The final version of Bob Blackman MP’s Homelessness Reduction Bill has been published ahead of its 2nd Reading in Parliament. In complete contrast to previous versions, and the report by Crisis that preceded it, the final version delivers a kicking to landlords.
The NLA had been provisionally supportive of the previous draft of the Bill because it included one very welcome change to the Housing Act 1996:
“A person in respect of whom a valid notice under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (…..) has been given is to be treated as homeless from the date on which that notice expires”.
This one sentence amendment would have stopped councils’ damaging policy to advise tenants to stay in the property until evicted by bailiffs if served with a valid section 21 notice.
However, the new version extends this out with two pages of sub-clauses, stating that such tenants should be treated as homeless UNLESS a relevant local housing authority asks them to stay put.
It goes on to say that the tenant may not overstay a court order, but that the local housing authority must only consider the likely consequences / financial harm to the interested parties.
In essence this is the opposite of what we supported previously as it legitimises and encourages a practice which currently contradicts the government’s guidance.
The Mortgage and Landlord Possession Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice earlier this year show the growing trend in the private rented sector. Over the past 12 months, 40% of possession claims from private landlords have had to go all the way to repossession by bailiff with the average time of this process taking 45 weeks. This is a stark rise from just 25% of claims in the same period 5 years ago.
If the Bill gets passed, and councils are actively encouraged to continue this behaviour, we’ll be likely to see this increase further still.
Our regular Tenant Panel recently found that almost half (48%) of tenants who have received a Section 21 notice were advised by their council to stay put until the bailiffs turned up.
This has done financial damage to landlords and tenants, as well as causing landlords to become more reluctant to let their properties to formerly homeless or vulnerable households.By legitimising this policy the Bill will make it harder for local authorities to discharge their homelessness duties into the PRS.
NLA research has also shown that 1 in 5 landlords have had a tenant advised to remain in the property until evicted by bailiffs. Half of these landlords had property damage as a result, at a cost of just under £2000.
Overall, the average cost of the tenant being advised to remain in the property was just over £6,750, through property damage, lost rest, court and legal fees.
Will it Pass?
Private Members’ Bills (those introduced by backbench MPs) such as this one are rarely passed – the hurdles to overcome are numerous.
However, the charity Crisis has been lobbying MPs hard to get them to turn up on Friday 28th October so the Bill can get through its next stage and it has cross-party support. Even Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has written to all Labour MPs encouraging them to attend the debate and vote in favour of the Bill. The Government may also give its backing to the Bill.
UPDATE: Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that the Government will support Bob Blackman’s Homelessness Reduction Bill
The Bill is picking up quite a bit of steam. Even if it doesn’t pass, popular Private Members’ Bills can be rolled into other Bills by the Government if it wishes.
After all, the Retaliatory Evictions Bill failed to pass initially, but then it was picked up by the Government and rolled into the Deregulation Act 2015….
Suffice to say, the final version of the Bill is not supported by us and we believe it will lead to increased costs to landlords, and ultimately less housing stock available to house the homeless.