8th March 2017
Quick Links

Social housing regulation – fees
On 3 March 2017 the Homes and Communities Agency confirmed that it will delay the introduction of fees for social housing regulation until October 2017. Providers will pay 50% of the annual fee for 2017 to 2018. The regulator was granted powers to charge fees under the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008. Following the outcome of a statutory consultation at the end of 2016, the regulator will introduce: a one-off flat-rate registration fee of £2,500 for successful registration with the regulator; a fixed annual fee of £300 for providers with fewer than 1,000 social housing units; an annual per unit fee of £4.72 for large providers with 1,000 or more social housing units – with the fee charged at group level rather than for each individual entity on the register. For the announcement, click here For the formal response to the consultation, click here

English Housing Survey
On 2 March the DCLG published the English Housing Survey headline report. It shows, amongst other trends, that in 2015-16, the private rented sector accounted for 4.5 million or 20% of households. The social rented sector accounted for 3.9 million households or 17% of households. There was no change in the size of either sector between 2014-15 and 2015-16. In 2015-16, 59% of private renters (2.6 million households) and 27% of social renters (1.0 million households) stated that they expected to buy a property at some point in the future. Between 2014-15 and 2015-16, there was no change in the proportion of private renters who expected to buy; however, the proportion of social renters who expected to buy increased from 24% to 27%. On average, those buying their home with a mortgage spent 18% of their household income on mortgage payments whereas rent payments were 28% of household income for social renters and 35% of household income for private renters. To read the Survey, click here For the LGA response to the Survey, click here

Temporary accommodation for homeless families
On 6 March 2017 the Local Government Association published analysis that suggests that a chronic shortage of affordable housing is forcing councils to spend more than £2 million a day on temporary accommodation for homeless families. Consequently the LGA is calling on government to use this week's Budget to free councils from borrowing limits hampering their ability to build new homes, and to adapt welfare reforms to protect families at risk of homelessness. To read about the LGA analysis, click here

Housing law in the courts
On 2 March 2017 the Ministry of Justice published civil justice statistics for October to December 2016 which showed that during that period mortgage and landlord possession claims dropped 13% (compared to October-December 2015) to 36,000. For the full statistics, click here

Supported housing
On 1 March 2017 the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee invited tenants, carers and providers of supported housing to attend an event about the investigation into the future of supported housing and help inform the Committee’s inquiry. It will take place on 20 March 2017, 11.30am–1.30pm, at Arlington Conference Centre, 220 Arlington Road, London NW1 7HE. For details, click here

Supported housing – Homelessness Link’s ‘five core principles’
On 1 March 2017 Homelessness Link launched five core principles that, it says, are necessary to secure a sustainable future for supported housing services. The principles for assessing any future funding proposals for these services are: (1) Provide adequate funding on a sustainable basis so that supported housing is available to everyone who needs it; (2) Respond flexibly to the diversity and complexity of people’s individual needs and aspirations; (3) Encourage the sector to use its expertise to implement good practice, innovate and develop to meet future demand; (4) Support the commissioning of high-quality supported housing schemes that meet the current and future needs of local communities; and (5) Develop in partnership with supported housing schemes and their residents. For more information, click here

Discretionary Housing Payments – Scotland
On 5 March 2017 the Scottish Government announced that it would increase funding by £7.7 million for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) next year as the Scottish Government takes full responsibility for DHP funding. The total funding of £57.9 million made available to local authorities will be split as follows: £47 million to fully mitigate the bedroom tax for more than 70,000 households (up from £45.4 million); and £10.9 million (up from £4.8 million) to help mitigate other UK Government policies such as the Benefit Cap and Local Housing Allowance rates. For the announcement, click here

Universal Credit (Housing Costs Element for Claimants aged 18 to 21) (Amendment) Regulations 2017
On 3 March 2017 there were laid before Parliament the Universal Credit (Housing Costs Element for claimants aged 18 to 21) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 which amend the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 so that certain claimants aged 18 to 21 are not entitled to the housing costs element of universal credit. The Regulations come into force on 1st April 2017. For the regulations, click here

