Round-up of legislation, case law, guidance and news: February 2021
Posted on 05/03/21
Welcome to this Housing Matters round-up for February
Stay on most evictions further extended to 31 March
In force from 22 February 2021, these Regulations further extend the ban on evictions from 22 February to 31 March. They prevent, except in specified circumstances, attendance at a dwelling house for the purpose of executing a writ or warrant of possession or delivering a notice of eviction. The exceptions to the ban remain unchanged.
For more on the exempted specified circumstances see Covid19: protection for tenants on Shelter Legal.
Additional court forms amended by HMCTS
On 9 February 2021, HMCTS amended more court forms to reflect last year’s change in the Statement of Truth, including N1 (Claim Form), N5 (Possession claim form) N11 (Defence Form), and N119 & N120 (Possession Particulars of Claim)
Update on EEA nationals with pre-settled status and access to benefits
In Fratila & Anor v Secretary of State for Works and Pensions & Anor  EWCA Civ 1741 the Court of Appeal held that the regulations preventing EEA nationals from relying on pre-settled status when claiming benefits amounted to unlawful direct discrimination on the grounds of nationality.
The Court quashed the relevant sections of the regulations that exclude people with pre-settled status from claiming means tested benefits, including Universal Credit. However, the Court granted a temporary stay until 26 February 2021, to allow time for an appeal to the Supreme Court. During this time the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions did not have to implement the decision.
On 22 February 2021 the SSWP was granted permission to appeal by the Supreme Court. The stay on implementation of the decision has been extended until the Supreme Court judgment.
Categories of claimants eligible for universal credit can be found on Shelter Legal
‘Substantial rent arrears’ exception to eviction ban not valid for s.21 claims
In Trinity House of Deptford Strond v Prescott & Anor  EWHC 283 (QB) the High Court held that even where there are substantial rent arrears, the rent arrears exception to the eviction ban does not apply to a possession order made under s.21.
The claimant had also served a s.8 notice seeking possession on rent arrears grounds 8, 10 and 11, though no decision was made on this application as s.21 was made out.
A money judgment had been granted for arrears at the same time as the s.21 possession order, and by the time of the High Court application the arrears were reported to be over £70,000. However, despite there being such substantial arrears, as the possession order had not been made on the basis of rent arrears the rent arrears exception to the eviction ban could not be used.
Unlawful occupation of interim accommodation does not establish local connection
In Minott, R (On the Application Of) v Cambridge City Council  EWHC 211 (Admin) the High Court held that refusal by Cambridge CC to accept a fresh homelessness application following an alleged change in circumstances was not unlawful. A referral to another housing authority had been made and accepted, but the applicant had remained in interim accommodation after his licence to occupy had been terminated.
He made a fresh homelessness application after he had lived in the area for six months, claiming that he had now acquired a local connection. The Court held that the passage of time and unlawful occupation of the interim accommodation did not amount to a new fact, so Cambridge CC did not have to accept the fresh application.
Cap on rent repayment order
In Ficcara & Ors v James (HOUSING - RENT REPAYMENT ORDER)  UKUT 38 (LC) the Upper Tribunal dismissed the appeal from a decision of the First-tier Tribunal given in June 2020. Despite a landlord committing three offences, each of which could lead to a rent repayment order, only one rent repayment order, limited to a maximum of 12 months’ rent, could be made. That cap applied irrespective of the number, timing, or duration of the offences committed.
Free possession mediation pilot scheme launched
Launched 1 February, this new housing possession mediation scheme hopes to reduce the backlog of housing cases heading for court by resolving tenancy disputes and possession claims. The Society of Mediators will run the scheme on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and the pilot will run for 6 months initially.
The Law Society has expressed concern that the £3 million allocated to the pilot could negatively impact the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme.
Helping homeless clients access the Covid-19 vaccination
Information and resources from Groundswell on assisting homeless clients, who may otherwise be excluded from the vaccination rollout plan, to register with a general practitioner.
Rough sleeping and emergency accommodation latest data
Local authority area data covers September 2020 to January 2021 and includes numbers of people placed in emergency and move on accommodation as part of the ‘get everyone in’ campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data also covers people sleeping rough.
Homelessness statistics collection
Published 25 February, MHCLG collection of statistics on statutory homelessness and rough sleeping, including the rough sleeping snapshot in England for autumn 2020. Also includes statistics on prevention and relief duties.
Covid-19: Government housing support measures
Published 16 February, a House of Commons Library briefing on what the Government has done to protect tenants and support landlords during the pandemic. Includes extension of notice periods, the stay on evictions and mortgage payment holidays for landlords.
Evaluation of the Housing First Pilots
Housing First supports homeless people with multiple needs to access and maintain independent, long-term settled housing. This evaluation provides key learning and recommendations from the three pilot areas. Includes a toolkit for those looking to implement Housing First at a regional or local level.
Covid-19: Updated guidance for landlords and tenants
Updated 26 February, Government guidance for the private and social rented sectors includes amendments to notices seeking possession, and guidance on health and safety obligations, repairs and inspections during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Covid-19: updated guidance for local authorities
Updated 26 February, non-statutory guidance advising local authorities in England how to enforce standards in rented properties (including housing association properties) and how to meet their legal duties and support landlords and tenants during the pandemic.
New FCA guidance for mortgage lenders on protecting vulnerable customers
New finalised guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers, to be implemented by mortgage lenders and other regulated firms. A recent study by the FCA found that 53% of adults display a characteristic of vulnerability, an increase of over 2 million people since February 2020. The new guidance complements the regulatory sourcebooks and the FCA principles for business.