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Social Housing Speed Read – 06/04/2020

In this week's speed read we look at the reaction from the courts to the flouting of Government guidelines and the Government's announcement on new measures to reform the building safety system.

A reaction from the courts to the flouting of Government guidelines  

A Manchester-based housing association has reacted to one of its tenant’s refusal to take heed of the Government’s social-distancing guidelines.

It has been reported that the tenant in question continued to invite large numbers of people round to their property, despite the nation being told to remain indoors and isolate within their own households. The gatherings were said to have caused alarm and distress to neighbouring residents as noisy, disruptive parties were held at the property.

The behaviour of the tenant was sufficient to constitute a nuisance and so the housing association successfully applied for an injunction. The injunction ordered by the Court stipulated that no persons, other than the children of the tenant, are to attend the property until the current social-distancing restrictions are lifted by the Government.

A representative of the housing association has highlighted the need for the current guidelines to be followed and the need for housing providers to ensure that all residents living in their communities are kept safe during this time of ‘unprecedented risk’.

This case demonstrates that flouting of the current restrictions is likely to be considered anti-social in the eyes of the courts – a point which all housing providers should bear in mind during this period. Further, it highlights the availability of an alternative remedy to the issuing of possession proceedings (in light of the Government’s moratorium on evictions) to deal with anti-social behaviour during the next 3 months, Covid-19 related or not.

However, a quicker and more cost-effective option may be the involvement of the police given their recent allocation of emergency powers to disperse, fine or even arrest persons who flout these rules. Nevertheless, it appears that the Court is willing to support housing providers in their efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour during this time.

Building safety reform

On 2 April 2020, the Government announced new measures to reform the building safety system following its recent consultation. The changes made are said to be the most significant in a generation to ensure that all residents are safe in their own homes.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick detailed the measures that will apply to all new high-rise buildings over 11m in height which include the mandatory installation of sprinkler systems, as well as improved signage to assist with residents’ navigation around the blocks. Further, external wall systems on high-rise buildings using Class C or D HPL panels should be removed as they do not comply with building regulations and are deemed unsafe

In the announcement, it was stated that David Hancock – the Government’s construction expert – will be reviewing the progress of the removal of unsafe cladding. In instances where compliance is not met, enforcement measures will be employed and those responsible risk prosecution.

The Government will be doing all it can to assist builders, housing managers and residents to progress the measures and have dedicated a fund of £1 billion to support the remediation of unsafe non-ACM cladding materials on high-rise buildings. This sum is in addition to the previously announced £600 million.

Although the Government have acknowledged the problems that the building sector are facing during the current pandemic, the removal of unsafe cladding remains a priority throughout the Covid-19 crisis. Those failing to comply will continue to be publically named.

All housing providers in ownership of high-rise buildings as detailed above should consult the paper (available here) as a matter of urgency to ensure compliance with the updated measures.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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