget as a ‘series of sticking plasters without much long-term support’. 

Homeless Link signs open letter to the Chancellor on LHA rates | Homeless Link 

The Spring Budget: What will it mean for the homelessness sector? | Homeless Link 

New How to Rent guide published 

The government published a new How to Rent guide on 24 March. The new guide includes the requirement for carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted in every room with a fixed fuel-burning appliance, fitting smart meters, and ensuring the property is suitable if you have a disability. 

How to rent - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) 

Ombudsman report on Rochdale Boroughwide Housing 

The Housing Ombudsman has published a special investigation into Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, following the coroner’s report into the death of Awaab Ishak. The report found a culture of ‘othering’ tenants was at the heart of the organisation’s issues. 

Ombudsman finds culture of ‘othering’ residents lies at the heart of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing’s issues and identifies lessons for sector - Housing Ombudsman (housing-ombudsman.org.uk) 

Government launches new Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan 

The government has announced a new Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan which intends to make it easier and quicker for landlords to evict anti-social tenants. The plan also intends to make changes to allocations guidance to de-prioritise applications from perpetrators.  

Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) 

Property Ombudsman: ‘no children’ letting policies are discriminatory  

The Property Ombudsman has ruled that letting agencies with blanket bans against letting properties to people with children are discriminatory against women. 

English letting agents who ban children breach equality rules, says ombudsman | Housing | The Guardian 

Ombudsman: councils still failing to prevent homelessness 

Five years after the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act, some councils are still failing to prevent and relieve homelessness, according to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. 

Vulnerable people face homelessness because some councils ‘still not getting it right’ - Ombudsman - Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman 

Selective licensing of private landlords 

The House of Commons Library has published this research briefing into the selective licensing of private landlords in England and Wales. The briefing considers the operation and impact of selective licensing schemes. 

Selective licensing of private landlords (England & Wales) - House of Commons Library (parliament.uk) 

Proposed reforms to social housing 

This House of Commons Library research briefing considers the proposed reforms to social housing due to be introduced in the Social Housing Regulation Bill. 

Social Housing Reform in England: What Next? - House of Commons Library (parliament.uk) 

Data and trends 

Housing Ombudsman: October to December 2022 

The Housing Ombudsman’s Spotlight report found that there was an increase in complaints received in the final quarter of 2022 compared to previous quarters.  

The report found: 

  • complaints received by the Ombudsman increased by 24% 

  • orders and recommendations made by the Ombudsman increased by 54% 

  • property condition remained the top complaint category, with 41% of the total 

Housing Ombudsman: Ombudsman’s latest Insight report shows 54% increase in orders to improve residents’ lives and landlord’s services - Housing Ombudsman (housing-ombudsman.org.uk)

Rural homelessness: January 2022 to February 2023 

English Rural has published a report into homelessness in rural areas and found that there has been a significant increase in rough sleeping over the last year.  

The research found: 

  • rural rough sleeping has increased by 24% in the past year 

  • 80% of organisations in rural areas believe a lack of funding is the main obstacle to addressing homelessness in their area 

  • 86% of housing or homelessness providers consider rural homelessness to be a significant or acute problem  

English Rural: English Rural | Shocking Report Reveals a Growing, Invisible Homelessness Crisis in Our Countryside 

Private rental prices: February 2022 to February 2023 

An index of private sector rental prices shows that in the 12 months up to February 2023: 

  • rent prices in the UK increased by 4.7% 

  • the highest increase was 4.9% in the East Midlands 

The increase of 4.7% is the highest annual percentage change since the Office for National Statistics began to collect this information in 2016. 

Office for National Statistics: Index of Private Housing Rental Prices, UK - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk) 

Private sector damp and mould: 2021 to 2022 

Generation Rent are calling for ‘Awaab’s law’ to be extended to the private rented sector, after research shows that local councils in England found: 

  • 1106 private rented homes had dangerous damp and mould in 2021-22 

  • 13% of complaints to local councils about conditions were regarding damp and mould 

  • where councils found unsafe Category 1 hazards, action was only taken in 24% of cases to protect the tenant from retaliatory eviction 

Generation Rent: 1100 homes private rented homes with dangerous mould not covered by Awaab's Law - Generation Rent 

Retaliatory eviction: February 2023 to March 2023 

Research by Shelter and YouGov into disrepair and retaliatory eviction in the private rented sector found: 

  • private renters who complained to their landlord, letting agency or local authority were 159% more likely to be served with an eviction notice  

  • 25% of private renters have not reported repairs due to fear of being evicted 

  • in the last year, 76% of private tenants have had issues with disrepair, including 51% with damp and mould 

Shelter: Private renters who complain about disrepair more than twice as likely to be slapped with an eviction notice - Shelter England 

Homeless Ukrainian nationals: February 2022 to February 2023 

The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has published updated statistics on the number of homeless Ukrainian nationals in the UK. 

The statistics show that, of the local authorities who have reported figures: 

  • 4630 Ukrainian households are owed a prevention or relief duty 

  • 69% of these are households with children 

Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities: Homelessness management information - Ukrainian nationals: England - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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