Round-up of legislation, case law, guidance and news: March 2021
Posted on 01/04/21
Welcome to this Housing Matters round up for March
Extended notice periods to continue to 31 May
In force from 31 March 2021, these Regulations lengthen the relevant period during which landlords are required to provide extended notices. The relevant period will now end on 31 May 2021.
Stay on most evictions further extended to 31 May
In force from 30 March 2021, these Regulations further extend the ban on evictions to 31 May. 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 eviction ban extension applies to mortgages as well as tenancies. The exceptions to the ban remain unchanged.
For more on the exempted specified circumstances see Covid19: protection for tenants on Shelter Legal.
Support for Mortgage Interest loans now transferable
In force from 15 March 2021 these Regulations provide for the possibility of transferring the Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) loan when the owner occupier sells their home and moves to another property. The Regulations also make provision for people fleeing domestic violence to be entitled to SMI for up to 12 months in certain circumstances.
For more on the conditions that must be met to transfer the loan see Support for mortgage interest on Shelter Legal.
Rough sleepers: Amendments to Immigration Rules
Since 1 December 2020 the Home Office may refuse permission to stay in the UK or cancel permission already given if a non-British national is sleeping rough.
From 6 April 2021 amendments to paragraphs 9.21.1 and 9.21.2 in Part 9 of the immigration rules require decision-makers to be satisfied that a rough sleeper has ‘repeatedly refused offers of suitable support and has engaged in persistent anti-social behaviour’ before this discretionary ground for refusal or cancellation of permission to stay in the UK can be used.
Amendments to First-tier and Upper Tribunal Rules
In force from 6 April 2021, these Rules amend various procedural rules which apply in the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal. Rules amended include the withdrawal of cases, and costs in the Tribunal Procedure.
Councils have power to accommodate people with no recourse to public funding during emergencies and disasters
In Ncube, R (on the application of) v Brighton and Hove City Council  EWHC 578 (Admin) the High Court held that during the coronavirus pandemic local authorities can lawfully accommodate people with no recourse to public funds. Where there is an emergency or disaster which involves danger to life and public health, homeless people can be accommodated irrespective of their immigration status and lack of eligibility for assistance under the Housing Act 1996.
Section 138 of the Local Government Act 1972 gives councils additional powers during emergencies or disasters. The judge found that the coronavirus pandemic met the conditions for use of these emergency powers.
Section 2B of the NHS Act 2006 provides a power for local authorities to act to improve the health of their local community. The judge found that use of this power was also an option available to the council in this case.
See the Shelter blog for more on their intervention in this case.
A s.202 review decision, even if received late, becomes the decision to appeal at the County Court
In Ngnoguem v Milton Keynes Council  EWCA Civ 396 the Court of Appeal held that where an applicant is given late notification of a section 184 homelessness decision review, but this notification is received before the start of the appeal process, the appeal must be brought against the review decision, not the original homelessness decision.
If the applicant is notified of the review decision after starting the process of appealing the original homelessness decision, the appeal will become academic, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
DWP unlawfully fetters discretion to decide on deductions from UC
In Blundel & Ors, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for Work And Pensions  EWHC 608 (Admin) the High Court held that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (SSWP) had unlawfully fettered her discretion to decide, in individual cases, how much to deduct from a person's universal credit (UC) to pay off fines imposed under the criminal law.
By setting a fixed rate for deductions from UC for fines and adopting an inflexible approach in making decisions on these cases, the SSWP had removed the discretion provided for in the relevant legislation.
The court declared that individual consideration was required, and that the SSWP had to exercise discretion as to the amount of the deduction.
See High Court rules DWP’s universal credit deductions policy unlawful for Shelter’s input into this case.
FCA updated guidance on tailored support
Effective from 29 March 2021, this updated guidance aims to enable firms to deliver both short and long-term support to customers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It covers customers facing payment difficulties who are not receiving payment deferrals under the Payment Deferral Guidance.
Section 7 (Repossessions) applies more widely to all customers. The guidance advises that action to seek possession should be a last resort and should not be started unless all other reasonable attempts to resolve the situation have failed.
‘Everyone In’ exposes gaps in MHCLG’s approach to rough sleeping
Published in March 2021, the Commons Public Accounts Committee report on housing people sleeping rough during the pandemic found that by January 2021, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, together with local authorities and the voluntary sector had helped around 37,430 people into accommodation.
The Committee also noted that the number of people accommodated is nearly nine times MHCLG'S last official estimate of people sleeping rough on England’s streets, made before the start of the pandemic, of 4,266.
The report states that MHCLG still has no plan for achieving the government’s 2019 election commitment to end rough sleeping by May 2024.
Independent commission on homelessness to take good practice forward
Announced on 23 March 2021 by Lord Kerslake, the Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping will look at what worked during the pandemic and how to embed the good practice that was shown during the past year.
Evidence gathered from the housing, health and homelessness sectors will help provide recommendations of how to consolidate and improve this way of working for the future.
MHCLG to fund move-on accommodation for rough sleepers
Up to £2.116 million over the financial years 2021-2024 will be made available to fund 'move on' accommodation for rough sleepers who are currently in emergency accommodation. MHCLG invites councils, working with delivery partners and local stakeholders, to submit proposals and bids for funding, which can be used to provide accommodation and support services offering a pathway to settled accommodation.
House of Commons: Coronavirus timeline
Published 29 March 2021 by the House of Commons Library, this comprehensive timeline outlines the measures taken by the House of Commons over the past year in response to the pandemic. It includes links to the relevant debates in Hansard, Procedure Committee reports, and correspondence on proceedings during the pandemic.
Housing Ombudsman new Systemic Framework
The Housing Ombudsman have published a new Systemic Framework which aims to identify key issues that impact on residents and landlords’ services, including failures in complaint handling and recurring issues common to several landlords. Learning will be shared to promote good practice and support a positive complaint handing culture.
Housing Ombudsman announce first Independent Reviewer
The Housing Ombudsman has announced Adam Sampson’s appointment as its first Independent Reviewer of Service Complaints. He will look at complaints against the service and how effectively they were handled, with the aim of continually improving performance.
Latest MHCLG statistics on rents, lettings and tenancies
This collection includes the latest data on numbers of households on local authority waiting lists and average weekly rents for social housing providers, by district.
Ministry of Justice statistics on mortgage and landlord possession
Latest data on mortgage and landlord possession action in the county courts from October to December 2020
Fire safety consultation: Home Office response
Published 17 March 2021, the Home Office provides a summary of responses to last year’s public consultation on fire safety and sets out the next steps the Government will take to strengthen fire safety for all regulated buildings. The consultation contained 139 questions aimed at identifying what policy and legislative changes are needed.
Consultation on increasing selected court fees
Ministry of Justice open consultation on the proposal to increase selected court fees and Help with Fees income thresholds. Responses can be given via the online survey or by email. The consultation ends on 17 May 2021.