18th December 2019
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Regulator of Social Housing: intervention, enforcement and use of powers
On 16 December 2019 the Regulator of Social Housing published the responses and its conclusion to a consultation concerning updated guidance on its use of powers in relation to intervention and enforcement. The guidance sets out the regulator’s general approach to intervention and enforcement and the high-level objectives and principles underpinning its approach to dealing with poor performance. Its focus is the regulator’s use of powers - it is not intended to be general guidance on legislation or legal advice to registered providers or other third parties. For the Regulator’s decision statement on the consultation, click here. For the updated guidance, click here.

Regulator of Social Housing: guidance for tenants
On 12 December 2019 the Regulator of Social Housing published a guide for tenants of social housing on current arrangements for how to complain to the RSH about a registered provider of social housing and what the RSH does when a complaint is received. The information contains details of:

  • The RSH's role and objectives
  • The roles of the RSH and the Housing Ombudsman
  • How tenants can complain to the RSH and how the RSH handles complaints.

For the guidance, click here. For a note on the guidance prepared by Arch, click here.

Legal aid and housing law
On 13 January 2019 the Law Society called on the new government to “repair the Britain’s justice system and champion the rule of law” and, in particular, to bring back legal aid for early advice from solicitors in housing and family matters and to increase the legal aid means tests thresholds so that people can access the justice system to enforce their rights. For the press release, click here.

HouseMark proposals
On 13 December 2019 HouseMark shared their proposals for their STAR customer survey methodology following consultation with over 270 landlords and 8,000 residents. It is now consulting with the sector before launching the final framework in January 2020. The review of the STAR customer survey methodology was launched earlier this year to develop a modern, relevant framework for collecting and comparing resident satisfaction that will help the sector to respond to the emerging policy environment and the concerns of residents. For a summary of the draft framework, including the key features and their rationale, click here. To provide feedback, click here.

Homelessness: July to September 2019 — Wales
On 13 December 2019 the Office for National Statistics published data on the number of households applying to local authorities for housing assistance under the Housing Wales Act 2014 and the number of households in Wales in temporary accommodation for July to September 2019. The release shows that:

  • 2,400 households were threatened with homelessness within 56 days (similar to last quarter).
  • Homelessness was successfully prevented for at least six months in 65 per cent of cases. The quarterly prevention rates have fluctuated within the 65 to 70 per cent range since April 2017.
  • Just over 2,900 households were homeless and owed a duty to help secure accommodation (similar to last quarter).
  • Of these, 40 per cent were successfully helped to find accommodation. The quarterly success rates have fluctuated within the 39 to 43 per cent range since April 2017.
  • 702 homeless households were unintentionally homeless and in priority need.
  • 79 per cent accepted an offer of settled suitable accommodation. The quarterly rates have fluctuated within the 74 to 82 per cent range since April 2017.
  • 2,307 households were in temporary accommodation on 30 September 2019. This is the highest figure since the introduction of the legislation in 2015. The private rented sector continued to be the main form of temporary accommodation used (36 per cent).
  • 390 households were in bed and breakfast accommodation, the highest number since the introduction of the new legislation (the previous highest number was 294 at the end of March 2019). Of these, 63 households were families with children, up from 36 at the end of March 2019.

For the statistical release, click here.

Zambrano carers: Supreme Court judgment
On 16 December 2019 the Supreme Court handed down judgment in Patel & Shah v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] UKSC 59, two conjoined appeals concerning the approach to determining whether a non-EU citizen carer of a dependant EU citizen (usually, but not always, a non-EU parent of an EU citizen child) has a ‘Zambrano’ right of residence under EU law in their host EU member state. Mr Patel’s appeal was dismissed and Mr Shah’s appeal was allowed. The Court fundamentally concluded that each case turned on its facts. For the judgment, click here. For the Supreme Court’s official press summary, click here. For a brief summary by Landmark Chambers, click here.

