End of ‘no-fault’ evictions in the Private Rented Sector

In what is described as ‘a generational change’ to the lettings sector, Section 21 evictions, known as no fault evictions, will be abolished under plans to be put out to consultation.

The announcement came with no warning and despite considerable pressure from landlord organisations following last year’s consultation on longer tenancies who said that the move could be ‘devastating’ for the private rented sector.  It looked for a while last year as if the government would back away from such a radical step.

Evidence has been mounting that Section 21 evictions are the single biggest cause of homelessness in England, with the number of cases more than trebling from 4,580 to 16,320 between 2009 and 2017.

The move also forms part of an effort to redress the balance between tenant and landlord.  Rights for tenants to remain in a property were reduced in the 1988 Housing Act, which included Section 21, and tipped the power relationship in favour of the landlord.

To address landlords concerns about being able to end tenancies where they have legitimate reason to do so, plans include strengthening the Section 8 possession process and reforming the route to court. These will be in addition to the existing grounds which allow landlords to evict tenants who don’t pay the rent or commit anti-social behaviour.

Reaction to the announcement was welcomed as long overdue by tenant organisations but may be the final straw for some private landlords with the National Landlords Association warning that if this is not thought out in a way that provides balances for both sides “we guarantee there will be chaos.”

This announcement is the start of a longer process to introduce these reforms.  Consultation on the details of the system will be launched ‘shortly’ but it is not known when this will take place.

A consultation ‘shortly’ followed by the need for legislation implies the change is unlikely to happen this year.

There is much detail still be settled.  The government has said it will be collaborating with landlords, tenants and others in the private rented sector to develop a ‘new deal for renting’. Ministers have also said they will work with other housing providers outside of the private rented sector who use these powers and use the consultation to make sure the new system works effectively.

Spring Statement 2019 – a look behind the headlines

 

The Spring Statement on 13 March, delivered amidst a flurry of Brexit votes, was accompanied by several noteworthy housing and planning messages intended to support the government’s continued ambition to raise housing supply to reach 300,000 a year on average.

A three-year Spending Review will be launched before the summer recess and will be concluded alongside an autumn Budget. The 2019 Spending Review will have a focus on the outcomes achieved for the money invested in public services.  In  that context, alongside the Spring Statement, a revised Public Spending Public Value Framework was released which would guide decisions in the Spending Review.

Future Homes Standard – There will be a consultation this year on what could be a wide-ranging standard to apply from 2025 so that new build homes are future-proofed with low carbon heating – this could tackle previous concerns the Chancellor has expressed about new-build quality.

A consultation on Infrastructure Finance was published seeking views on how the government can best support private infrastructure investment in the context of the UK’s changing relationship with the European Investment Bank.  It also asks if the government should consider alternative forms of infrastructure finance support for housing associations in the context of the end of European Investment Bank funding.

The Chancellor reiterated the government’s commitment to publishing a National Infrastructure Strategy – the first of its kind – setting out the government’s priorities for economic infrastructure and responding to recommendations in the National Infrastructure Commission’s National Infrastructure Assessment.

Letwin Review – the government issued its response to the review of build-out rates on large sites conducted by Sir Oliver Letwin. It stated there was ‘widespread acceptance of Sir Oliver’s analysis across the sector’ and confirms the findings ‘that it is the market absorption rate that determines the rate at which developers build out large sites’. Additional planning guidance on housing diversification will be published shortly.  A focus on evolving the existing system of developer contributions and gathering evidence to explore the case for further reform was confirmed.

It was announced that an Accelerated Planning Green Paper would be published ‘later this year’ on how greater capacity and capability, performance management and procedural improvements can accelerate the end-to-end planning process.  This will also draw on the Rosewell Review, which made recommendations to reduce the time taken to conclude planning appeal inquiries.  Government will also consider the case for further reforms to the compulsory purchase regime.

Permitted development – Government will implement an immediate package of permitted development right measures in the spring, with the more complex matters, including on upward extensions, covered in a further package of regulations in the autumn.  There will be a range of reforms in this area and government will shortly publish “Better Planning for High Streets”.  This will set out tools to support local planning authorities in reshaping high streets, particularly with the use of compulsory purchase and local development orders.

