Social Housing Speed Read – lifetime secure tenancies
31st May, 2016
Following the decision to phase out lifetime secure tenancies in the Housing and Planning Bill, the Government has amended plans on the maximum length social landlords can offer new tenancies, from 5 to 10 years, in a partial climbdown.
The Government introduced changes last December in the Housing and Planning Bill to effectively remove the right of tenants to live in their council owned homes for life and in some cases pass them on to their next of kin.
The Government proposed a maximum fixed term of 5 years for new tenancies, to be reviewed by the relevant local authority at the end of the tenancy before a decision to either terminate, or issue a new tenancy.
The Government’s aim behind the ending of lifetime tenancies is a desire to improve local authorities abilities to provide social housing for those who need it and additionally provide support to households to make the transition into home ownership where it is possible.
Ministers have faced intense pressure from commentators and campaign groups to scrap plans to remove security of tenure and a resulting break-up of communities and the overall concept of loss of security for social tenants being cited in opposition to the proposals.
In the third reading of the Bill in the House of Lords, amendments were made to increase the term to up to 10 years and make provision for a tenancy to be fixed for a resident child under 9 until that child was at least 19 years of age. Ministers had already agreed to allow tenancies of up to 10 years for people with disabilities.
It is clear there is a shortage of social housing and the Conservative Government has proposed changes to the way social housing will be allocated and retained going forward.
A review of tenants’ circumstances will be built in, as circumstances will no doubt change and different provision may be required. The Government has also stated that it will look to support households to make the transition into ownership where possible.
There is clearly concern about removal of security of tenure, and the effect on communities and on the properties themselves. Giving tenants the security of staying in a certain community and the same property allows them to invest themselves in the community and in some cases money in the property which would otherwise be paid from the local authority budget.
The social housing market could face similar problems to that of the private sector where many short term tenants do not invest any money in the property as it is seen as short term and requires the landlord to maintain the property.
Will the cuts to local authority budgets mean they have the resources to maintain the properties correctly, let along the administration costs of review of fixed term tenancies and pay to stay provisions?
What effect will the loss of security and loss of community networks have on tenants and social projects? Tenants in these communities may rely on those links for assistance and they may stop contributing to social projects if they feel they are only going to be in the area for a short period of time.
As Shaun Croucher wrote recently, in the International Business Times: “Those who need the security and stability of a permanent home most are the poorest in society. A lifetime tenancy allows them to put down roots in a community, with a support network of friends and family who can help with work, childcare and much more. It is a stable platform on which to build.”
It seems the Government has taken stock of the arguments made and increased the length the maximum fixed term contract to 10 years in an attempt to find a balance between giving additional security, recognition of the fact that circumstances of the tenant do change as against the overall shortage of social housing available.
Additionally it is proposed that the criteria for the end of the tenancy review will be left down to local authorities, enabling the tenant’s local environment to be taken into account rather than a centralised Government check list.
If you have any questions in relation to 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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