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Round up of housing law and news: March 2024

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Extension to reduced suitability rules for new arrivals to the UK

Reduced requirements for the suitability of homeless accommodation apply to people who make a homeless application within two years of their arrival in the UK. Local authorities are not automatically required to consider the effect of the accommodation's location on these applicants, with an exception for some caring needs. This Order extends this rule to 1 June 2025.

The usual rule limiting use of bed and breakfast to six weeks for people with families commitments does not apply for new arrivals. This Order confirms this exception ends on 1 June 2024.

The Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) (Amendment) Order 2024

New rules on complaint handling for social landlords

From 1 April 2024, the Housing Ombudsman's complaint handling code is a statutory requirement for social landlords. The code introduces timescales for acknowledging and dealing with complaints, as well as a requirement for a 2-stage complaints process.

The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 requires the Housing Ombudsman to monitor social landlords' compliance with the code.

The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023

New powers for Regulator of Social Housing

New regulations bring into force some provisions of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023.

From 1 April 2024, the Regulator of Social Housing has new powers to require a registered provider of social housing to prepare a performance improvement plan. Other provisions from the Act also come into effect, including the removal of the 'serious detriment' test from the consumer standards for social homes.

The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 (Commencement No. 2 and Saving Provisions) Regulations 2024

Care and support charges

Local authorities have powers and duties under the Care Act 2014 to provide care and support to relevant adults. An authority can charge for meeting these needs, but it cannot leave a person with an income below a specified amount.

These regulations set the minimum levels from 6 April 2024.

The Care and Support (Charging and Assessment of Resources) (Amendment) Regulations 2024

Case law

Deposit protection information

The High Court dismissed a tenant’s claim that the landlord had not provided the statutory prescribed information and had failed to comply with tenancy deposit protection rules.

The court held the landlord had provided information 'substantially to the same effect.' For example, the landlord's certificate was not signed but the court found the service of the certificate still met the requirements.

Lowe v Governors of Sutton's Hospital In Charterhouse [2024] EWHC 646 (Ch)

Ending a homelessness main duty after private sector offer

Local authorities who wish to end the main housing duty by offering an assured shorthold tenancy with a private landlord must ensure they satisfy all procedural requirements in sections 193 and 195A of the Housing Act 1996.

The High Court found that the London Borough of Waltham Forest continued to owe the claimant the main housing duty after the applicant refused a private sector offer. The council failed to make a clear decision to end the main duty following the offer.

Bano, R (On the Application Of) v London Borough of Waltham Forest [2024] EWHC 654 (Admin)

Transferring a joint tenancy

The Court of Appeal ruled that the parties to a legally void marriage could be treated as a cohabiting couple for the purpose of transferring a joint tenancy under section 53 of the Family Law Act 1996.

A void marriage has no effect on the couple’s status. In this case, the parties were still cohabitants under para 3, Schedule 7 to the 1996 Act and so the court had the power to make a transfer of tenancy order.

Tousi v Gaydukova [2024] EWCA Civ 203

Public sector equality duty

The High Court found the Secretary of State's failure to carry out statistical data monitoring in relation to accommodation provided to pregnant and new mother asylum seekers was a breach of the public sector equality duty (PSED).

DXK, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Rev1) [2024] EWHC 579 (Admin)

News and guidance

55 children have died in temporary accommodation since 2019

New research indicates homelessness and temporary accommodation contributed to the unexpected deaths of at least 55 children in England since 2019. Most children who died were under the age of one.

Exclusive: 55 homeless children have died in temporary accommodation since 2019

Government funding to house rough sleepers

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities announced funding for local authorities to provide more than 800 homes for rough sleepers. The government said the funding targets areas most in need and includes specialist support for the most vulnerable.

Homes and beds to help hundreds of rough sleepers off the streets

Call for stronger protection for tenants with rent arrears

Debt advice organisations, including StepChange and Money Advice Trust, call for stronger protections in the Renters (Reform) Bill for tenants who accrue rent arrears.

In an open letter, the organisations urge the government to make Ground 8A discretionary and introduce a Tenancy Support Programme.

Open letter to Michael Gove MP

Ombudsman: domestic abuse sufferer left street homeless

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea failed to recognise domestic abuse and left a man street homeless. The local authority did not consider the alleged perpetrator a 'relative.'

The Ombudsman found that an eleven week delay before the authority accepted a prevention duty and issued a personalised housing plan was excessive. The authority said the delay was 'symptomatic of a backlog of cases it had due to high demand.'

Man left street homeless after council failed to recognise domestic abuse

Armed forces housing: new accommodation offer

This House of Commons Library research briefing looks at the Ministry of Defence's proposed changes to how service family housing is allocated. The Ministry of Defence has paused the planned changes following objections from members of the armed forces community.

Armed forces housing: The new accommodation offer - House of Commons Library

Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016: guides

The Welsh Government published guides to the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016.

The resources include a summary of the possession process, frequently asked questions, and a possession claims flowchart.

Understanding the possession process: guidance for private landlords

Renting homes: frequently asked questions (landlords)

Issuing a valid landlord’s notice under section 173: flowchart

Empty homes and council tax

Rules to double council tax on long term empty properties comes into force from 1 April. This applies when a property has been empty for 12 months.

The government has proposed exceptions to the rule, including empty properties that are uninhabitable due to extensive renovation.

Crack down on long term empty homes

Council Tax information letter 2/2024: proposals to exempt categories of dwellings from the council tax premiums in England

Housing Ombudsman: residents panel

The Housing Ombudsman is recruiting social housing tenants to joint is Residents Panel. Members of the Panel can contribute to the Ombudsman's work in making wider recommendations to the sector.

Join the Housing Ombudsman Resident Panel

Consumer regulation

The Regulator of Social Housing issued guidance outlining its approach to consumer regulation from 1 April 2024. From this date, the 'severe detriment' test no longer applies to the consumer standards for social homes, so the Regulator can act before people are at risk.

Reshaping consumer regulation: Our new approach

Social rented housing in England

This House of Commons briefing looks at the barriers to development of social housing and the prospects for more social rented housing.

Social rented housing in England: Past trends and prospects

Data and trends

Local authority domestic abuse support

The Domestic Abuse Safe Accommodation National Expert Steering Group released its 2022-23 report, examining local authority housing support. The group supports the government in monitoring the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

The report shows:

  • 50,670 people were assisted by local authorities to find safe accommodation

  • refuges and sanctuary schemes were the most common forms of accommodation

  • local authorities reported 24,580 instances where a household was referred to a safe accommodation service but the service did not support the household Annual progress report from the Domestic Abuse Safe Accommodation National Expert Steering Group 2022 to 2023

No fault evictions up 62% in one year in London

City Hall analysis shows that section 21 no fault eviction claims rose 62% in the last year in London. There were 11,457 claims in 2023, up from 7,057 in 2022.

Mayor of London: Mayor slams Government’s ‘broken promises’ to protect renters as no fault evictions in London jump more than 60 per cent

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