Round up of housing law and news: October 2023

A woman removing a book from a bookcase. The books on the bookcase are about housing law.

Legislation

Emergency legislation: homelessness help for people fleeing the Israel-Hamas conflict

From 27 October 2023, a person who left Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or Lebanon in connection with the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel on 7 October 2023 or the violence in the region following the attack is eligible for homeless assistance if they:

  • were residing in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or Lebanon immediately before 7 October 2023

  • have been given leave under the Immigration Rules

  • are not subject to a 'no recourse to public funds' condition

They do not have to be habitually resident in the Common Travel Area.

The Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) and Persons Subject to Immigration Control (Housing Authority Accommodation and Homelessness) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2023

Benefit entitlement conditions for people fleeing the Israel-Hamas conflict

In force from 27 October 2023, these regulations add a new category of persons who are exempt from having to meet the habitual residence test and the past presence test for benefits including universal credit.

The new category covers people who were residing in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or Lebanon and left in connection with the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel on 7 October 2023 or the violence in the region following the attack.

The Social Security (Habitual Residence and Past Presence, and Capital Disregards) (Amendment) Regulations 2023

Renters (Reform) Bill

The Renters (Reform) Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 23 October 2023. The Commons voted to carry the Bill into the next Parliamentary session.

A key provision of the Bill is the abolition of section 21 'no fault' evictions. The government has stated that it will not proceed with abolition of section 21 until reforms to the justice system are in place.

The House of Commons Library has published a research briefing summarising the Bill's provisions. The Public Bill Committee has launched a call for views on the Bill.

Renters (Reform) Bill

Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee: Reforming the Private Rented Sector: Government’s response to the Committee’s Fifth Report of Session 2022-23

House of Commons Library: Renters (Reform) Bill 2022-23

Public Bill Committee: Renters (Reform) Bill: call for written evidence

Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023

On 26 October 2023, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill received royal assent. The government said the new laws will 'speed up the planning system, hold developers to account, cut bureaucracy, and encourage more councils to put in place plans to enable the building of new homes.'

The provisions include reforming compensation for compulsory purchase orders by removing hope value where justified. Shelter has campaigned for this change as it should make it cheaper for councils to build social homes.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023

Shelter: Levelling up with social housing

Gov.uk: New laws to speed up planning, build homes and level up

Definition of B&B accommodation in Wales

In force from 30 November 2023 if approved, these regulations amend the definition of bed and breakfast accommodation in Wales.

B&B accommodation secured by local authorities by arrangement with third party providers for homelessness purposes does not create an occupation contract under the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016.

Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 and Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (Wales) Order 2015 (Amendment) Regulations 2023 (SI 2023 Draft)

Case law

Rent repayment orders and joint tenants

The Upper Tribunal held that where three out of five joint tenants applied for a rent repayment order (RRO) the award could not exceed the proportion of rent each of them had paid.

The fact the tenants were jointly and severally liable for the whole amount of rent was not the starting point for calculating the amount awarded under the RRO.

Moreira v Morrison [2023] UKUT 233 (LC)

Information about a landlord's identity

The High Court dismissed a bankruptcy petition against a lessee. The landlord had not provided an address in England or Wales for service of notices as required by section 48 Landlord and Tenant Act 1987.

Sunset Ltd v Al-Hindi [2023] EWHC 2443 (Ch)

Housing asylum seeker away from support network unlawful

The High Court has ruled that the Secretary of State's decision to house a vulnerable asylum seeker in Swindon, away from his support network and friends in South London, was unlawful.

NS, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for the Home Office [2023] EWHC 2675 (Admin)

Property guardian companies running unlicensed HMOs

The Court of Appeal held that the property guardians in these cases used the properties as living accommodation and this constituted the only use of the accommodation for the purposes of section 252(2)(d) Housing Act 2004. This section of the Act defines houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

The court held the properties were HMOs and the management companies were subject to local authority licensing requirements.

Global 100 Ltd v Jimenez & Ors [2023] EWCA Civ 1243

Succession to a secure tenancy when the tenant was absent

The Court of Appeal held the succession rules for secure tenancies did not discriminate against a deceased tenant's family member under the European Convention on Human Rights.

A secure tenant permanently moved into a care home and did not have capacity to assign the tenancy. As the tenant no longer lived in the property, their tenancy lost security. This prevented their daughter from inheriting the tenancy.

Dudley Metropolitan Council v Mailley [2023] EWCA Civ 1246

Rent repayment orders and mesne tenancy

The Upper Tribunal refused to admit additional evidence supplied by the tenants to support their claim that their tenancy had become binding on the head landlord.

The tenants argued they could apply for a rent repayment order against the head landlord because the mesne tenant company was dissolved and section 18 Housing Act 1988 applied. The Tribunal held that when the mesne tenant company was dissolved its tenancy vested in the Crown and section 18 did not apply.

Cussinel & Anor v Guerin & Ors [2023] UKUT 235 (LC)

News and updates

Section 21 validity: how to rent guide updated

The government published a new version of the How to Rent Guide on 2 October 2023. The new guide includes information about the Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service which offers early legal advice to tenants at risk of eviction.

A Section 21 notice is invalid if the landlord fails to provide a tenant with the correct version of the guide.

How to rent guide - Gov.uk

Storm Babet flooding: government support

The government announced funding to help communities affected by flooding from Storm Babet.

The help includes up to £500 cash for flooded households to help with immediate costs and 100% council tax relief for households significantly affected.

Government announces support for flood-hit areas - Gov.uk

Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) and winter provision toolkit

A severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) is a local authority’s temporary response to the risks to rough sleepers from severe weather.

Homeless Link published this year's toolkit on 6 October 2023. It provides a checklist for organisations planning SWEP and winter provision, and includes in-depth guidance and case studies.