Private renting – under 21-year-olds
On 6 March 2017 the Residential Landlords Association called on the government to abandon plans to cut housing benefit for 18-21s following a survey by the RLA of more than 1,000 landlords which revealed that 76 per cent fear the measure will leave under 21s unable to pay their rent, making landlords less willing to let property to those in this age group. For more details, click here For the response of Crisis to regulations (see above) that will restrict 18 to 21 year olds from claiming the housing element of universal credit, click here

Affordable homes – funding
On 3 March 2017 the Chartered Institute of Housing published figures showing that “despite a renewed commitment from the government to solve the housing crisis just 16 per cent of the total funding it has earmarked for housing over [the period to 2021] will directly support the building of new affordable homes”. The CIH says that just £8 billion of the £51 billion earmarked for housing up to 2021 will directly fund affordable homes. For more details, click here

Social housing vacancies, lettings and arrears – Wales
On 2 March 2017 the Welsh Government published the latest annual report presenting information on the amount of housing units that were empty, the number of housing units rented to tenants and the number of social housing tenants who were in rent arrears. Both the number and the percentage of vacant social housing stock decreased during 2015-16. At the 31st March 2016, a total of 4,340 social housing units (1.9 per cent of all social housing stock) were vacant, down by 4 per cent on the previous year. Housing units vacant for more than six months decreased by 13 per cent, compared to the end of March 2015 and accounted for 28 per cent of all vacant social housing compared with 31 per cent a year earlier. The number of new lettings of social housing stock increased by 1 per cent during 2015-16, to 22,246. The majority (62 per cent) of these continued to be from housing waiting lists, with a further 24 per cent through transfers and exchanges and 14 per cent through priority lettings to homeless households. For the full statistics, click here

Right to Buy receipts
On 2 March 2017 Inside Housing reported that the government had confirmed to the journal that £800m of the £3.5bn raised in sales receipts under the Right to Buy scheme since discounts were increased in 2012 had been passed to the Treasury. As a consequence the DCLG is facing pressure to allow councils to retain the full receipt from Right to Buy sales. To read the item in Inside Housing, click here

Homelessness Reduction Bill
This is a Private Members’ Bill introduced in the House of Commons by Bob Blackman which seeks to amend the Housing Act 1996 to make provision about measures for reducing homelessness; and for connected purposes. The Bill has won the support of the Government; for the DCLG press statement in that respect, click here On 17 January 2017 the DCLG announced that councils would receive a further £48 million funding to help deliver new and expanded services under the Bill; for the announcement, click here and for the Local Government Association’s response to the announcement, click here The Bill has completed all its stages in the House of Commons and received its Second Reading in the House of Lords on 24 February 2017. It will now enter Committee stage on 10 March 2017. For the Bill as introduced in the House of Lords, click here For progress of the Bill, click here For all the debates on all stages of the Bill click here The House of Commons Select Committee for Communities and Local Government has published a report following its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill; to read the report, click here For the Law Society’s parliament briefing on the Bill, click here For the House of Commons Library briefing paper prepared for the Commons Report and Committee Stages of the Bill (published on 10 February 2017), click here For a series of factsheets published by the DCLG and providing further background information on the measures within the Bill, click here

Renters’ Rights Bill
This is a Private Members’ Bill introduced in the House of Lords by Baroness Grender which seeks to provide tenants and prospective tenants with certain rights, including affording access to a local housing authority’s database of rogue landlords, ending certain letting fees and providing for certain mandatory electrical safety checks. The Bill had its Second Reading on 10 June 2016 and completed its Committee stage on 18 November 2016; for a record of the debate, click here It will enter its Report stage on a date to be announced. For the Bill as amended in Committee, click here To read debates at all stages of the Bill’s passage, click here For progress of the Bill, click here

Crown Tenancies Bill
This is a Private Members’ Bill introduced in the House of Commons by Wendy Morton which seeks to provide that ​Crown tenancies may be assured tenancies for the purposes of the Housing Act 1988, subject to certain exceptions; to modify the assured tenancies regime in relation to certain Crown tenancies; and for connected purposes. It completed its Committee stage, without amendment, on 1 March 2017 and will have its Report stage on 24 March 2017. To read debates on all stages of the Bill, click here For the Bill as introduced, click here For progress of the Bill, click here For a research briefing from the House of Commons Library providing background on the Bill, click here

