7th October 2020
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HOUSING LAW NEWS & POLICY ISSUES
 

Statutory homelessness 2019-20 – England
On 1 October 2020 the HMCLG published statistics on statutory homelessness in England for the 2019-20 financial year. During that period:

  • 288,470 households were owed a prevention or relief duty in the first instance from local authorities.
  • There has been a 14.9 per cent increase in relief duties owed since 2018-19 and 71.0 per cent of this increase is attributed to single adult households.
  • Most households with children have their homelessness application taken at the prevention stage, whereas most single adult households are applying for assistance at the relief stage, when they are actually homeless.
  • Main duty acceptances have fallen by 29.3 per cent from 56,600 in 2017-18 before the Homelessness Reduction Act to 40,040 in 2019-20.

For the full statistics, click here. For tables showing the data organised by various criteria, click here. For the response of the Local Government Association, click here. For a House of Commons Library briefing on the topic (published on 29 September 2020), click here.

Homelessness and Black people
On 1 October 2020 Shelter, analysing the latest statutory homelessness statistics (above), noted the following: 

  • Black people are disproportionately affected by homelessness with 1 in 23 black households becoming homeless or threatened with homelessness, versus 1 in 83 households from all other ethnicities combined.
  • 11 per cent of homeless people applying for help are Black even though Black people make up 3 per cent of households in England.
  • A quarter (24 per cent) of people making homelessness applications to local councils are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, even though they make up just over a tenth (11 per cent) of all households in England.
  • A person who is Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) becomes homeless or threatened with homelessness every eight minutes.

For the Shelter statement, click here.

Private renting and lockdown
On 6 October 2020 Shelter published the results of a YouGov poll of private renters taken between 4 and 7 September 2020 which found that only half felt safe in their homes during lockdown. The survey also found:

  • 56 per cent experienced an issue with the condition of their home during lockdown;
  • 15 per cent suffered a housing maintenance issue that caused them stress;
  • 44 per cent of private renters said their home had less space than they needed; and 29 per cent said this made lockdown harder, compared with 29 per cent and 15 per cent respectively of the overall number polled.

For more details, click here.

Housing supply: January to June 2020 – England

On 30 September 2020 the MHCLG published an indication of the levels of and trends in new housing supply in England between January and June 2020. The number of dwellings where – according to building control figures – building work has started on site was 15,930 in April to June 2020. This is a 52 per cent decrease when compared to last quarter and this steep fall in activity reflects UK government Covid-19 lockdown measures. It follows a recent trend of a slowdown in growth with each of the last six quarters showing a decrease. The number of dwellings completed – according to building control figures – on site was 15,950 in April to June 2020. This is a 62 per cent decrease when compared to last quarter; and following on from the 5 per cent decrease in the previous quarterly change, this represents a steep fall after a period of sustained growth. For the full figures, click here.

Draft Building Safety Bill
On 5 October 2020 the Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee took evidence from Dame Judith Hackitt and representatives of the Health and Safety Executive as part of the Committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Building Safety Bill. To view the session, click here. For more details of the scrutiny exercise, click here.

Domestic abuse and older people

On 2 October 2020 Age UK called on the Government to consider how to make the best use of resources to tackle domestic abuse among older people, because "domestic abuse has no age limit". In a new report – No Age Limit: the blind spot of older victims and survivors in the Domestic Abuse Bill – the charity says that lockdown has increased the risk of older people experiencing domestic abuse, despite misconceptions that those living with others are 'fortunate' and 'safe'. Such abuse victims are likely to be dependent on the person abusing them financially or for their care. They will face, in addition to fear, barriers to reporting this abuse such as lack of physical and mental capacity and a lack of access to digital or other services. Age UK has asked for:

  • training for health care practitioners, including GPs and practice nurses, who work with older people, particularly during hospital admission and discharge; and
  • data on domestic abuse for all ages, not just people aged 74 and under.

For the Age UK report, click here. For the response of the Local Government Association, click here.

