Round up of housing law and news: May 2023

A set of terraced houses in front of a multi-storey estate

Legislation

Renters (Reform) Bill

The government introduced the Renters (Reform) Bill to parliament for a first reading on 17 May 2023. The Bill proposes to: 

  • abolish assured shorthold tenancies and ‘no-fault’ section 21 notices

  • introduce new grounds for possession, including where the landlord intends to sell

  • amend existing grounds for possession, including changes to the mandatory rent arrears grounds and discretionary anti-social behaviour grounds

Renters (Reform) Bill

Government introduces landmark reforms to deliver fairer private rented sector for tenants and landlords

Homelessness eligibility for people evacuated from Sudan

From 15 May 2023, a person is eligible for homelessness assistance if they have leave to remain and left Sudan because of the conflict that rapidly escalated on 15 April 2023.

The Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) Regulations 2006/1294 have been amended to add a new class Q of people subject to immigration control who are eligible. 

Equivalent regulations have been issued in Wales.

The Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) and Persons Subject to Immigration Control (Housing Authority Accommodation and Homelessness) (Amendment) Regulations 2023

Extension to suitability of accommodation rules for new arrivals in the UK

Lower suitability requirements for homeless accommodation apply to people who make a homeless application within two years of their arrival in the UK. These rules have been extended to 1 June 2024.

Local authorities are not automatically required to consider the effect of the location of the accommodation on these applicants. The usual rule limiting use of bed and breakfast to six weeks for people with family commitments also does not apply.

From 31 May 2023 the definition of bed and breakfast accommodation includes accommodation where no cooking facilities are provided. This amendment is not time limited and applies to all homeless applicants.

The Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) (Amendment) Order 2023

Mobile home pitch fees

The Mobile Homes (Pitch Fees) Act received Royal Assent on 2 May 2023. From 3 July 2023, any pitch fee increase for a mobile home should be no higher than the consumer price index (CPI). Previously, pitch fee increases were restricted to the retail price index (RPI).

Mobile Homes (Pitch Fees) Act 2023

Case law

Suitability of out of area placements

The Court of Appeal considered how a local authority can ensure compliance with section 208(1) Housing Act 1996 on out of area placements when offering accommodation to discharge the section 189B relief duty. A local authority is not required as standard to:

  • disclose a record of all internet searches and inquiries made to find accommodation in the area

  • make bespoke arrangements with housing associations to make an offer of Part VI accommodation

Moge v London Borough of Ealing [2023] EWCA Civ 464

Reasonable excuse defence to HMO licensing offences

It is an offence to be a person having control of or managing a licensable house in multiple occupation (HMO) without a licence. There is a general defence of 'reasonable excuse'.

The Upper Tribunal held that a landlord might have a reasonable excuse if they make repeated attempts to apply for a licence but the local authority does not respond.

Fashade Albustin & Ors [2023] UKUT 40 (LC)

Breach of main housing duty due to unsuitable temporary accommodation

The High Court found that a local authority had breached their duty under section 193(2) of the Housing Act 1996 by providing unsuitable temporary accommodation.

Westminster City Council had accepted that the applicant required a property with level access and three bedrooms when assessing their housing register application, yet the applicant was placed in two-bedroom temporary accommodation with stairs for three years and eight months.

Jaberi, R (On the Application Of) v City of Westminster (Re Housing Act 1996) [2023] EWHC 1045 (Admin)

Guidance and news

Heat-health Alert Service

The UK Health Security Agency provides the Heat-health alert service from 1 June to 15 September, in partnership with the Met Office. Last summer was the first Level 4 Heat-health alert, with 40 degrees Celsius exceeded in July 2022.

This summer, the alert system is impact-based. This provides information over and above the fact that hot weather is likely to occur, including considering other events. For example, how an NHS strike during a predicted heatwave could have health effects.

It is aimed at health and social care professionals and anyone with a role in reducing the harm extended periods of hot weather can have on health, including the health effects on rough sleepers. Anyone can register to receive the alerts on the Met Office website.

The service builds on the Adverse Weather and Health Plan.

Heat-health Alert service - Met Office

Hot weather and health: guidance and advice - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Adverse Weather and Health Plan - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

UK nationals arriving from Sudan have access to benefits and housing assistance

From 15 May, UK nationals who left Sudan because of the violence will be exempt from residency tests to allow them to access benefits, social housing, and homelessness assistance on arrival in the UK. This applies to UK nationals, Irish nationals, and people with Home Office leave with recourse to public funds. 