The Spring Statement is an opportunity for the Chancellor to respond to the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) forecasts for the growth and the public finances. The OBR now includes as a policy risk the expansion of right-to-buy to tenants of housing associations given the costs of discounts would fall on the Treasury and notes that despite the local pilot scheme, work at a national level is “ongoing”.

So, there is still plenty happening for the housing sector – or not happening – as MPs continue to debate Brexit.

For details about the key announcements from the Spring Statement see our On the Day Briefing.

TV Licensing – Community Relations Team

The TV Licensing Community Relations team was set up to better interact with organisations that play a big part in their local communities. We are committed to making our information accessible to everyone in the community, and we work with a range of organisations such as housing, caring, money advice and multilingual groups to achieve this. As well as the services that I previously mentioned we also have a monthly newsletter for stakeholders called In Brief, which succinctly provides up-to date important info for stakeholders.

Over the last year we have been trialling a new payment plan for people who have previously struggled to pay for their tv licence. This is called The Simple Payment Plan and it offers a discounted initial payment, as well as not doubling up arrears if a payment is missed (as the current TV Licensing payment plans do). This means that the tv licence should no longer be a financial burden for people with money problems and thus far we’ve had great feedback from stakeholder’s that were involved with the trial.

The trial has now ended but over the next few months TV Licensing will be reviewing it with the hope of implementing it as a permanent payment method. A big part of the community relations team’s job with regards to this was engaging with stakeholders and people using the Simple Payment Plan to get as much feedback as possible. Ultimately, we are the means of communication between the community and BBC TV Licensing.

TV Licensing Community Relations can provide support in the following areas:
Support for local and national community organisation’s, including a telephone and email service to:

  1. -Order free literature in over 100 languages (including braille)
    -Updates from TV Licensing as required for your newsletter, website, social media or advisers’ internal briefing publications. For example, info on concessions, price changes and updates on the progress of the Simple Payment Plan.
  2. Helping stakeholders to understand the different ways people can pay.
  3. Equally, if there’s anything relating to tv licensing that stakeholders are unsure about or any specific issues please contact Wainwright@finncomms.com, or alternatively call the dedicated stakeholder helpline: 0300 790 6144

NHC Training Series with Abode

Building on the leadership and management training opportunities running over the course of the year, the NHC continues to partner with Abode – the home of education and training for the housing and community sectors, to offer three courses designed specifically for those on the frontline of housing management. Here, Abode training consultants Gill Bramfitt and Claire Harvey talk us through why, when it comes to the housing sector, now is the time to get back to basics.

Since it’s publication in August 2018 the Social Housing Green Paper has had a huge impact in focussing minds on the core features that make up the landlord-tenant relationship. While all social housing providers will have organisational ambitions and challenges that require bespoke responses, all agree it is more important than ever that their organisation is best placed to provide a home and a service resident can be proud of.  In practical terms that means rents are collected effectively, arrears kept to a minimum, voids turned around quickly, and repairs carried out efficiently.

If this wasn’t enough, Brexit uncertainties means housing management officers continue to face a fluid legislative landscape. This means not only having to make sense of policies before implementing them, but having to explain them to tenants and customers. Welfare Reform for example, has many implications for allocations, arrears and support staff, while the range of new tenancy types and the obligations placed on landlords can leave heads spinning.

It is vital that frontline staff have the knowledge and skills to tackle these potential obstacles. Organisations will know the importance of ensuring that legislation is interpreted correctly, policies comply with requirements and are less open to challenge, all without impacting on levels of customer satisfaction. Well-trained, knowledgeable employees will also have the confidence to implement these changes and deliver good quality services in an increasingly pressurised environment.

Working with the NHC, we have developed a range of courses to meet these needs. Delivered throughout May, these sessions will equip staff and supervisors with the knowledge and skills to meet current and future challenges.

Our first course, What you should know about… Social and Affordable Housing, delivers exactly that. Looking at the different types of housing organisations in the UK, the diverse range of services they provide, and the financial and regulatory environment in which they exist, this course is ideal for anyone looking to gain a background knowledge of affordable housing provision in this country.