UK Housing Review Autumn Briefing Paper

On 5 October 2020 the Chartered Institute of Housing published the UK Housing Review’s Autumn Briefing Paper which warned that “the UK is ill-prepared to deal with housing needs that have been made worse during the pandemic and that it is young households who will suffer most”. According to the Briefing Paper, while housing costs (rents and mortgage repayments) have not increased as steeply as in years past, incomes are also not increasing, causing significant problems. The Briefing Paper also states:

  • The UK Government does not yet have investment plans that address the scale of housing need now emerging.
  • Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are in the same position – held back in part because of delays in setting the UK Budget.
  • While massive investment is needed in social rented housing, the ability of social landlords to invest is affected by their financial capacity and the continuing calls on their resources to make the housing stock safe from fire.
  • The Government’s carbon targets require 1.2 million homes to be made energy-efficient each year, but the target cannot be met with current resources and without government commitment.
  • Measures to protect tenants during the pandemic have worked so far, but there is a risk of a massive increase in evictions and homelessness over the coming months.
  • Rough sleeping has been tackled successfully during the pandemic, but this success is at risk unless measures are taken to help those with no access to benefits.
  • The changes to welfare benefits during the crisis have highlighted the severe impact of the benefit cap which prevents many households from getting the help they need.

For the Briefing Paper, click here. For the CIH press release concerning it, click here.

Registered social landlords business continuity: July 2020 – Wales

On 30 September 2020 the Welsh Government published the results of a survey in July 2020 as to how housing associations in Wales have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst RSLs are reporting some increased pressures, none is suggesting there are any unmanageable issues in any aspects of its business. Income is currently holding up reasonably well, although there is an expectation that arrears may increase significantly as financial support mechanisms such as furlough taper off and end. RSLs are actively stressing their business plans and monitoring financial performance very closely. For the survey, click here.

Grenfell Tower Inquiry

On 28 September 2020 the Grenfell Tower Inquiry published an update on its work. The update provides a digest of: continuation of limited attendance hearings; disclosure figures; core participant numbers; support arrangements during limited attendance hearings; contact information; and drop-in sessions. For the newsletter, click here.

Housing Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code
On 30 September 2020 the Housing Ombudsman published a set of FAQs for landlords which focus on the areas of the Complaint Handling Code where the most number of enquiries have been received during its webinars. The Complaint Handling Code which was published in July 2020 enables landlords to resolve complaints raised by their residents quickly and to use the learning from complaints to drive service improvements. For the FAQs, click here. For details of the Complaint Handling Code, click here.

Homelessness and system change

On 29 September 2020 Homeless Link published Changing Local Systems which seeks to “unpick what is meant by local systems change in the homelessness sector”. Partnered with Collaborate CIC, Homeless Link explores within the report how the sector has embraced the idea of systems change and share examples of different ways it is already being put into practice. Fiona Colley, Director of Social Change, notes: “It seemed prescient that at this point in the sector’s ongoing response to the pandemic, we consider how local systems can and should be driving change in the challenging period ahead of us. With the Covid-19 crisis, we have seen local systems tested, stretched and flexed in new ways. It has shown what is possible when people work together to achieve changes they could not achieve on their own. And this is something we know is at the heart of real, systemic change: it is the work of many, but achieving it is hard work, and takes energy, commitment and a certain generosity of spirit.” For the report, click here.

HOUSING LAWS IN THE PIPELINE
 

Fire Safety Bill
This Government bill would make provision about the application of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 where a building contains two or more sets of domestic premises; and would confer power to amend that order in future for the purposes of changing the premises to which it applies. The bill completed its final stages in the House of Commons on 7 September 2020. It received its first reading in the House of Lords on 8 September 2020 and its second reading on 1 October 2020. The committee stage will be on a date to be appointed. For the bill, as introduced in the House of Lords, click here. To read debates on all stages of the bill, click here. For a briefing note prepared by the Local Government Association on second reading in the House of Lords, click here. To follow progress of the bill, click here.