Empty properties seized — Birmingham
On 16 December 2019 Birmingham City Council announced that it had seized seven residential houses from their owners, after they have each stood vacant for more than 10 years. On 12 December, compulsory purchase orders were completed, enabling the authority to exercise its enforcement powers to have the properties brought back in to use as family homes. With the houses situated across the city, the CPOs are, the council says, the latest tactic used by it as part of its objective to bring back into use one empty home every day. For more details, click here.

Rogue landlord fined for breaching housing regulations — Birmingham
On 9 December 2019 Birmingham City Council reported that a landlord had been successfully prosecuted and ordered to pay nearly £20,000 for breaching housing regulations. George Lindsay pleaded guilty to failing to obtain a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence and to 13 breaches of HMO Management Regulations and was ordered to pay a fine of £19,970. When issuing the sentence, the district judge commented that he would have sent Mr Lindsay to prison if his sentencing powers allowed him to do so. The district judge also requested that HMRC review his financial records. For the report, click here.

Private rented sector reforms needed: Residential Landlords Association
On 13 December 2019 the Residential Landlords Association called upon the new Conservative Government “to ensure comprehensive reforms are made to the way good landlords can repossess properties in legitimate circumstances”. The Association noted that whilst the Conservative Party pledged in its manifesto to end Section 21 repossessions in the rental market, it also promised to strengthen the rights of good landlords to repossess properties where they have good cause to do so. Accordingly, the RLA is calling on ministers to make sure that “the new framework provides clear and comprehensive grounds upon which landlords can repossesses properties in cases such as anti-social behaviour and tenant rent arrears, with guarantees about the timeframes involved for each and measures to prevent abuses by problem tenants”. For more details, click here.

Owners of illegal hostel fined — Swanley
On 10 December 2019 Sevenoaks District Council reported that the owners of an illegal hostel in Swanley had been found guilty of failing to comply with two planning enforcement notices. In a four day trial beginning on 2 December 2019, Woolwich Crown Court fined the land owners Mr Bhupinderjeet Kullar and Mrs Narinder Kullar £4,000 combined together with a further £10,000 in costs.

Mr and Mrs Kullar were issued with two planning enforcement notices by Sevenoaks District Council, in December 2016 requiring them to cease use of a property owned by them as a hostel. The second notice required the removal of a wooden shed that had been put up without permission. The notices were not complied with and the building continued to be used as a hostel until March 2018 when the council obtained a closure order from Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court following repeated anti-social behaviour. Last August, Mr Mustafa Kemal Mustafa, who ran the hostel, was also fined £15,000 for failing to comply with the planning enforcement notice to stop the use as a hostel. For more details, click here.

Winter rough sleeping campaign — London
On 16 December 2019 the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, launched a campaign to alleviate rough sleeping in the capital this winter and announced that:

  • The TAP London network has been expanded to 100 contactless donation points, making it easier for Londoners to donate.
  • Donations will be split between a coalition of 29 charities working with homeless people across the capital.
  • The Mayor will fund 300 extra beds in shelters for rough sleepers across London every night through January and February.

The Mayor also announced that there will be launched this winter Streetlink London, a new website for the capital with dedicated information and resources for Londoners to help people they see sleeping rough. This is the first localised version of the national Streetlink programme. For the announcement, click here.

Letting agents expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme
On 12 December 2019 The Property Ombudsman reported that three letting agents had been expelled from the TPO scheme. Estate and letting agent Let365co Ltd (trading as 365 Residential and operating in Soham, Cambridgeshire) was expelled owing a landlord £1,895 of a £3800 award made by the Ombudsman. Letting agent, JBE London Limited (trading as JBE London and operating in East London) was expelled from the scheme owing a tenant £2,810. Estate and letting agent (trading as Chew Valley Estates and operating in Winsford, Bristol) was expelled from the scheme owing a landlord £5,200. For more details, click here.