2023 SWEP & winter provision toolkit launches today - Homeless Link

Help with court fees expansion

The government announced an expansion of the Help with Fees scheme, including an increase in the income threshold. This means thousands more people will be able to access support. The changes are expected to come into force on 27 November.

Online and paper applications for help with fees will be updated to make them easier to complete. People can apply online for help with court fees at Gov.uk.

Thousands more eligible for financial help with court fees - Gov.uk

Housing Ombudsman report on Islington Council

The Housing Ombudsman published a special investigation report on Islington Council. It found four key themes for improvement. These are:

  • disrepair

  • complaint handling

  • antisocial behaviour

  • underlying cross-cutting issues

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities wrote to Islington Council on 24 October following the report's publication.

Empowering staff key to improving housing service delivery, finds Ombudsman’s special report on Islington Council - Housing Ombudsman

Letter from Secretary of State to Islington Council - Gov.uk

Housing Ombudsman: new scheme

The new approved Housing Ombudsman Scheme came into effect on 1 October 2023 and replaces the previous scheme. Social landlords must join the scheme.

The scheme reflects new powers under the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023. The Ombudsman can order a landlord to make changes to wider practices, policies and procedures. The aim is to ensure social landlords work to prevent repeat problems affecting other tenants.

Housing Ombudsman publishes revised Scheme to extend fairness to all residents beyond individual complaints - Housing Ombudsman

Ending homelessness in Wales: open consultation

The Welsh government released a White Paper consulting on proposed reforms of core homelessness legislation in Wales.

Proposals include:

  • the abolition of the priority need and intentional homelessness tests

  • accommodation is automatically unsuitable if it contains a category 1 hazard

  • a statutory duty on public service providers to refer people at risk of homelessness to the local authority

The consultation is open to responses until 16 January 2024.

White Paper on ending homelessness in Wales - Gov.wales

Consultation outcome: council tax for HMOs

Following a February 2023 consultation, the government says it will amend legislation to ensure all houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are valued as single properties for council tax purposes.

The government expects the changes to come into force before the end of 2023.

Council tax valuation of Houses in Multiple Occupation - Gov.uk

Fire doors: statutory guidance

The Home Office issued statutory guidance in respect of fire safety checks on the front doors of some flats.

The responsible person, usually the freeholder or managing agent, must check the safety of flat entrance fire doors every 12 months and communal fire doors every three months.

Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022: fire door guidance - Gov.uk

House of Commons Library: Leasehold high-rise flats: Who pays for fire safety work?

Shared ownership: rents reform

From 12 October 2023, shared ownership rents will increase once per year by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) plus 1% for new shared owners, subject to some exceptions.

This brings shared ownership rents in line with rent increase limits for other forms of social housing. The previous increase limit was RPI plus 0.5%.

Shared ownership rents reform - Gov.uk

Empty homes in England

This House of Commons Library research briefing covers trends in the number of empty homes in England. It also outlines how local authorities can tackle the problem.

Empty housing (England) - House of Commons Library

National tenant survey

The Regulator of Social Housing plans to carry out a national survey of social housing tenants. The aim is to understand how satisfied tenants are with their landlord's services.

Regular of Social Housing announces plans for a National Tenant Survey - Gov.uk

Data and trends

7% increase in local authority homeless assessments in England

The government has released the annual statistics for statutory homelessness in England covering 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023. Key findings include:

  • local authorities made assessments for 311,990 households in England, up 7% from the previous year

  • 298,430 of these households were owed a homeless duty because they were homeless or threatened with homelessness, an increase of 6.8% from the previous year

  • 54,320 households were threatened with homelessness due to the end of an assured shorthold tenancy, a 22.1% increase from the previous year

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities: Statutory homelessness in England: financial year 2022-23

2,893 people sleeping rough on a single night in June 2023

The government has published information about the support available for people sleeping rough or at risk of sleeping rough. The research shows:

  • 2,893 people were estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in June 2023, up 18% on the previous quarter

  • 29% of people sleeping rough on a single night in June 2023 had not slept rough before

  • 5,060 people were estimated to be in off the street accommodation in June 2023, down 8% on the previous year

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities: Support for people sleeping rough in England, June 2023

3.8 million people experienced destitution in 2022

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a study into destitution. Destitution is defined as the most severe form of material hardship, where someone cannot meet their basic physical needs to stay warm, dry, clean and fed.

The findings include:

  • approximately 3.8 million people experienced destitution in 2022, including around one million children

  • the number of children experiencing destitution since 2017 has almost tripled

  • almost two thirds of respondents reported having a chronic health problem or disability

Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Destitution in the UK 2023

Guardian: More than 1 million UK children experienced destitution last year, study finds

71,440 people identified as Gypsy or Irish Traveller in the 2021 Census

The Office for National Statistics has published statistics exploring outcomes for Gypsy or Irish Traveller populations. The findings include:

  • 71,440 people identified as Gypsy or Irish Traveller through a tick-box or write-in response in Census 2021

  • semi-detached properties were the most common accommodation type for those who identified as Gypsy or Irish Traveller who lived in households

  • poorer health was reported across all age groups and in both sexes among people who identified as Gypsy or Irish traveller, compared with the England and Wales population

Office for National Statistics: Gypsy or Irish Traveller populations, England and Wales: Census 2021

Renters on a median income spend 26% of their income on a median priced rented home

The Office for National Statistics has released a statistical bulletin looking at the affordability of the private rented sector in 2022. The data shows:

  • private renters on a median household income could expect to spend 26% of their income on median priced rented home in England

  • lower rents were above the 30% of income threshold for lower income households

  • London was the least affordable region

Office for National Statistics: Private rental affordability, England, Wales and Northern Ireland: 2022

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