Houses in Multiple Occupation Bill
This private member’s bill, sponsored by Ian Levy, would amend the law relating to the licensing of houses in multiple occupation and increase penalties for the contravention of such licences. The bill received its first reading on 9 September 2020 and is scheduled to receive its second reading on 5 February 2021. The bill is being prepared for publication. To follow progress of the bill, click here.

Domestic Premises (Energy Performance) Bill
This private member’s bill, sponsored by Lord Foster of Bath, would require the Secretary of State to ensure that domestic properties have a minimum energy performance rating of C on an Energy Performance Certificate; to make provision regarding performance and insulation of new heating systems in existing properties. The first reading was on 8 January 2020 and the second reading on 7 February 2020. The committee stage will commence on a date to be appointed. For the bill, as introduced, click here. To follow progress of the bill, click here.

Domestic Properties (Minimum Energy Performance) Bill
This private member’s bill, sponsored by Sir David Amess, would require the Secretary of State to ensure that domestic properties have a minimum energy performance rating of C on an Energy Performance Certificate; to give the Secretary of State powers to require persons to take action in pursuance of that duty. The first reading was on 14 July 2020 and the second reading will now take place on 23 October 2020. The bill is being prepared for publication. To follow progress of the bill, click here.

Rented Homes Bill
This private member’s bill, sponsored by Baroness Grender, would amend the Housing Act 1988 to abolish assured shorthold tenancies; and to extend the grounds upon which landlords of residential housing may recover possession. First reading took place on 22 January 2020. The second reading will be on a date to be announced. For the bill, as introduced, click here. To follow progress of the bill, click here.

Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill
This Government bill would amend the electronic communications code set out in Schedule 3A to the Communications Act 2003; by doing so, it would address one stated policy barrier: making it easier for telecoms companies to access multi-dwelling buildings (such as blocks of flats) where a tenant has requested a new connection, but the landlord has not responded to requests for access rights. The bill received its first reading in the House of Commons on 8 January 2020 and its second reading on 22 January 2020. For the second reading debate, click here. The committee stage was completed on 11 February 2020. For the committee debate, click here. The third reading in the House of Commons was on 10 March 2020; for the debate, click here. First reading in the House of Lords was on 11 March 2020. The second reading was on 22 April 2020. The committee stage was completed on 2 June 2020 and the report stage on 29 June 2020. The third reading will be on a date to be announced. For the bill, as introduced in the House of Lords, click here. To follow progress of the bill, click here. For a briefing, prepared by the House of Commons Library after second reading in the House of Commons, click here.

Renting Homes (Amendment) (Wales) Bill
This Welsh Government bill seeks to amend the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 to provide greater security for people who rent their homes in Wales. This will particularly affect those who live in the private rented sector and occupy their homes under a ‘standard occupation contract’, the equivalent to the current assured shorthold tenancy, after the 2016 Act comes into force. This additional security will primarily be achieved by extending the minimum notice period for issuing a section 173 notice under the 2016 Act (the equivalent of the current section 21 notice under the Housing Act 1988) from two months to six months. Landlords will also be prevented from issuing such a notice until at least six months from the date of occupancy. Further provisions will also ensure that landlords are unable to issue rolling ‘speculative’ notices on a ‘just in case’ basis. The bill was introduced in the Senedd on 10 February 2020. Stage 1 (debate in Plenary on general principles) has not yet been reached. The Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee laid its report on the bill on 1 October 2020. The Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee laid its report on the bill on 2 October 2020.The Finance Committee considered the bill on 14 September 2020. For the bill as introduced, all other documents relating to it, and to follow progress on the  bill, click here.

Caravan Sites Bill
This private members’ bill, sponsored by Sir Christopher Chope, would amend the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 to remove planning permission requirements for caravan site licence applicants. The bill is being prepared for publication. It received its first reading in the House of Commons on 10 February 2020. The second reading has been brought forward to 23 October 2020. To follow progress of the bill, click here.

