26th July 2017
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Unfair leasehold practices (including ground rents)
On 25 July 2017 the DCLG announced proposals to cut out unfair abuses of leasehold and to establish a fairer, more transparent system for homebuyers. This is the Government’s response to developers – particularly in the north west – increasingly selling houses which require the lessees to pay escalating ground rents. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has set out plans to ban new build houses being sold as leasehold. Other measures, which are now subject to an 8-week consultation (as to which see Housing Law Consultations), include: setting ground rents to zero levels – in recent years these have increased significantly, in some cases doubling every 10 years; closing legal loopholes to protect consumers – such as leaving some leaseholders vulnerable to possession orders; and changing the rules on Help to Buy equity loans so that the scheme can be used only to support new build houses on acceptable terms. For the announcement, click here

On 18 July 2017 the All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Homelessness (APPGEH) published a report – Homelessness prevention for care leavers, prison leavers and survivors of domestic violence – which finds that it is ‘inexcusable’ that so many of those people already on the radar of police, local authorities, prisons and social services should continue to fall through the net of homelessness prevention. It states that: one-third of care leavers become homeless in the first two years immediately after they leave care and 25 per cent of all homeless people have been in care at some point in their lives; in 2016, 90 per cent of women in refuges were reported to have housing needs and in 2015/16, 6,550 people became homeless because of a violent relationship breakdown, accounting for 11 per cent of all homeless acceptances; in 2015, 35 per cent of female rough sleepers left their homes due to domestic violence; and in 2014, 20 per cent of prisoners said they had no accommodation to go to on release and there are many barriers which can make finding accommodation on release difficult. For the report, click here For the response of Crisis, which supports the APPGEH, click here For the response of the Local Government Association, click here

Temporary accommodation
On 22 July 2017 the Local Government Association published a report – Housing our Homeless Households – which said that councils are currently providing temporary housing for 120,540 children with their families, which is a net increase of 32,650 (37 per cent) since the second quarter of 2014, an average of 906 extra children every month. The LGA says that this is unsustainable and that councils need to be able to build more genuinely affordable homes and provide the support that reduces the risk of homelessness in the first place. This means councils being able to borrow to build and to keep all the receipts of any home they sell to reinvest in new and existing housing. For the report, click here For the associated press release, click here

Grenfell Tower – update on re-housing former residents
On 21 July 2017 the DCLG confirmed that some permanent housing is now available for former residents of Grenfell Tower. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has published details of how it will work with families to allocate permanent homes. The information for residents also includes a summary of commitments to residents from the council and government, including: residents will be offered permanent furnished social housing within 12 months and all moving costs will be covered; when residents move out of hotels or emergency accommodation (whether to temporary accommodation or a permanent home) they will not have to pay rent, service charges or core utility bills (gas, water and electricity) during this period; after this 12 month period residents who had held a council tenancy at Grenfell Tower or Grenfell Walk will pay no more in rent and service charges for their permanent social housing than they were paying before; those who did not hold a council tenancy for a flat in Grenfell Tower or Grenfell Walk will be charged at a social rent level. For the announcement, click here For the RBKC information document, click here

Grenfell Tower – statement to Parliament
On 20 July 2017 the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, made an oral statement to the House of Commons in order to update it on the Government response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. For the Hansard record of that statement and responses of other Members of Parliament, click here

Grenfell Tower inquiry – extension of consultation on terms of reference
On 19 July 2017 Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the chairman of the public inquiry, decided, following feedback from local residents and survivors, to extend the consultation period on the terms of reference of the inquiry, by a further week to 4 August 2017. For details of the consultation, click here

Large scale cladding systems testing
On 20 July 2017 the DCLG published a note explaining the large scale testing of cladding systems the government is undertaking, to understand better how different types of ACM panels behave with different types of insulation in a fire (these tests can be used to show compliance with the building regulations guidance). These tests are intended to help building owners make decisions about any further action they need to take to make buildings safe, and/or assure themselves that existing cladding systems are already safe. For the explanatory note, click here

On 23 July 2017 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a report – Poverty, evictions and forced moves – which explores the rapid increase in evictions over the last 12 years, and the impact these have had on the lives of tenants who lose their homes. The report shows that: the rented sector has grown in the past 12 years by nearly a half, and the number of tenants being evicted from their homes has grown by a third – 10,000 more tenants lost their homes in 2015 than in 2003; the number of tenants evicted by private landlords exceeded the number evicted by social landlords for the first time in 2014; the increase in repossessions in recent years has been almost entirely due to the increasing use of ‘no fault’ evictions, using section 21 of the Housing Act 1988; and the use of s 21 is highly concentrated geographically – four out of every five repossessions using s 21 are in London, the East and the South East, and nearly two-thirds are in London alone. JRF is calling for the Government to end the freeze on support for housing costs, and uprate Housing Benefit in line with local rents. To download the report and/or its findings, click here For the wording of s 21 of the Housing Act 1988, click here

