The Localism Act 2011 is expected to come fully into force in April 2012 and will usher in some significant changes to social housing law.
The Act will give local authorities greater freedom to manage their waiting lists for social housing by setting local policies regarding the categories of person that qualify for a place on the housing waiting list. It will also allow a local authority to discharge its responsibility to provide accommodation for the homeless by securing an offer of suitable accommodation by a private landlord.
Another important change is that ‘flexible’ (as opposed to permanent) secure tenancies may now be offered. These must be for a fixed period of at least two years. The landlord can recover possession on various grounds and, at the end of the lease, has the option to issue a notice to the tenant that a new tenancy will not be granted. This notice may be appealed by the tenant.
Local authorities have recently been given the right to grant an ‘introductory tenancy’, which becomes a secure tenancy after a year unless the landlord seeks possession of the premises or the tenancy becomes a ‘demoted tenancy’. Such changes are designed to combat anti-social behaviour by tenants.
One change that will affect the families of many tenants, and which is designed to improve the availability of social housing to those in need of it, is the removal of the statutory right for anyone other than a spouse or civil partner to ‘inherit’ the tenancy. In the case of the death of a tenant, the landlord will be able to apply to recover possession of the property within 12 months of becoming aware of the death of the tenant.
There are a number of other changes to the law in this area and the legislation broadly applies in a similar fashion to other social landlords.