The RLA has welcomed a new Homelessness Reduction Act that came into force in England this week.
The act brings in several new duties for councils, including a new duty to prevent homelessness.
Under the new bill, tabled by MP Bob Blackman, the Housing Act 1996 will be amended so that an eviction notice will be enough for Local Authorities to help somebody presenting as at risk of homelessness – giving people time to get help in finding somewhere else to live before physically losing their home. The RLA supports this and believes this will save a lot of worry and stress for both landlords and tenants. Previously those who were being served notice were only able to ‘present as homeless’ to the Local Authority and receive help once the bailiffs had been at the property. This practice was essentially, making people ‘homeless at home’ and trying to find alternative accommodation with what possessions they had with them in some cases.
The Act is intended to prevent this situation happening so that any eligible applicant who is at risk of being homeless in 56 days or less will be offered the prevention duty by their local housing authority. This is designed to address the wide range of circumstances in which people can find themselves at risk of homelessness. This period has been extended from the previous 28 day period.
This measure will also ensure that those served with a valid section 21 notice that is due to expire will be classed as “at risk of homelessness” and supported until their situation is resolved. If someone has nowhere else to go, there will be no gap between prevention and relief duties.
Also of note, a document published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government in February revealed that the Governments’ How to Rent Guide will be amended to include information about how tenants are able to seek help early, if they face the risk of becoming homeless.
Other key measures of the act include a duty to prevent homelessness for all eligible applicants, who are threatened with homelessness and a duty to relieve homelessness for all eligible homeless applicants, regardless of priority need.
There will also be a duty for councils to provide advisory services on homelessness, preventing homelessness and people’s rights, free of charge.
The Government held a consultation on the Homelessness draft code last December, which the RLA responded to. You can read the consultation response here. The code looks to the PRS more than ever to provide much needed accommodation to those at risk of homelessness or those who are already homeless. The RLA responded to highlight some of the wider factors that may affect the ability of private landlords to plug this gap such as economic strains due to tax changes and welfare reform challenges among other things.
While it is difficult to know what impact the Act will make immediately , we do welcome the Act and the spirit to which it is intended.
In an article published on Conservative Home on Tuesday, Bob Blackman MP thanked the RLA and other organisations for their support.
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