The Homelessness Reduction Bill has now been made an Act of Parliament having received Royal Assent on April 27th. Many feared that this Bill would not be made an Act prior to the dissolution of Parliament for the general election called by Theresa May and might be lost. However, this Bill in addition to another 21 Bills have now been passed in a last ditch set of approvals.
You might think as a landlord that this doesn’t affect you – especially if you avoid council tenants at all costs. However we have seen a distinct rise in the number of tenants looking to the council for help, either having had a change in their personal circumstances, or an increase in rent levied by their landlord which they can barely afford. The big problem at present is that when a tenant is served a Section 21 notice asking them to leave the property, if they go to the council to ask for help the council will tell them to stay in the property after the notice expires, and to get back in touch when they receive notification of a Bailiff’s appointment. The reason for this is that at present the council has no obligation to anyone making themselves “intentionally homeless” which means that if they leave the property on or before the expiry of the notice, the tenants are placing themselves in this category. The council will only offer support once a Bailiff’s notice arrives.
This in turn is placing a great strain on landlords who are finding themselves with tenants in a property that are not supposed to be there, and are powerless to remove them without paying legal fees to start a possession order. One recent example found a landlord having sold a property with the new owner chomping at the bit to move in…and tenants still in situ having been advised by the council to stay put. The landlord found herself with a hefty legal bill having been forced to start a Possession Order, and feeling obliged to pay to home the new owner whilst the court process chugged on.
The Homelessness Reduction Bill will oblige councils to start assessing someone at risk of being made homeless 56 days before losing their home. Currently, the threat of homelessness is defined as starting 28 days before the person loses their home.
The Act places a positive obligation on councils to give support to resolve homelessness, as well as introducing measures to prevent homelessness in the first place. The Government has committed to provide £61 million to local authorities to meet the additional costs of providing the help needed to comply with this Act.
For landlords and tenants the Homelessness Reduction Bill does a great deal to improve the rehousing of tenants at the termination of a tenancy. Local authorities will be required to treat tenants as homeless at a much earlier stage which may see tenants rehoused prior to landlords incurring the cost and delay of instructing a bailiff.
There are no set dates for when this Act will be in force, it may be later this year. However, only time will tell whether it will be as successful as it is hoped.
Painsmith Solictors Blog May 2nd 2017