Evictions (Universal Credit Claimants) Bill
This private members’ bill, sponsored by Chris Stephens, seeks to place a duty on the Secretary of State to prevent the evictions of Universal Credit claimants in rent arrears. The bill is being prepared for publication. It received its first reading in the House of Commons on 10 February 2020. The second reading has been further postponed to 29 January 2021. To follow progress of the bill, click here.

Homeless People (Current Accounts) Bill
This private members’ bill, sponsored by Peter Bone, would require banks to provide current accounts for homeless people seeking work. The bill is being prepared for publication. It received its first reading in the House of Commons on 10 February 2020. The second reading has been postponed to 5 March 2021. To follow progress of the bill, click here.

Mobile Homes Act 1983 (Amendment) Bill
This private members’ bill, sponsored by Sir Christopher Chope, seeks to amend the Mobile Homes Act 1983. The bill is being prepared for publication. It received its first reading in the House of Commons on 10 February 2020. The second reading has been further postponed to 23 October 2020. To follow progress of the bill, click here.

Mobile Homes and Park Homes Bill
This private members’ bill, sponsored by Sir Christopher Chope, would require the use of published criteria to determine whether mobile homes and park homes are liable for council tax or non-domestic rates; make provision in relation to the residential status of such homes; and amend the Mobile Home Acts. The bill is being prepared for publication. It received its first reading in the House of Commons on 10 February 2020. The second reading has been further postponed to 15 January 2021. To follow progress of the bill, click here.

Housing Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill
This private members’ bill, sponsored by Sir Christopher Chope, seeks to amend Part 3 of the Housing Act 2004 to provide that any selective licensing scheme for residential accommodation extends to social housing. The bill is being prepared for publication. It received its first reading on 10 February 2020. The second reading has been further postponed to 15 January 2021. To follow progress of the bill, click here.

Sublet Property (Offences) Bill
This private members’ bill, sponsored by Sir Christopher Chope, would make the breach of certain rules relating to sub-letting rented accommodation a criminal offence and would make provision for criminal sanctions in respect of unauthorised sub-letting. The bill is being prepared for publication. It received its first reading on 10 February 2020. The second reading has been further postponed to 13 November 2020. To follow progress of the bill, click here.

Vagrancy (Repeal) Bill
This private members’ bill, sponsored by Layla Moran, would repeal the Vagrancy Act 1824. It received its first reading in the House of Commons on 18 March 2020. The second reading has been further postponed to 23 October 2020. For the bill as introduced, click here. To follow progress of the bill, click here.

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HOUSING LAW CONSULTATIONS
 

Intermediate Homes for London
Intermediate housing is one of the main forms of affordable homes built in London. The Mayor of London is consulting on a broad range of proposals in relation to intermediate homes, including how to address concerns with the affordability of shared ownership homes, what more can be done to support delivery of these homes and how allocations for intermediate homes can be made more transparent and consistent. The consultation also provides an opportunity to think about whether more can be done to help key workers access and benefit from these homes in London. This is particularly important in the context of the current health crisis which has highlighted the key role many occupations play in supporting the capital’s resilience during times of crisis. The consultation closes on 11 October 2020. For more information about the consultation, click here. For the consultation document, click here.

Raising accessibility standards for new homes
This consultation considers how to raise accessibility standards, recognising the importance of suitable homes for older and disabled people. In particular, it considers how the existing optional accessible and adaptable standard for homes and the wheelchair user standard are used and whether government should mandate a higher standard or reconsider the way the existing optional standards are used. The consultation closes on 1 December 2020. For the consultation document, click here.

Ombudsman’s consultation on proposed Own Initiative Investigation on Homelessness Assessment and Review Process – Wales

This consultation seeks views on whether the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales should conduct an investigation into the administration of the homelessness assessment and review process by local authorities in Wales and consider what actions and learning from good administrative practice during the pandemic can be taken forward to drive change or wider learning. The closing date for submissions is 30 October 2020. For the consultation document, click here.