Housing reform: Policy Exchange
On 15 December 2019 Policy Exchange published a report offering “a blueprint for the new Government to implement some of its key manifesto pledges and other ideas during its first 100 days in office”. In respect of housing, the report advocates as priorities publication of the final report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, increasing building rates by incentivising new development of a design and style the public support; and supporting vital public sector workers with affordable homes by revitalising Key Worker Housing. The report adds that the Government should reject the Mayor of London’s call for new powers to implement rent controls in the capital because such a policy would have significant negative long-term implications for the health of London’s housing market. For the report, click here. The section on housing begins at page 18.


Parliament was dissolved on 6 November 2019 ahead of the General Election on 12 December. On dissolution those bills still progressing through Parliament failed and, in order to proceed, must be reintroduced in the next Parliament.

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Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme: Towards a more sustainable service
The government is consulting on proposals to change the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme. The aim of these proposals is to ensure that the Scheme is sustainable into the future, in order to maintain this vital service for those who need it. The key proposals in this consultation are:

  • contracting for individual courts rather than larger geographical areas
  • allowing providers to claim for the scheme fee in addition to the follow up Legal Help fee
  • the introduction of a set attendance fee for all schemes in place of the existing nil session payment
  • the introduction of reasonable costs for travel as part of the competition element of the bid.

The consultation closes on 3 January 2020. For the consultation document, click here.

Housing Ombudsman’s consultations
The Housing Ombudsman has launched consultations on two documents aimed at providing a faster, more accessible and more transparent service. Both the Business Plan for 2020-21 and revised Housing Ombudsman Scheme propose changes to meet the challenges of unprecedented demand for the service and to respond to resident and landlord expectations.

The Housing Ombudsman says that the Business Plan 2020-21 sets out new approaches for handling casework based on a new, more efficient operating model. It includes plans to support earlier resolution of complaints within landlords’ complaint procedures as well as faster, high-quality decisions on complaints in its formal remit.

Proposed changes to the Housing Ombudsman Scheme would increase awareness of the service and support consistent complaint handling practice across landlords. A new power would help to ensure evidence is provided in a timely manner to accelerate complaint resolution, with the initial evidence requested not being received in an estimated 25 per cent of cases. Another new power to conduct further investigations beyond the initial complaint would help to identify any potential systemic failure.

The consultations are open until 20 December 2019. For the consultations, click here.

Strengthening police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments
The Government is consulting on measures to criminalise the act of trespassing when setting up an unauthorised encampment in England and Wales and, in particular, on:

  • amending section 62A of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to permit the police to direct trespassers to suitable authorised sites located in neighbouring local authority areas
  • amending sections 61 and 62A of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to increase the period of time in which trespassers directed from land would be unable to return from three months to twelve months
  • amending section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to lower the number of vehicles needing to be involved in an unauthorised encampment before police powers can be exercised from six to two or more vehicles
  • amending section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to enable the police to remove trespassers from land that forms part of the highway.

For the consultation, which closes on 4 March 2020, click here.


“General incompetence” — Unlawful eviction and fitness for habitation Giles Peaker Nearly Legal 8 December 2019 — to read the article, click here

Welsh homelessness — new guidance and letters Mark Prichard 10 December 2019 — to read the article, click here

Homelessness is not inevitable and can be solved — these cities show us how Jon Henley The Guardian 10 December 2019 — to read the article, click here

How loneliness became an epidemic Sophie McBain New Statesman 11 December 2019 — to read the article, click here

Homelessness is a national disgrace. Let’s make Britain humane again Philip Pullman The Guardian 11 December 2019 — to read the article, click here

The real faultline in this election: landlords v tenants Jack Shenker The Guardian 12 December 2019 — to read the article, click here

The next parliament must end the renting crisis Caitlin Wilkinson Generation Rent 13 December 2019 — to read the article, click here

Former rough sleepers being hit by maximum universal credit deductions Sophie Earnshaw Shelter Blog 16 December 2019 — to read the article, click here

Housing: recent developments Sam Madge-Wyld and Jan Luba QC Legal Action December 2019 / January 2020 — to read the article (subscription required), click here


19 December 2019                               
State opening of Parliament

20 December 2019                               
Closing date for submissions to two consultations by the Housing Ombudsman
(see Housing Law Consultations)

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