Paragraphs 7.14 and 7.18 of the Homelessness Code of Guidance for local authorities have been amended to reflect the introduction of this new class of people eligible for housing assistance and exempt from the habitual residence requirement.

UK Nationals arriving from Sudan to have access to benefits

Homelessness code of guidance for local authorities: chapter 7

Responses to the Renters (Reform) Bill

Following the first reading of the Renters (Reform) Bill on 17 May 2023, organisations in the housing and homelessness sector issued responses to the proposed changes. The Local Government Association, the National Housing Federation and Shelter welcomed the introduction of the bill, in particular the planned abolition of section 21 notices.

Local Government Association statement

National Housing Federation - NHF response to the Renters' Reform Bill

Shelter responds to ‘once-in-a-generation' Renters’ (Reform) Bill

Duty to protect belongings: Ombudsman decision

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found a local authority were at fault for disposing of a homelessness applicant’s belongings when they moved from temporary accommodation to a permanent property. The authority advised it had a policy of not providing assistance for removals in this situation due to budgetary constraints.

The Ombudsman found that this was not a proper reason and the authority should have considered other options such as a discretionary housing payment.

London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham (22 005 303)

Rent increases for social tenants

The Regulator of Social Housing has power to set standards governing rent increases by social landlords. Currently any annual increase must not exceed CPI plus 1%, with a cap at a 7% increase. The Regulator has published updated guidance on the cap.

Limit on annual rent increases 2023-24 (from April 2023)

Investigation into standards in supported housing

The National Audit Office has published an investigation into supported housing, finding that due to gaps in regulation some landlords are providing poor quality, expensive housing which does not give sufficient support to residents.

Investigation into supported housing: National Audit Office press release

Ombudsman reminder to councils of their private sector disrepair duties

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has issued a reminder to local authorities regarding their duties to investigate disrepair problems in the private rented sector.

An Ombudsman investigation into Worcester City Council found that despite the council finding category 1 hazards in a property, the council failed to act as required.

Councils reminded of duties to investigate renters’ housing concerns

How tenants can complain about rented housing

The House of Commons Library published information covering how a tenant can complain about problems in their rented housing. It covers private lettings, social lettings, and redress schemes.

How to complain about rented housing (England)

Access to housing for local people

The House of Commons Library published an explanation of how government policies could be used to ensure local people benefit from housing provision.

Can access to housing be restricted to local people?

Regulation of letting and management agents

This House of Commons Library research briefing outlines the current regulation regime of letting and managing agents, and outlines plans to strengthen the regulation.

The regulation of letting and managing agents (England)

Under-supply of housing in England

This House of Commons Library research briefing covers trends in housing supply and barriers and potential solutions to delivering more homes in England.

Tackling the under-supply of housing in England

Increase in short term lettings

This House of Commons Library research briefing examines the growth in short-term lettings and proposals for greater regulation of the sector in England. It provides a brief overview of the regulatory approaches in other countries.

The growth in short-term lettings (England)

Data and trends

Over 100,000 households in temporary accommodation: May 2023

The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has released the latest figures on the number of households in temporary accommodation. On 31 December 2022:

  • 101,300 households were in temporary accommodation, the highest figure since 2005

  • 62,410 households in temporary accommodation had children

  • 127,220 children were in temporary accommodation

Government statistical data set: Tables on homelessness

69% increase in repossessions between January–March 2023 and the same quarter in 2022

The Ministry of Justice has released figures showing evictions and possession proceedings continue to increase. 

Between January and March 2023, compared to the same quarter in 2022, there was an increase of:

  • 69% in landlord repossessions

  • 23% in landlord possession claims

  • 40% in mortgage possession claims

Ministry of Justice: Mortgage and landlord possession statistics: January to March 2023

Increase in the number of adult children living at home

The Office for National Statistics has released information on the number of adult children living with their parents. Data from the 2021 Census found:

  • 22.4% of families had adult children living at home

  • the median age of adult children living at home was 24 years old

  • a 13.6% increase in the number of families with adult children living at home since the 2011 Census

Office for National Statistics: Adult children living with their parents

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