Forces Help to Buy Scheme
On 20 July 2017 the Ministry of Defence published latest statistics for the Forces Help to Buy scheme for June 2017.  633 First Stage applications (ie those which pass initial eligibility checks) were received; 388 Second Stage applications (ie those which pass detailed eligibility checks) were received; 370 payments were made to Service personnel. Since the Scheme began in April 2014: 23,921 First Stage applications have been received; 14,221 of these applications have proceeded to the Second Stage; payment has been made to around 11,500 applicants, totalling just under £174 million, an average of approximately £15,100 per claim. For the full statistics, click here

Housing Advisers Programme
On 18 July 2017 the Local Government Association unveiled the Housing Advisers Programme – a new scheme to help councils tackle local housing challenges. The Programme, which funds the provision of an independent expert for up to 20 days, is available to local authorities undertaking a specific project that delivers and plans for new homes, reduces homelessness, or helps councils generate savings or revenues. For more details, click here

Private rented sector policies compared in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
On 21 July 2017 the House of Commons Library published a research briefing which provides a summary of the different approaches adopted by the governments in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in regard to some key areas of private rented sector policy. To read the briefing, click here

Funding for local authorities from Controlling Migration Fund
On 19 July 2017 the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced grants from the Controlling Migration Fund totalling £15 million to local councils to help ease the pressures on local services such as housing, as well as schooling and health services, resulting from recent migration. The fund allows local authorities in England to bid for funding totalling £100 million over four years from 2016/17 to 2019/20. For more details of the announcement, click here For details of the Controlling Migration Fund, click here

Landlords licensing scheme – Nottingham
On 18 July 2017 Nottingham City Council announced that a new licensing scheme for Nottingham’s private rented sector has been approved by the Council’s Executive Board. The revised selective licensing scheme includes some changes to the original proposal following an extensive 11-week consultation earlier this year which sought the views of tenants, landlords, letting agents and local people generally. The scheme will now be submitted to the Secretary of State for approval with the aim of introducing it from April 2018. The Council says that the scheme will be self-funding with the cost – £20.96 million over five years – covered by income from licence fees. For the Council’s announcement, click here

Local Housing Authority Debt Bill
This Bill, which had its first reading in the House of Lords on 4 July 2017, seeks to replace the current regime of limits on local housing authorities’ debt with limits determined by the existing prudential regime for local authority borrowing for non-housing-related purposes. The second reading is yet to be scheduled. For the Bill as introduced, click here To follow progress of the Bill, click here

Abolition of the Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Bill
This Bill seeks to abolish the right of eligible secure tenants to buy their home at a discount under Part 5 of the Housing Act 1985 (Right to Buy); abolish the preserved right of eligible former secure tenants to buy their home at a discount under section 171A of the Housing Act 1985 (Preserved Right to Buy); abolish the right of eligible assured or secure tenants of a registered social landlord or private registered provider to acquire their home at a discount under section 16 of the Housing Act 1996 (Right to Acquire); and encourage social landlords to build or acquire new homes for rent, the Right to Buy, Preserved Right to Buy and Right to Acquire will not be exercisable by tenants who move into new social housing stock more than two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent, subject to certain exceptions. The Bill is currently at Stage 2 in the Welsh Assembly; Stage 2 began on 19 July 2017. The Finance Committee laid its report in respect of the Bill on 28 June 2017. The Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee has undertaken an inquiry into the general principles of the Bill and laid its report on 7 July 2017. The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee laid its report in respect of the Bill also on 7 July 2017. For progress of the Bill (including the committees’ scrutiny), the text of the Bill itself and explanatory memorandum, together with proceedings and reports of the various committees, click here and scroll down.

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill
This is a Private Members’ Bill introduced in the House of Commons by Karen Buck. The Bill aims to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that residential rented accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation; to amend the Building Act 1984 to make provision about the liability for works on residential accommodation that do not comply with Building Regulations; and for connected purposes. The Bill is being prepared for publication. The second reading is due to take place on 19 January 2018. To follow progress of the Bill, click here

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Enforcement of suspended orders: alignment of procedures in the County Court and High Court
In Cardiff v Lee (Flowers) [2016] EWCA Civ 1034 the claimant landlord had obtained a possession order against the defendant secure tenant on the grounds of breach of the terms of the tenancy agreement prohibiting anti-social conduct. The order was suspended for two years on condition that the tenant complied with the provisions of his tenancy agreement, which contained covenants against causing a nuisance or annoyance to neighbours. Following further complaints from neighbours of the tenant, the landlord applied for the issue of a warrant of possession. It did so by lodging form N325, following the administrative procedure set out in CPR 83.6. The warrant was issued and the bailiff served notice of the date of intended eviction. The tenant’s application to stay execution of the warrant was dismissed by the district judge and his subsequent appeal was dismissed by the circuit judge. On appeal to the Court of Appeal it was common ground that the landlord ought to have sought permission to apply for the issue of the warrant as required by CPR 83.2. In short, CPR 83(2) states that a ‘relevant writ or warrant’ (which includes a warrant of possession) must not be issued without the permission of the court in any of the circumstances specified in CPR 83.2(3)(a)-(f). This consultation seeks views on whether amendments are required to rules and forms in light of the judgment. The consultation closes on 30 August 2017. For more details and all relevant documents, click here

