Homelessness is a significant issue that affects thousands of people throughout the UK. According to the national charity Crisis, it was estimated that in 2016 there were roughly 4,134 people sleeping rough in the UK. This figure rose by almost 15% in 2017 as it was estimated there were around 4,751 people who slept outside overnight.
In an effort to reduce the level of homelessness throughout the country, Parliament has introduced new homelessness reduction legislation. In this blog post, Elliot Cousins, who recently joined our Litigation & Dispute Resolution department as a Paralegal, discusses the new legislation and the ways in which it could potentially impact private landlords, as well as help tenants to avoid the prospect of homelessness.
What is the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017?
On 3rd April 2018, the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 came into force. This important piece of property legislation has been created for the purposes of preventing homelessness for tenants and places new obligations on local housing authorities to help those at risk of homelessness.
What are some of the key changes in the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017?
One of the most important changes that the Act makes is to the definition of when a person is considered to be ‘threatened with homelessness’. Previously, a tenant was deemed threatened with homelessness if they were to be made homeless within 28 days. The Act has now increased this to 56 days. This definition will also include tenants who have already received a valid eviction notice under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and its expiry date is within 56 days.
Therefore, as local housing authorities are already under a prevention duty to work with eligible people who are threatened with homelessness, this change means that local housing authorities will need to act much sooner when a tenant is threatened with homelessness.
The Act also enhances the requirement for local housing authorities to provide people within their district with free advice and information in relation to homelessness prevention. The information offered can include guidance, such as advising a tenant as to their rights under a tenancy. This will also involve offering advice tailored to meet the needs of particularly vulnerable groups.
Additionally, local housing authorities now have extended discretion under the Act to prevent homelessness by the provision of a grant or a loan; providing access to local authority accommodation; providing furniture or other goods; and by making local authority staff available to assist applicants in avoiding homelessness.
Overall, the Homelessness Reduction Act aims to place greater responsibility on local housing authorities to reduce levels of homelessness and, in addition to the above, this will see many other positive changes for tenants arise as a result.
How does the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 affect landlords?
Although it may not make a significant impact, the emphasis that the Act places on local housing authorities may provide an additional benefit to private landlords.
One potential benefit emerges in relation to the new definition of when a person is considered to be threatened with homelessness. Now that this has been amended, local housing authorities will be required to take action much sooner in respect of those who are threatened with homelessness. This could then reduce the number of tenants remaining unlawfully within a landlord’s property after termination of their tenancy agreement, as local housing authorities will need to begin assisting the tenant in finding suitable alternative accommodation sooner.
This, in turn, could reduce the difficulties that occur for landlords when removing tenants who are remaining in their property unlawfully, such as the need to commence possession proceedings. As a result, this would save landlords both time and money.
Landlords can be reassured, from an ethical perspective, that local housing authorities will now need to take an even more proactive role in ensuring that a tenant avoids homelessness, if a tenancy agreement needs to come to an end.
Giles Wilson and Property Law Advice
Here at Giles Wilson, we are able to provide expert advice on a range of different Property Law matters for both landlords and tenants, including in relation to possession proceedings or if a property dispute arises.
If you need to find a solicitor to discuss any issues surrounding a tenancy agreement, or landlord and tenant rights, contact one of our friendly and experienced property solicitors in Essex. Call us on 01702 477106 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.