The Homeless Reduction Act 2017 commences on 3 April 2018 (as far as relevant for our readers) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) has published the code of guidance for local authorities.
The Homeless Reduction Act 2017 intends to reduce homelessness in England (as the title suggests).
Of particular note to readers is the specific provisions in relation to a section 21 notice.
From 3 April 2018, a tenant should be regarded as threatened with homelessness after a valid section 21 notice has been given by a landlord (or by an agent on a landlord’s behalf).
Full details can be found in our article about the Homeless Reduction Act 2017 here.
Code of guidance
Unfortunately it’s a little conflicting. On the one hand it says at para 6.35:
The Secretary of State considers that where an applicant is:
(a) an assured shorthold tenant who has received a valid notice in accordance with section 21 of the Housing Act 1988;
(b) the housing authority is satisfied that the landlord intends to seek possession and further efforts from the housing authority to resolve the situation and persuade the landlord to allow the tenant to remain in the property are unlikely to be successful; and,
(c) there would be no defence to an application for a possession order;
then it is unlikely to be reasonable for the applicant to continue to occupy beyond the expiry of a valid section 21 notice, unless the housing authority is taking steps to persuade the landlord to allow the tenant to continue to occupy the accommodation for a reasonable period to provide an opportunity for alternative accommodation to be found.
But then goes on to say (para 6.37):
The Secretary of State considers that it is highly unlikely to be reasonable for the applicant to continue to occupy beyond the date on which the court has ordered them to leave the property and give possession to the landlord.
And further (6.38) …
Housing authorities should not consider it reasonable for an applicant to remain in occupation up until the point at which a court issues a warrant or writ to enforce an order for possession.
Which is it? According to all three paragraphs, it’s not considered reasonable for the tenant to have to occupy –
- beyond expiry of the section 21;
- beyond the date given by the court, or;
- up to the point of a warrant
It’s only the degree of reasonableness that appears to change in each paragraph!
Quite how much use this is going to be for landlord’s will have to be seen.
The guidance then goes on to specify (and in bold in the code) at para 6.38:
Housing authorities should ensure that homeless families and vulnerable individuals who are owed a section 188 interim accommodation duty or section 193(2) main housing duty are not evicted through the enforcement of an order for possession as a result of a failure by the authority to make suitable accommodation available to them.
This is the only paragraph out of the ones above without a degree of reasonableness being mentioned. Therefore, in reality and with a shortage of housing stock, this will likely be the ultimate fallback position of the local authority when considering a homelessness application. That leaves landlords in precisely the same position we were in before the Act came into force!