Recently a new Private Members Bill has been introduced aiming to reduce Homelessness. The aim of the bill is to reform the homelessness duties placed on local authorities to ensure that ‘Priority need’ households receive better help quicker. It will achieve this by making several amendments to the Housing Act 1996.
This new Bill is being supported by the National Landlords Association, as it includes 2 major changes that have previously been campaigned on by the NLA. These new changes aim to stop local councils advising tenants to wait for bailiffs to turn up to evict them.
In short, there were many problems with the original bill that the new legislation should help to rectify. For example, in its original form, the bill often forced people to crisis point before the local authority intervened; such as local authorities advising tenants to stay in their property until evicted by bailiffs if served with a valid section 21 notice.
The new bill aims to rectify these problems by means of changing the prevention duties on local authorities. Specifically, the bill will amend Section 175 of the Housing Act 1996. This has been done in two ways. Firstly, the bill places a legal duty on councils to prevent people from becoming homeless within 56 days of losing their home, by providing 56 days of accommodation to applicants, as opposed to the 28 days of the original legislation. This allows local authorities to respond to the threat of homelessness much earlier with in the process, and therefore being able to provide help in the way of, for example; debt management support, payment by way of a loan and/or mediation with the landlord.
Secondly, the latest bill has also removed the original proposal to introduce new grounds to deem people intentionally homeless. It would have meant priority need households, which mainly includes families could have lost their right to housing. Instead, households that deliberately and unreasonably refuse to cooperate with the local authority will still be eligible for accommodation if they are in priority need. The bill has undergone additional changes, such as allowing career leavers to claim a ‘local connection’ to the area that they have been accommodated in.
Furthermore, another problem with the original bill was that it included a new duty on councils to provide emergency temporary accommodation for 56 days to people with a local connection but who are not in priority need and who have nowhere safe to stay.
Councils however have said that this duty would put local authorities under too much pressure, and overwhelming costs, due to the already spiraling homelessness demand. Therefore, this duty has now been removed from the bill.