Round up of housing law and news: September 2022
LHA rate exception for domestic abuse and modern slavery survivors
From 1 October 2022 new regulations extend the exceptions from the local housing allowance (LHA) shared accommodation rate, and the single room rent in the case of housing benefit. The exceptions now include victims of domestic abuse who have attained the age of 16, and victims of modern slavery.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in social rented accommodation
From 1 October 2022 these regulations amend the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 to strengthen the existing duties on landlords in the private rented sector and extend them to the social rented sector.
The duties now apply to all registered providers of social housing, including local authorities. They are expected to comply with the regulations when they come into force, or to have plans in place to ensure their compliance in a prompt and timely way that mitigates any risk to tenants. Providers with concerns about their ability to achieve compliance in time should self-refer to the Regulator of Social Housing.
Accompanying guidance for landlords, tenants, and local authorities has been issued.
Easier access to Housing Ombudsman Service
From 1 October 2022 section 160 of the Building Safety Act 2022 comes into force and makes amendments to the Housing Ombudsman complaints process. Complainants will no longer need to contact a designated person such as an MP, local councillor, recognised tenant panel, or wait eight weeks before referring their complaint to the Ombudsman if they remain dissatisfied at the end of their landlord’s complaint process.
Changes to Civil Procedure Rules
From 1 October 2022 amendments to the Civil Procedure Rules are introduced with the aim of simplifying the language of the existing rules. These amendments focus on the service of claim forms and court documents in CPR 6 and 7.
Substantive changes to the rules allow claimants to serve certain documents outside England and Wales without the Court’s permission. The wording of statements of case in CPR 16 for claimants and defendants, and the accompanying practice direction, have been simplified to assist litigants in person.
A new part four is inserted into CPR 55 (Possession claims) to coincide with the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, coming into force on 1 December 2022.
Irish citizens arriving from Ukraine and habitual residence test
These Regulations correct a drafting error in the Social Security (Habitual Residence and Past Presence) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 to ensure that Irish citizens are exempted from the habitual residence test and past presence test when claiming income-related, disability and carers benefits upon arrival from Ukraine.
Unlawful eviction and failure of the police to intervene
The European Court of Human Rights held that the failure of the police to protect a tenant facing an unlawful eviction by their landlord ‘because the dispute was a civil matter’ constituted a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Loss of secure tenancy while permanently residing in a nursing home
The High Court held that the eviction of the family member of a secure tenant who died while permanently residing in a nursing home was proportionate and did not breach their human rights. The family member would have been entitled to succeed to the secure tenancy under section 87 of the Housing Act 1985, but the tenant had ceased to occupy the property as their only or principal home and the tenancy had ceased to be secure.
DWP guidance on deductions from legacy benefits unlawful
The High Court held that the Department for Work and Pensions guidance and process on ‘third party deductions’ from legacy benefits under the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1987 to pay for fuel and water debts is unlawful because it does not include a stage for seeking representations.
Property guardianship companies must licence premises as HMOs
The Upper Tribunal confirmed that two property guardianship companies and their director had committed the criminal offence of operating an unlicensed HMO under section 72(1) of the Housing Act 2004. The Tribunal upheld the civil penalty notices issued by the local authority imposing fines totalling £18,000, and rent repayment orders totalling £36,000 made in favour of nine ‘guardians’.
News and guidance
Food banks fear they will be unable to meet demand this winter
The Independent Food Aid Network calls for urgent government intervention after food banks operating across the UK have reported that the number of people they are supporting has grown dramatically and that, heading into winter, they fear they will not be able to meet demand.
New exceptions to shared LHA rates will need to self-identify
From 1 October 2022, survivors of domestic abuse or modern slavery are exempt from the shared accommodation rate of Local Housing Allowance under Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. The DWP has advised the Social Security Advisory Committee that in order to benefit from the exception, the onus is on claimants to alert their Work Coach to their status as a survivor of either domestic abuse or modern slavery.
Funding for fire risks associated with cladding in high-rise buildings
The Building Safety Fund provides funding to address life safety fire risks associated with cladding in high-rise buildings in England. Applications can be made by freeholders, head leaseholders, resident management companies, right to manage companies, and social housing providers. This guide on how the adapted 2022 BSF process works.
Fire safety and remediation of historic building safety defects
The government has published information for leaseholders on fire safety, and remediation of historic building safety defects – including who is responsible for paying for remediation works.
Residential building safety and protection for leaseholders
Whilst many parts of the Building Safety Act 2022 are yet to come into force, some parts of the Act are already in force and more are due to be coming into force over the next few months. Government guidance states that the Act ‘delivers far-reaching protections for qualifying leaseholders from the costs associated with remediating historical building safety defects, and an ambitious toolkit of measures that will allow those responsible for building safety defects to be held to account.’
The Act is set to overhaul existing regulations and clarify how residential buildings should be constructed, maintained and made safe. It creates three new bodies to provide effective oversight of the new regime - the Building Safety Regulator, the National Regulator of Construction Products and the New Homes Ombudsman. These articles set out an overview of the different provisions and when they come into effect.
The UK’s new points-based immigration system
The UK adopted a new immigration system on 1 January 2021 to coincide with Brexit. The new system removed the right to free movement for EEA nationals and introduced a ‘points based’ system of eligibility criteria for work visas. The House of Commons Library has published two papers looking at how the system works and what impact it has had on immigration levels.
Data and trends
Increase of families at risk of homelessness due to a section 21 notice
The latest statistics on statutory homelessness applications, duties, and outcomes for local authorities in England show a sharp increase in the number of households threatened with homelessness due to service of a section 21 notice. The government says this may partially reflect the removal of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions on private rented sector evictions from May 2021.
Cost of living crisis and rise of absolute poverty
A new report from the Resolution Foundation forecasts that, without significant intervention, the number of people in living in absolute poverty will rise by three million over the next two years.
Higher insurance costs in block of flats after the Grenfell Tower fire
The Financial Conduct Authority has published a report on insurance costs in buildings containing two or more residential leasehold flats. It shows a 125% increase in premiums since the Grenfell Tower fire. The report examines causes and possible solutions. Stakeholders such as residential leaseholders, freehold property owners, property managing agents, insurance brokers and insurers are invited to give feedback.
The government has published a response and written to interested parties.
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