Fees charged to tenants in the private rented sector – Wales

This consultation seeks views on what action the Welsh Government should take to end unfair fees charged to tenants. Examples given in the consultation document of activities for which fees are charged are: accompanied viewings; pre-tenancy negotiation; producing the tenancy agreement; producing guarantor forms, if applicable; completing reference reports; obtaining / verifying all safety certificates; protecting the deposit and issuing documentation; processing move in monies and signing documentation; issuing the inventory and schedule of property; amending tenancy agreements; renewing tenancy agreements; early termination; and moving out. The consultation seeks views on the nature and level of fees being charged to tenants. It seeks to determine which fees, if any, are justifiably being charged to tenants. It also seeks information on fees paid by landlords to agents, and also on the possible consequences of banning fees. The consultation closes on 27 September 2017. For the consultation document, click here

Draft 'Information for tenants of social landlords' document – Wales
If the Abolition of the Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Bill is passed by the National Assembly for Wales (see Housing Laws in the Pipeline), social landlords will be required to issue to all relevant tenants an ‘Information for Tenants of Social Landlords’ document. The Welsh Government is consulting on a sample document to see if it: clearly summarises the right to buy and the right to acquire; explains clearly when these rights could end; and explains clearly the financial and legal advice you should get if you want to exercise the right to buy or right to acquire. The consultation closes on 13 September 2017. For the consultation document, click here

Tackling unfair practices in the leasehold market
On 25 July 2017 the DCLG launched a consultation into proposals to remedy unfair practices in the leasehold market. For the announcement of the Government’s proposals, see Housing Law News and Policy Issues and/or click here The consultation particularly seeks views on: i) prohibiting the sale of new build leasehold houses where the developer is not obliged to sell a house on a leasehold basis; ii) restricting ground rents on new leases to a ‘peppercorn’; iii) how to tackle existing onerous ground rents; iv) possible changes to the Help to Buy scheme in relation to leasehold houses; v) providing freeholders on private estates with equivalent rights to leaseholders to challenge unreasonable service charges for the upkeep of communal areas and facilities via the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber). The consultation closes on 19 September 2017. For the consultation document, click here

Recognising residents’ associations, and their power to request information about tenants
On 25 July 2017 the DCLG launched a consultation seeking views on the Government’s proposals for secondary legislation in relation to section 29A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Section 29A provides a new power for the Secretary of State by regulations to impose duties on a landlord to provide the secretary of a residents’ association with information about tenants. The intention is to make it easier for a secretary of a tenants’ association to obtain contact information of qualifying tenants (leaseholders) from a landlord and so improve the prospects of the association being formally recognised. The consultation closes on 19 September 2017. For the consultation document, click here

Social housing crisis: Number of homeless children in temporary accommodation soars by 40% Lucy Pasha-Robinson [2017] The Independent 21 July. To read this article click here

Providing the legal protection to prevent another Grenfell Kate Webb [2017] Shelter Blog 20 July. To read this article click here

How evictions affect people in poverty [2017] Joseph Rowntree Foundation 23 July. To read this article click here

The social housing system is being demolished without a whimper David Ireland [2017] Guardian 24 July. To read this article click here

Landlords are turfing people out of their homes without reason - and it's completely legal Dan Wilson Craw [2017] Guardian 24 July. To read this article click here

What I learned about our attitude to homeless people when I was on the streets Tamsen Courtenay [2017] Guardian 24 July. To read this article click here

Pause for Thought: Measuring the impact of Welfare Reform on tenants and landlords 2017 Survey Results [2017] Association of Retained Council Housing and National Federation of ALMOs 25 July. To read the report click here

Our ongoing response to the Grenfell Tower fire [2017] National Federation of Housing 20 July. To read the update click here

Councils losing £6.7m in Universal Credit arrears Nathaniel Barker [2017] Inside Housing 25 July. To read this article (log in/registration needed) click here

Recent Developments in Housing Law Jan Luba QC & Nic Madge [2017] July issue of Legal Action. Available in print and on-line for Legal Action subscribers. For the latest issue, click here

4 August 2017                          
Consultation closes on terms of reference of Grenfell Tower public inquiry (see Housing Law News and Policy Issues)

31 August 2017                        
Consultation closes on enforcement of suspended orders: alignment of procedures in the County Court and High Court (see Housing Law Consultations)
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