Housing and Planning Act 2016: more homes, more ownership, better landlords and better housing management

With Royal Assent on 12 May 2016, the Housing and Planning Act 2016 hit the statute books, bringing with it a host of reforms directed towards meeting the Government’s pledge to build more homes that people can afford, give more people the chance to own their own home, and to improve the way housing is managed.

The Act also implements reforms that aim to remove any unnecessary obstacles in the planning system to the delivery of new homes. However, notably, the Act has significant repercussions for anyone engaged in letting property. The Act applies mainly to England, with some exceptions.

Importantly, Part 2 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 provides greater powers for local authorities to identify and tackle rogue landlords and property agents. Part 2 introduces the concept of a banning order, an order made by the First-tier Tribunal, which has the effect of banning a person from, amongst other things: letting housing in England; engaging in letting agency work that relates to housing in England; engaging in property management work that relates to housing in England; and being involved in a company that carries out activities from which the person is banned. The Act also introduces the concept of a “banning order offence” and provides the Secretary of State with the power to make regulations describing the offences which are to be banning order offences.

There is to be a new Database of Rogue Landlords and Property Agents, and the Act empowers the First-tier Tribunal to make rent repayment orders to deter rogue landlords who have committed an offence such as: breaches of improvement orders and prohibition notices and of licensing requirements under the Housing Act 2004; violent entry under the Criminal Law Act 1977; unlawful eviction under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977; and breach of a banning order under the 2016 Act.

Part 3 of the Act is equally pertinent to anyone engaged with the UK property sector. It concerns the recovery of abandoned premises in England. This Part of the Act sets out a procedure that a landlord may follow to recover possession of a property, where it has been abandoned, without the need for a court order. A private landlord may give a tenant notice which brings the tenancy to an end on that day, if the tenancy relates to premises in England and certain conditions are met. These conditions are: a certain amount of rent is unpaid, the landlord has given a series of warning notices, and neither the tenant nor a named occupier or deposit payer has responded in writing to those warning notices before the date specified in the notices.

Social housing in England is tackled too. The Act contains provisions for the implementation of the Right to Buy on a voluntary basis which enables the Secretary of State to pay for the cost of Right to Buy discounts for housing association tenants and to set criteria for home ownership against which private registered providers may be monitored. Further, there is provisions dealing with vacant higher value local authority housing. This requires local authorities to manage their housing assets more efficiently, with the most valuable vacant properties sold to fund an increase in home ownership and over all housing supply.

Other changes brought about by the Act include a provision on electrical safety standards. This enables the Secretary of State to make regulations to require private sector landlords to meet electrical safety standards. A provision on housing information in England requires Tenancy Deposit Scheme data to be shared with local authorities; and gives the secretary of a tenants’ association a right to obtain from the landlord contact information for other leaseholders in a shared block provided that leaseholders have individually consented to their information being shared. And there is a provision regarding client money protection schemes for property agents, which allows the Secretary of State to make regulations to require property agents to join a Client Money Protection scheme.

Finally, the Act tackles public authority land, especially in relation to the disposal of land. It creates a duty on Ministers of the Crown to engage with local authorities as well as relevant public authorities when preparing to dispose of land.

For further information please contact Nitika Singh on 0208 290 7347 or email nsingh@judge-priestley.co.uk

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