Similarly, How to… Manage Tenancies is a primer for those wanting to ensure their knowledge of tenancy management is up to date and accurate.  Looking closely at recent legislative changes and the tenancy types they affect, this course will underline the responsibilities of landlords and tenants as well as discussing issues such as terminating tenancies and dealing with abandoned properties.

Finally, we have prepared our How to… Develop Policies and Procedures course with all those involved in the policy process in mind. This interactive half-day session will cover all stages of policy development from formulating policies and procedures, implementing them, and monitoring their effectiveness. This session will also look at the wider landscape of developing policy, from using data sources to inform strategies to knowing how and when to involve stakeholders.

Available to book now:

 What you should know about… Social and Affordable Housing

8 May 2019 – 9:30 – 16:30 – Yorkshire Housing, Call Lane Training Offices, Leeds

How to… Manage Tenancies

9 May 2019 – 9:30 – 16:30 – Yorkshire Housing, Call Lane Training Offices, Leeds

How to… Develop Policies and Procedures

20 May 2019 – 9:30 – 13:30 – Yorkshire Housing, Call Lane Training Offices, Leeds

Could tackling the empty homes epidemic help solve the housing crisis?

Lee Sugden, Chief Executive, Salix Homes and NHC Board member

At the last count, there were over 600,000 empty homes in England – that equates to two years’ worth of the Government’s targets for new home completions.

Of those, more than 200,000 are classed as long-term empty, in that they’ve stood empty for more than six months, and this represents around 1% of the total housing stock in the country.

At the time of a national housing crisis, surely common sense would say that a crucial tactic for tackling this growing crisis would be to make better use of this stock we’ve already got.

With more than a million people on housing waiting lists up and down the country, it’s a travesty that houses are stood empty in our communities.

Obviously, it’s not as simple as just moving people in, firstly we need to understand the reasons why a home may lie empty.

Properties may be empty because the owner is in hospital or moved into a care home, they could even be enjoying a stay at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

There can be any number of reasons why a home is empty at any particular point in time, but we can’t ignore the fact that a good proportion of these properties stand unused and neglected, and with a little investment, could be brought back into use to not only provide homes for those who need them, but to help regenerate our communities.

In some areas there is a great deal of work being done by local authorities, housing providers and private landlords to tackle empty homes and the success of such projects can be seen in Salford.

Ten years ago, there were over 3,000 empty homes in Salford – that figure now stands at just over 1,000, a reduction of almost 70% – or about 1% of the city’s housing stock. Nationally, long-term empty homes have only been reduced by half that, so Salford is certainly doing something right.

We work with our partners here to utilise the Government’s Empty Homes Scheme, which ran until 2016, and provides grants to gap-fund refurbishment work. The condition being that the landlord has to guarantee the homes would be let as affordable housing for a minimum of five years. We then let the homes via our ethical private lettings agency – Salix Living.

It’s win-win for all involved. More affordable homes available for people in housing-need, a guaranteed income for the homeowner and the blight of empty buildings gone from our communities. On many occasions, this additional supply of homes to the market place has given a roof over the head of someone at risk of homelessness – an outcome that gives me a great deal of satisfaction.

But it’s not just empty homes. In Salford we’ve set our targets on empty buildings in general, which have so far included shops, pubs and even an old job centre, which we’ve successfully transformed into housing.

And the success of such schemes is now capturing national interest, after Salix Homes was this month featured in a new BBC1 documentary series – The Empty Housing Scandal – presented by the tenacious Matt Allwright, of Watchdog and One Show fame.

The series shines a spotlight on Britain’s empty homes scandal, and we were incredibly proud to show Matt some of the work we are doing to turn the tide and transform these eyesore buildings into desperately needed affordable housing.

It’s a reflection of the times, but society has changed. High streets are in decline and last orders are being called at boozers up and down the country, leaving these once thriving community hubs deserted and neglected.

Repurposing these abandoned buildings, which are often in key central locations, is about more than providing much-needed homes, it’s also about tackling the effects these eyesore sites have on communities, where they are often a magnet for anti-social behaviour.

With a little investment and creative thinking, such projects are helping to breathe life back into our high streets, regenerate communities and crucially helping to tackle the housing crisis.

You can catch The Empty Housing Scandal on iPlayer and Salix Homes features in episodes three and four.