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Social Housing Speed Read – New Homelessness Code of Guidance now in force

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) has published the new statutory code of guidance for local authorities as the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 comes into force.

What’s new?

Following consultation in 2017, MHCLG has now published the new Homelessness Code of Guidance (the “Code”) to co-incide with the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 on 3 April 2018, which sets out in detail, the MHCLG’s view as to how local authorities should carry out their new duties.

In brief, and as touched upon in our previous speed reads (available here and here), councils will have a number of new responsibilities and duties under the legislation, namely:

  • To act within 56 days of a household being threatened with homelessness.
  • Offering homelessness prevention advice to anyone who requires it (as opposed to those just considered in priority need) on preventing homelessness, how to get accommodation, their rights and how to access help.
  • Assessing the housing needs of anyone who is homeless or threatened with homelessness.
  • Advice services must meet the needs of people released from prison, care leavers, former Armed Forces members, domestic abuse victims, people leaving hospital, those suffering from mental illness and anyone else identified as particularly at risk of homelessness.

The new Code

The new Code streamlines existing guidance to 189 pages, covering council’s homelessness strategy and review, the council’s duty to refer and provide advisory services, as well as guidance and information as to the council’s main housing duty.

However, the Code is not yet complete as the Local Government Association dispute mechanism that is to form Annex 2 of the guidance is yet to be finalised following the consultation that ended on 13 March 2018. We expect that this shall be added to the main body of the guidance within the next few weeks. The habitual residence test at Annex 1 has however made it into the initial publication.

Whilst the Code is geared towards local authorities, registered providers should keep abreast of the new developments and become familiar with the Code’s contents as they are required to co-operate with housing authorities in exercising their homelessness functions.

The new Code can be found here.

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.

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