Housing (Tenants' Rights) Bill
This is a Private Members’ Bill introduced by Caroline Lucas which seeks to establish a Living Rent Commission to conduct research into, and provide proposals for, reducing rent levels in the private rented sector and improving terms and conditions for tenants; to require the Secretary of State to report the recommendations of the Commission to Parliament; to introduce measures to promote long-term tenancies; to establish a mandatory national register of ​landlords and lettings agents; to prohibit the charging of letting or management agent fees to tenants; and for connected purposes. The Bill is being prepared for publication and is due to have its Second Reading on 24 March 2017. For progress of the Bill, click here

R (on the application of S) v London Borough of Croydon [2017] EWHC 265 (Admin)

The Claimant, S, is an Iraqi asylum seeker who arrived in the United Kingdom in September 2016.  He claimed to be 15 years old.  London Borough of Croydon Council (“the Council”) did not believe that he was really under 18.  The Council agreed to carry out an assessment of his age but refused to provide him with accommodation and support whilst that age assessment was carried out.  S challenged the Council’s refusal to provide accommodation and support pending the outcome of the age assessment.

When S arrived in the United Kingdom, he was accommodated in a hostel in Croydon for adult asylum-seekers, where he remained (apart from one brief period) until the judicial review claim was heard by Mr Justice Lavender in January 2017.

Legal issues
S relied on a number of statutory provisions in support of his argument that the Council was acting unlawfully by refusing to provide interim accommodation and support:

  1. Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, which provides that local authorities have a general duty to provide an appropriate range and level of services to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area;
  2. Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, which provides that local authorities must provide accommodation for any child in need in their area who requires accommodation as a result of there being no person who has parental responsibility for them;
  3. Section 11 of the Children Act 2004, which provides that local authorities must ensure that their functions are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children;
  4. Section 1 of the Localism Act 2011, which provides that local authorities have the power to do anything that individuals generally may do.

S also relied on statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State in July 2014 called “Care for Unaccompanied and Trafficked Children”.  That guidance defines “child” as any person under 18 and within the paragraph which defines the term “child” states that where a person’s age is in doubt, they must be treated as a child unless/until a full age assessment shows otherwise.

Legal arguments and judgment
The definition of “child” in the 2014 statutory guidance
S relied on the definition of “child” in the July 2014 statutory guidance as showing that S must be treated as a child until a full age assessment had been carried out, meaning that S was entitled to support and accommodation with immediate effect.

The Council argued that the relevant paragraph of the statutory guidance should not be taken as laying down a general principle because it came within a section of the guidance which merely gave definitions of particular terms. 

Mr Justice Lavender held that, although it is unusual for an important substantive provision to be contained in a definition, that was what the statutory guidance did and S was therefore entitled to rely on the provision which deemed him a child unless/until found to be an adult.

The obligation to follow the 2014 statutory guidance
The 2014 statutory guidance was issued pursuant to section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, which provides that local authorities shall, in the exercise of their social services functions, act under the general guidance of the Secretary of State.  That Act lists which functions amount to “social services functions” and specifically includes a local authority’s functions under the Children Act 1989.

The Council argued that its functions under the Children Act 1989 were only engaged when dealing with a child.  It argued that since S had not yet been determined to be a child, the Children Act 1989 did not yet apply and, accordingly, the Council was not obliged to follow the 2014 statutory guidance.

The Judge rejected this argument, holding that a local authority is exercising its social services functions towards children not merely when actually providing support to children but also when carrying out ancillary functions such as determining which individuals are and are not children.  Accordingly, the Council was obliged to follow the statutory guidance unless it had cogent reasons not to do so.

Children Act 2004
The Judge held that, even if he was wrong about the applicability of the 2014 statutory guidance, it was arguable that the Council should treat young people like S whose age had not yet been determined as children in order to comply with its duties under section 11 of the Children Act 2004.

October 2015 Age Assessment Guidance
The Judge was also referred to guidance which was published in October 2015 and authored by experts such as specialist social workers and local authorities.

That guidance states that children (meaning under-18s) and young people (meaning people whose age is not yet clear but who may well by under 18) should be accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 whilst the age assessment process is carried out.  The guidance suggests that the risks of taking people who may be 18 or over into local authority care with children can be mitigated by close and regular supervision. 