Funding allocation methods: new domestic abuse duty

As part of the Domestic Abuse Bill, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, is introducing a new duty on local authorities in England to provide support for victims and their children in domestic abuse safe accommodation. Subject to the successful passage of the bill, the new duty will commence in April 2021. Under the duty, local authorities will be required to assess the need for and commission support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in safe accommodation services in their areas, and report back to central government that they have met these obligations.

This consultation, which closes on 13 November 2020, seeks views on the government’s proposals for allocation of new burden funding associated with the duty to Tier 1 and Tier 2 local authorities. This consultation will be of particular interest to local authorities across England and is relevant for both upper and lower tiers. For the consultation document, click here.

HOUSING LAW ARTICLES & PUBLICATIONS
 

Renters who have fallen behind need urgent government help Rosie Derricourt Citizens Advice Blog 25 September 2020 – to read the article, click here

Possession – after the stay Helen Tucker and Rebecca Sembuuze Local Government Lawyer 28 September 2020 – to read the article, click here

Housing Case Law Update – September
Michael Owen and Clive Adams Local Government Lawyer 29 September 2020 – to read the article, click here

Shared ownership reform
Nalton Stembari, James Chaplin and James Howard Local Government Lawyer 29 September 2020 – to read the article, click here

'They save lives': the lettings agency that's exclusively for homeless people
Lauren Brown The Guardian 30 September 2020 – to read the article, click here

Repairs, renewals and ‘like for like’
Giles Peaker Nearly Legal 30 September 2020 – to read the article, click here

Can social housing rebalance the homelessness equation?
Chloe Fletcher CIH Blog 30 September 2020 – to read the article, click here

The resumption of Part 55 CPR possession cases
Raghav Trivedi Local Government Lawyer 30 September 2020 – to read the article, click here

Judicial review: there is much at stake
Carol Storer Legal Action September – to read the article, click here

For this relief, much thanks
Giles Peaker Nearly Legal 4 October 2020 – to read the article, click here

Housing: recent developments
Sam Madge-Wyld and Jan Luba QC Legal Action October 2020 ‒ to read the article (subscription required), click here

HOUSING LAW DIARY
 

11 October 2020                                   
Deadline for submission to consultation on Intermediate Homes for London (see Housing Law Consultations)

19 October 2020                                   
First Review Dates (allowing 21 days’ notice); see Overall Arrangements Document issued by the Master of the Rolls (Housing Law Week – 23 September 2020).

23 October 2020                                   
Second reading in the House of Commons of Caravan Sites Bill (see Housing Laws in the Pipeline)

23 October 2020                                              
Second reading in the House of Commons of Mobile Homes Act 1983 (Amendment) Bill (see Housing Laws in the Pipeline)

23 October 2020                                  
Second reading in the House of Commons of Vagrancy (Repeal) Bill (see Housing Laws in the Pipeline)

23 October 2020                                  
Second reading in the House of Commons of Domestic Properties (Minimum Energy Performance) Bill (see Housing Laws in the Pipeline)

30 October 2020
Second reading in the House of Commons of Domestic Properties (Minimum Energy Performance) Bill (see Housing Laws in the Pipeline)

30 October 2020                                   
Closing date for submissions to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales’s consultation on proposed Own Initiative Investigation on Homelessness Assessment and Review Process (see Housing Law Consultations)

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Homeless Officer
Swale Borough Council
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Homelessness Prevention & Relief Team Leader
Brent Council
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Partnership & Resident Liaison Officer x 2
Brighton and Hove City Council
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Housing Solutions Assistant Apprentice
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
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Domestic Abuse Housing Options Officer
Swindon Borough Council
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Enhanced Housing Options Officer
Sheffield City Council
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Principal Lawyer Enforcement
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
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Private Sector Housing & Licensing Assistant
London Borough of Waltham Forest
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Anti-Social Behaviour Investigation Officer
Swindon Borough Council
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Affordable Housing Supply Senior Officer
Oxford City Council
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Affordable Housing Supply Programme Officer
Oxford City Council
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Supported Housing Placement Officer
Brighton and Hove City Council
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Advanced Practitioner – Domestic Abuse Specialist
London Borough of Lewisham
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