The Localism Act 2011 Peter Bird Primary Business Support www.primarybs.co.uk Tel. 01264 324403
Background“The time has come to disperse power more widely in Britain today.”The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, Coalition Agreement, May 2010
Summary of ContentsRef HeadingPart 1 Local Government Part 7 HousingPart 2 EU Financial Sanctions 1 Allocation and HomelessnessPart 3 EU Financial Sanctions: Wales 2 Social Housing: Tenure ReformPart 4 Non-Domestic Rates Etc 3 Housing FinancePart 5 Community Empowerment 4 Housing MobilityPart 6 Planning 5 Regulation of Social HousingPart 7 Housing 6 Other Housing MattersPart 8 London Compensation For CompulsoryPart 9 AcquisitionPart 10 General
Key Housing Issues for HAs• Social housing tenure reform• Reform of social housing regulation• National Home Swap Scheme
Social Housing Tenure Reform• Existing tenants’ position is retained.• New ‘Flexible Tenancies’ can be for limited periods; can be 2 years in exceptional cases, but 5 years expected to be the norm. No upper limit to length of tenancy.• Will be used alongside ‘Affordable Rents’, although the Affordable Rents regulations are not part of the Localism Act (rents and tenure are now separated).• Landlords can retain lifetime tenancies if they wish, but Flexible Tenancies: • will be required under HCA funding agreements for new properties built under the Affordable Homes Programme. • can be introduced for relet properties with HCA consent.
Social Housing Tenure Reform• HAs must publish ‘clear and accessible policies’ which outline their approach to: • The length of any fixed term tenancies (eg Flexible Tenacies). • Any exceptional circumstances in which they will grant fixed term tenancies of less than 5 years. • Any circumstances in which they may/may not re-issue at the end of the fixed term. • What advice/assistance they will give to tenants when the tenancy is not to be re-issued. • Details of any grant of rights of succession.
Social HousingAffordable Rents – an aside• Tenancy of residential premises let by an Registered Provider.• At a rent higher than social rent, up to 80% of the market rent of a property: • of the same size and type • in the private sector • to include service charges.From 1st April 2012 rents and tenancies will become independent ofeach other, which will potentially lead to a multitude ofcombinations…
Tenure and Rents Combinations Possible1. Fixed term (assured shorthold) at social rent2. Fixed term (assured shorthold) at affordable rent3. Periodic (assured) at social rent4. Periodic (assured) at affordable rent5. Fixed term (flexible) at social rent6. Fixed term (flexible) at affordable rent7. Periodic (secure) at social rent8. Periodic (secure) at affordable rent
Ending Fixed Term Tenancy (at expiry of term)• Landlord must give six month notice informing tenant that: o Tenancy will not be renewed/re-issued. o How the tenant can get help/advice.• Landlord must also serve notice that it intends to seek possession at the end of the fixed term (s21 notice).• Act gives no right to review (but could be in the Landlord’s policy).NB failure to serve both notices will result in the tenant becoming aperiodic tenant.Tenant can end tenancy, at any time after expiry of the fixed term, byservice NTQ.
Ending Fixed Term Tenancy (mid term)• Only on a ground expressly referred to in tenancy.• Certain grounds not available: o All mandatory grounds (except ground 8 – arrears of rent). o Discretionary grounds 9 (suitable alternative accommodation offered) and 16 (tenant was an employee of the landlord). o Cannot move to suitable alternative accommodation.• But can have ‘break clause’ (min two years).• Surrender does not apply (unless permitted by tenancy).• Any breach can be actioned as usual.
Reform of Social Housing Regulation• Abolishes the Tenant Services Authority and transfers the TSA functions to the Homes and Communities Agencyfrom 1st April 2012.• Changes the way complaints are referred to an ombudsman.
Abolition of the TSA• Requires the creation of a ‘Regulation Committee’ of the HCA to deal with issues previously dealt with by the TSA.• Committee to have an appointed Chair and 4, 5 or 6 appointed members (currently Chair + 4 appointed).• May have sub-committees that may include non- members.
Economic Objectives• To ensure that RPs are financially viable.• To support the provision of housing to meet reasonable demand.• To ensure Value for Money.• To ensure that there is no unreasonable burden on public funds.• To guard against the misuse of public funds.
Consumer Regulation Objectives• To support the provision of housing that is well managed and of appropriate quality.• To ensure prospective and current tenants have choice and protection.• To ensure tenants have the opportunity to be involved in the management of their homes and can hold their landlord to account.• To encourage RPs to contribute towards environmental issues, social issues and economic well being of the areas in which they operate.
Referring Complaints to the Ombudsman• All social housing complaints to be referred to the Housing Ombudsman Service (inc LA tenants).• Complaints to normally be considered by a ‘designated person’ in the first instance.• Designated person is an MP, a member of the local housing authority or a designated tenant panel.• Complaints can be referred direct to the Ombudsman once eight weeks have elapsed from the completion of the RP’s internal procedure, or where the Designated Person agrees, or refuses, to investigate.
National Home Swap Scheme• The Act ‘paved the way’ for a National Home Swap Scheme.• It makes way for regulation by the HCA that will require RPs to participate in the new ‘Home Swap Direct’ scheme that effectively the brings together the four existing independent internet based mutual exchange schemes (HomeSwapper, House Exchange, Abritas and LHS (Locata)).
Other Housing Issues• Social housing allocations reform – Allowing LAs to set their own priorities for allocations.• Reform of homelessness legislation – Allowing LAs to meet their obligations by offering private sector accommodation and removing the applicants’ option to refuse on the basis that they would prefer a property provided by a RP.• Reform of council housing finance – Allowing LAs to retain their rental income rather than having to send it to the Government to redistribute.• Abolition of Home Information Packs – Confirming the abolition that has effectively been implemented NB Energy Performance Certificates remain.
Planning Impacts• Abolition of regional strategies• Neighbourhood planning• Community right to build• Requirement to consult communities before submitting certain planning applications• Reforming the community infrastructure levy• Reform the way local plans are made
Other Possible Impacts• Community right to challenge• Community right to bid (assets of community value)• Right to approve or veto excessive council tax rises
ConclusionThe Localism Act covers a wide range ofservices. Some aspects are relevant to all social housing providers; others are relevant to local housing authorities and others affect other aspects of local authority services that are peripheral to social housing providers (and developers).