There was a dispute about whether the October 2015 guidance was applicable, however the Judge held that it was plainly relevant both because of the expertise of its authors as well as because the Council’s own director of children’s services had been involved in producing it.

The Judge held that a hostel for adults was unsuitable for S.  The Council had failed to give any good reasons for not following the guidance to which the Judge had been referred.  Although special measures could be used to make unsuitable accommodation suitable for a young person (such as regular welfare checks), the Council had not shown that it would take adequate measures. 

In all the circumstances, the Judge concluded that the Council had acted unlawfully in refusing to support and accommodate S pending the outcome of his age assessment.

Summary by Alexander Campbell, barrister, Arden Chambers. For the full text of the judgment click here

Make Sure you Keep Up to Date with Housing Law Week

Don’t miss out on your weekly updates!
Sign up here now to ensure you receive your own free copy of Housing Law Week straight to your desktop each week.


Procedure of the First Tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber
The Tribunals (Scotland) Act 2014 establishes an integrated structure of tribunals with a First-tier Tribunal (F-TT) and an Upper Tribunal. Jurisdictions within the First-tier Tribunal will be organised into ‘chambers’ according to the nature of the dispute. On 1 December 2016, the Private Rented the Private Rented Housing Panel/Homeowner Housing Panel transferred to the F-TT – the first of the existing tribunals to move to the new structure. A single set of operational rules is being developed to apply across all jurisdictions in the Housing and Property Chamber. These are required for the expansion of the Chamber to other private rented sector disputes. Views are sought on the operational procedure of the Housing & Property Chamber for hearing the disputes transferring from the Sheriff court, disputes under the new letting agents’ regime and disputes involving the new tenancies established by the Private Tenancies (Scotland) Act 2016.  For the consultation document, click here The consultation closes on 31 March 2017.  

Private Rented Sector in Northern Ireland – Proposals for Change
This consultation document is the second stage in the Department for Communities’ review of the role and regulation of the private rented sector. It proposes a number of changes which will impact on both landlords and tenants. The document sets out proposals on: supply, affordability, security of tenure, tenancy management, property standards and dispute resolution. The Department will hold four public events to facilitate discussion on this document. For the consultation document and details of the discussion events, click here The consultation closes on 3 April 2017.

Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 – Guidance relating to supported accommodation
The Welsh Government is consulting on: statutory guidance landlords must follow when temporarily excluding a contract-holder under a supported standard contract; and non-statutory guidance to assist landlords and local authorities in carrying out their functions relating to extending the relevant period before a tenancy or licence for supported accommodation becomes an occupation contract. The aim of the guidance is to make the legal process clearer for landlords and local authorities to follow and implement. For the consultation document and for the means by which to respond, click here The consultation ends on 28 April 2017.

Fixing our broken housing market
As part of the housing white paper the DCLG is also consulting on changes to planning policy and legislation in relation to planning for housing, sustainable development and the environment. The consultation, including details of how to respond, can be found in the white paper. For the white paper, click here To respond online, click here The consultation ends on 2 May 2017.

Planning and affordable housing for Build to Rent
This consultation seeks views on planning measures to support an increase in Build to Rent schemes across England. This includes changing the National Planning Policy Framework policy to support and to increase the number of new Build to Rent homes, and the provision of Affordable Private Rent homes as the main form of affordable housing provision on Build to Rent schemes. The consultation seeks to promote the availability of longer tenancies (of 3 years or more) in Build to Rent accommodation, to those tenants who want one. For the consultation paper, click here To respond online, click here The consultation ends on 1 May 2017.

