Round up of housing law and news: October 2022

Aerial view of rows of houses in front of the tower blocks of London in the background

Legislation

Priority need for people street homeless in Wales

From 24 October 2022 these new regulations means that people who are ‘street homeless’ in Wales and those who might reasonably be expected to reside with them are a category of person in priority need for the purposes of local authority duties to provide homelessness support. ‘Street homeless’ has the meaning in section 71(2) of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

The Homelessness (Priority Need and Intentionality) (Wales) Regulations 2022 

Case law

Discharge of homelessness duty following a PRS offer

Local housing authorities who wish to bring their main housing duty to an end 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 Court of Appeal held that they must provide all information about special rules where a homeless applicant reapplies within two years. Before approving a private rented sector (PRS) offer they must check the property's physical condition to ensure the accommodation is suitable or have received a reliable survey report. 

Norton v London Borough of Haringey [2022] EWCA Civ 1340

Language barriers and discharge of homelessness duty

The council did not discharge the main housing duty by way of a private rented sector (PRS) offer to a homeless refugee from Ethiopia with limited ability to speak and read English. The County Court found that the council made the offer in writing and over the telephone, but only in English and without an interpreter. The applicant could not have understood the consequences of refusing the offer due to language difficulties.

Mekonen v LB Waltham Forest, County Court at Central London, 8 August 2022

Overcrowding and space standards in HMO properties

The Court of Appeal considered whether it was reasonable for a person and two children to continue to live in a room of a house in multiple occupation (HMO) with shared use of a kitchen and bathroom with four other adults, or whether the household was to be treated as homeless due to statutory overcrowding of their ‘dwelling’ as defined in section 343 and Part 10 of the Housing Act 1985.

Rowe v London Borough of Haringey [2022] EWCA Civ 1370

Bankrupt debtors unlawfully evicted by the trustee in bankruptcy 

The Court of Appeal held that the eviction of the bankrupt occupiers of a property was unlawful because the trustee in bankruptcy had dispossessed them through the agency of a company without the court's intervention. Without court order, neither the trustee nor the company were entitled to evict the occupiers and recover possession.

Brake & Ors v The Chedington Court Estate Ltd [2022] EWCA Civ 1302

Tenant’s deposit penalty claim unsuccessful 

The County 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. Wholly technical breaches of deposit requirements may not always give rise to successful claims.

Lowe v Charterhouse [2022] EW Misc 8 (CC)

News and guidance

Housing benefit shared accommodation rate for people under 35 

This House of Commons Library briefing provides background information on the operation of the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) and its extension in January 2012 to claimants under the age of 35. The SAR limits the amount of housing benefit that a single person under the age of 35 can receive.

Housing Benefit: Shared Accommodation Rate - House of Commons Library

Right to rent checks post-coronavirus 

Between 30 March 2020 and 30 September 2022 landlords could accept scanned copies or photographs of a prospective tenant’s documents rather than the originals. This was a temporary measure brought in during the coronavirus pandemic.

The government has withdrawn these relaxations with effect from 1 October 2022. Landlords must now either carry out a manual check of the original documents, an online check with the Home Office, or use an identity service provider.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): landlord right to rent checks

County court possession action process guidance updated

The government has updated guidance for landlords and tenants in the private and social rented sectors about the possession action process in the county courts of England and Wales. This is to reflect that notice periods in Wales have now returned to their pre-coronavirus lengths, and the removal of coronavirus arrangements covering possession applications and county court bailiff enforcement.

Gov.uk – Understanding the possession action process: guidance for landlords and tenants

Supported housing in Wales

The Welsh Government has published guidance for social landlords who provide supported housing explaining how existing licences can be converted into standard, rather than secure, contracts before 1 December 2022.

Supported accommodation: exceptional approach to extending the relevant period for a tenancy or licence 

Who to complain to about problems in rented housing 

The House of Commons Library has published a summary covering who to complain to about problems in rented housing and the redress schemes available.

House of Commons Library – How to complain about rented housing

Housing Ombudsman finds severe maladministration

The Housing Ombudsman made two findings of severe maladministration for Onward Homes’ failings in handling a resident’s complaint about damp and mould.

Housing Ombudsman – Two severe maladministration findings for Onward Homes on damp and mould case

Landmark protection from eviction prosecutions

Thanet District Council took landmark action for offences under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. The main defendant, Sohila Tamiz, was given a total sentence of five years’ imprisonment. Tenants were harassed, threatened, and unlawfully evicted without notice.

Defendant in landmark prosecution by Thanet District Council receives five-year custodial sentence

Data and trends

Homelessness duties owed to Ukrainian households 

The government has added Ukraine homelessness management information covering the period February to September 2022. It contains data on homelessness duties accepted by lower tier local authorities in England in respect of Ukrainian households.

Homelessness management information – Ukrainian nationals: England

Housing Ombudsman complaints trends

The Housing Ombudsman has published an Insight report covering April to June 2022. The highest area of complaint in that period was property condition. Insight reports provide complaints data, case studies and key learning points.  

HOS – Insight reports

Housing market data

This Housing of Commons Library research briefing provides data on house prices, mortgage approvals, and house-building.

House of Commons Library – Housing Market: Key Economic Indicators

Cost of living crisis and lack of affordable accommodation to rent 

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism published new research showing that it is practically impossible for people on universal credit or housing benefit to rent a home in many parts of Britain. 

Lack of affordable lets leaves families with little left to live on

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