Residential and Social Housing update
Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 – update
The introduction of Part 1 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 has been delayed to allow for necessary changes to be made to the civil legal aid system.
Part 1 of the Act includes the Civil Injunctions which will replace Anti-Social Behaviour Injunctions, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, Drinking Banning Orders, Intervention Orders and Individual Support Orders.
The Civil Injunction aims to prohibit certain activity and/or require some positive activity from an offender where they have caused nuisance or annoyance within a household context or harassment, alarm or distress elsewhere.
The Government has now set the fees for Civil Injunctions and these changes will be effective from March 2015. It was anticipated Civil Injunctions would be introduced last month, but it now seems likely that Civil Injunctions will be introduced in March 2015 to coincide with the change in the fees.
Changes affecting ASTs in England
On 5th February 2015, the Government announced changes proposed by the Deregulation Bill 2015.
Section 21 Notices
The Deregulation Bill intends to restrict a landlord’s ability to rely on a notice ending residential assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs) under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.
The proposed amendments are:
- Introduce a new prescribed Section 21 Notice which does not require landlords to specify the exact date of the end of a period of the tenancy.
- Limit the landlord’s ability to serve a Section 21 Notice at the start of an AST.
- Introduce an obligation on landlords to provide information about the respective rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant under an AST.
- Set a procedure that would give a tenant a statutory right to claim back rent paid in advance in respect of a period falling after a Section 21 Notice brings the tenancy to an end.
- A tenant must notify its landlord in writing of repairs that are required to the property and follow this up, if appropriate, by contacting the local housing authority. If the local housing authority serves an enforcement notice on the landlord, the Section 21 Notice is invalidated.
- If a landlord fails to comply with obligations relating to Energy Performance Certificates and Gas Safety Certificates, the eviction of a tenant will be suspended while the landlord is in breach.
These provisions will not affect ASTs where the fixed term was granted before these provisions come into force.
Tenancy Deposit Schemes (TDSs)
TDSs were created under the Housing Act 2004 (HA 2004) and became compulsory for all ASTs created on or after 6 April 2007.
Amendments were required to the tenancy deposit legislation to address the situations that arose in Superstrike Ltd v Rodrigues  EWCA Civ 669 and Charalambous v Ng  EWCA Civ 1604.
The proposed amendments are:
- If a landlord took a deposit in respect of a fixed term AST before 6th April 2007 which then became a periodic tenancy after 6th April 2007, the landlord should protect the deposit and provide the relevant prescribed information within 90 days of the Deregulation Bill gaining Royal Assent.
- A landlord of a tenancy that became periodic before the tenancy deposit scheme came into force on 6th April 2007 should protect the deposit however there is no financial penalty for failing to comply with this amendment.
- The prescribed information can specify the details of the agent who protected the deposit rather than then landlord.
It is expected that the Deregulation Bill will gain Royal Assent before the dissolution of Parliament on 30th March 2015.
Renting Homes (Wales) Bill
On 9th February 2015, the National Assembly for Wales published the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill.
The Bill intends to replace a variety of different forms of occupation agreements with two main types of periodic and fixed term occupation contracts: a secure contract based on a secure tenancy and a standard contract based on an assured shorthold tenancy.
The Bill proposes:
1. Abolishing the Ground 8 possession ground against assured tenants who are eight weeks/two months in rent arrears. Many social landlords are prohibited from using Ground 8 by the contents of their tenancy agreements or due to a policy so it is not expected that this change will have a great effect.
2. Six new grounds for possession: breach of contract, estate management grounds, contract-holder’s notice, landlord’s notice, landlord’s notice under a fixed term contract and serious rent arrears.
- Proposes allowing for one "priority successor" (spouse or partner) followed by a potential "reserve successor" (who could be a carer or resident family member provided they satisfy the 12 month residency requirement).
- Some existing tenancies will not be affected: tenancies subject to the Rent Act 1977, agricultural tenancies, long tenancies of more than 21 years and agreements relating to accommodation provided for up to 24 hours at a time.
- Registered Social landlords will be required to enter into secure contracts except in certain circumstances e.g. introductory agreements, supported housing
- Removing the “six-month moratorium” in an effort to promote renting in Wales
- Stop a joint tenant being able to bring a whole tenancy to an end simply by serving a notice to quit.
- All deposits must be protected by the landlord through an authorised deposit scheme. Failure to comply could prohibit the landlord from regaining possession of the property.
Registered Social Landlords in Wales who are considering amending their tenancy agreements following the introduction of the new absolute ground for possession in October 2014 should consider whether it is worth waiting for the new agreements to come into force. The Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent in early 2016.