Amendment to the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard
From 6 April 2017, the deregulatory measures of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 will come into force, which remove the regulator’s consent powers over constitutional matters and the disposal of social housing assets. As a result, the regulator has considered whether any amendments to its regulatory framework are necessary to continue to meet the consumer regulation objective, specifically to ensure that: actual or potential tenants of social housing have an appropriate degree of choice and protection, and tenants of social housing have the opportunity to be involved in its management and to hold their landlords to account. This consultation document introduces the changes proposed by the regulator to its Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard. This change is to clarify and strengthen, rather than to extend, the regulator’s requirements in regard to consulting with tenants on change of landlord. To access the consultation document and to respond to it, click her The consultation closes on 22 March 2017

Changes to the frequency of Help to Buy Wales statistical outputs
Data on the Help to Buy – Wales Shared Equity Loan Scheme are published on Stats Wales on a monthly basis, covering activity at the local authority level. The Welsh Government publish a Statistical Headline every three months plus an annual release. On 1 March 2017 the Welsh Government opened a consultation on proposals to reduce the frequency of these data outputs from May 2017 onwards to bring them in line with the publication of other statistics on housing supply. To respond to the consultation, click here The consultation closes on 24 May 2017.

EHRC inquiry and Call for Evidence: Housing for Disabled People
The Equality and Human Rights Commission launched an inquiry into housing for disabled people in December 2016, and called for evidence in February 2017.  Submissions from disabled people and relevant organisations should be made by 18 April 2017. The Commission will look at whether the availability of accessible and adaptable housing, and the support services around it, is fulfilling disabled people’s rights to live independently.  For more information, click here

Scrapping housing benefit for 18- to 21-year-olds won’t even save us that much money – it’s ideological cruelty Abi Wilkinson [2017] Independent 5 March  – click here for the article.

Latest UK Housing Review released Bill Tanner [2017] 24housing 7 March - click here for the article.

Disability benefits process is 'inherently flawed', MPs told Patrick Butler [2017] the guardian 6 March click here for the article.

Housing is a women's issue: the facts Dawn Foster [2017] the guardian Housing Network 6 March - click here for the article.

For the vulnerable, there’s no place like home Sri Kalidindi [2017] the guardian Mental Health Opinion 5 March - click here for details.

Broken promises: What has happened to support for low-income working families under universal credit Child Poverty Action Group [2017] 5 March - click here for the article.

New Civic Housebuilding: How to build homes and influence people Marcus McPhillips [2017] Shelter policy blog 6 March – click here for details.

An Unwelcome Return Catherine Baksi [2017] Legal Action Group 3 March – click here for details.

8 March 2017

Spring Budget (the last Budget to take place in Spring)

22 March 2017
Consultation closes on proposed amendment to the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard (see Housing Law Consultations)

24 March 2017
Second Reading in House of Commons of Housing (Tenants' Rights) Bill (see Housing Laws in the Pipeline)

31 March 2017
Consultation closes on Procedure of the First Tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber (Scotland) (see Housing Law Consultations)

1 April 2017
Universal Credit (Housing Costs Element for Claimants aged 18 to 21) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 come into force (see Housing Law News and Policy Issues)

3 April 2017
Consultation closes on Private Rented Sector in Northern Ireland – Proposals for Change (see Housing Law Consultations)

Featured Job of the Week

Housing Options and Homeless Prevention Manager
London Borough of Hillingdon
Job Ref: LBH3336
Click here for details


Head of Housing Strategy and Partnerships - (0000021B)
Cornwall Council
Click here for details


Strategic Development Director – Housing & Social Exclusion
Developing Health & Independence (DHI)
Click here for details


Housing Options Officer
Erewash Borough Council
Job Ref: ERE/17/3996
Click here for details


Housing Advice Officer
Wycombe District Council
Job Ref: HHW77
Click here for details


Private Sector Housing Officer
Crawley Borough Council
Job Ref: ES40
Click here for details


Landlord Liaison Officer
Thanet District Council
Click here for details


Homelessness Prevention and Support Team Leader
London Borough of Barking & Dagenham
Job Ref: HAE00266
Click here for details


Housing Apprentice - 2 Years Temporary Contract
London Borough of Redbridge
Job Ref: HO001807
Click here for details


Service Manager – Homeless Prevention and Housing Allocations
London Borough of Hillingdon
Job Ref: LBH3355
Click here for details


Temporary Accommodation Officer
Arun District Council
Click here for details


Housing Options Officer
Braintree District Council
Click here for details


Housing Strategy and Enabling Officer
Breckland Council
Click here for details

Lime Legal Limited, Greengate House, 87 Pickwick Road, Corsham, Wiltshire, SN13 9B