Teal blue header image

Social Housing monthly law update - November 2019

TLT's monthly law update on all things affecting social housing

To help you keep up with the law and comply with registered provider standards, this monthly law update covers the current legal issues affecting the social housing sector.

It includes the main legislative and case law developments and statutory guidance issued for Social Housing sector from the last two months, with links to the relevant sources to find out more.

Quick links:

Corporate

Electronic signatures are valid

Law Commission | 4 September 2019

Electronic signatures can be used to execute documents, including where there is a statutory requirement for a signature, the Law Commission has today confirmed. This means that, in most cases, electronic signatures can be used as a viable alternative to handwritten ones.  Read more

https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/electronic-signatures-are-valid-confirms-law-commission/

Energy

Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014: proposed amendments

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy | 17 October 2019

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) has published a consultation on proposed amendments to the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3120) (as amended) (2014 Regulations).  This consultation sets out proposals to amend the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations to ensure, where technically feasible and cost-effective, that: final consumption metering devices are installed on heat and cooling networks and billing is based on consumption.  The consultation closes on 12 December 2019.  Read more

Employment

Hangovers - an "illness" or misconduct?

TLT Legal Insight | 28 October 2019

In a judgment that will no doubt catch the eye of those who are fond of the odd tipple, a regional court in Germany – just in time for Oktoberfest - has recently decided that hangovers are an illness under German law.  Read more

Unprotected opinions versus protected beliefs – where is the line?

TLT Opinion | 18 October 2019

Last month's decision of the Norwich Employment Tribunal in Conisbee v Crossley Farms has once again brought the issue of philosophical beliefs under the Equality Act 2010 into the HR spotlight.  In that case, it was held that vegetarianism is not protected, but the judgment was more promising for those campaigning to have veganism covered by the 2010 Act.  Read more

Legal advice privilege and "cloaking" a dismissal as "redundancy"

TLT Legal Insight | 23 October 2019

The Court of Appeal has provided an important ruling on when advice on dismissing an employee as part of a redundancy exercise, in order to put a stop to complaints of discrimination, would be protected by legal advice privilege. This ruling overturns a previous decision which said that such advice could be disclosed to an employment tribunal. Read more

New guidance on the use of confidentiality agreements and discrimination

Equality and Human Rights Commission | 17 October 2019

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published new, non-statutory, guidance on the use of confidentiality agreements in discrimination cases. The guidance recognises that there is a place for confidentiality agreements (or, 'NDAs') in employment relationships, and sets out how such agreements can be used ethically. For example, individuals signing up to such agreements must be aware of the limitations of the restrictions on them, particularly in relation to their right to raise their concerns with legal and regulatory bodies. 

Health and safety

Grenfell Tower inquiry phase 1 report published

Grenfell Tower Inquiry | 30 October 2019

Sir Martin Moore-Bick, chair of the Grenfell Inquiry, has published his first phase report focusing on the night of the fire.  Read more

Building regulations and fire safety

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 21 October 2019

The Government published its response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee report ‘Building regulations and fire safety: consultation response and connected issues’. The MHCLG document sets out progress to date and response to the individual recommendations in the Select Committee report.  Read more

Queen’s Speech: Building safety standards legislation

Cabinet Office | 14 October 2019

The Government announced in the Queen’s Speech that it would bring forward “new and modernised regulatory regimes for building safety and construction products, ensuring residents have a stronger voice in the system”. According to the briefing notes accompanying the Queen’s Speech, the proposed legislation would implement the lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire and bring about a fundamental change in the regulatory framework for high rise residential buildings, and the industry culture to ensure accountability and responsibility, so making sure that residents are safe in their homes.  Read more

Housing

Housing Ombudsman launches consultations for improved service

Housing Ombudsman Service | 25 October 2019

The Housing Ombudsman Service has launched consultations on two documents aimed at providing a faster, more accessible and more transparent service.  Both the Business Plan for 2020-21 and revised Housing Ombudsman Scheme propose changes to meet the challenges of unprecedented demand for the service and to respond to resident and landlord expectations.  Read more

Bedroom tax and housing benefit: European Court of Human Rights case

European Court of Human Rights | 24 October 2019

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has recently given judgment in J.D. and A v The United Kingdom concerning the ‘Bedroom Tax’ and how housing benefit is administered.  Judges ruled that the ‘reform’ discriminated against a domestic-violence victim who was forced to pay extra for her panic room.  Read more

FG18/6: Helping tenants find alternatives to high-cost credit and what this means for social housing landlords: updated guidance

Financial conduct Authority | 22 October 2019

The FCA have updated this guidance – FG18/06 – to reflect new legislation.  This is because of an amendment to the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) Order 2001. This means that registered social landlords (RSLs) can now refer tenants, or potential tenants, to some credit activities without requiring authorisation from the FCA.  Read more

Building affordable rented homes

Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee | 21 October 2019

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee questioned housing associations and regional housing groups on what is preventing them from building more social and affordable rented homes. It examined how housing associations currently fund new homes, and how vulnerable the current mixed funding model is to market slowdown. The Committee also asked about impact of the introduction of Affordable Rent, Right to Buy and Right to Acquire on levels of provision and affordability for housing association tenants. The session also looked at the relationship between housing associations, local authorities and national Government, as well as issues including planning and access to land. Read more  

Update: Due to the general election on 12 December 2019 the Committee has now closed this inquiry. Following the dissolution of Parliament on 6 November, all Select Committees will cease to exist until after the general election. If an inquiry on this subject is held in the future, the Committee may refer to the evidence already gathered as part of this inquiry.

Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Commencement No 11) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1359

Legislation.gov.uk | 21 October 2019

Certain provisions of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, relating to electrical safety standards, will come into force in England on 25 October 2019. These provisions give the Secretary of State the power to make regulations imposing duties on private landlords of residential premises in England for the purpose of ensuring that electrical safety standards are met during tenancies, and to provide for the enforcement of those duties.  Read more

Local Government Secretary confirms new support for survivors of domestic abuse

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 21 October 2019

As outlined in the Queen’s Speech, the government intends to amend the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill to include for the first time a statutory duty on councils to provide support.  Read more

Thousands more people to be given step up onto the housing ladder

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 17 October 2019

Plans for a new national model for shared ownership will help thousands of lower earners step onto the housing ladder.  Read more

Sector risk profile shows increased challenges facing the sector

Regulator of Social Housing | 15 October 2019

The regulator publishes its annual risk profile for the social housing sector.

The most significant risks that boards must manage and mitigate include:

  • health and safety compliance – all providers have an obligation to act to ensure the homes they provide are safe for tenants and they must also fulfil their legal duty of care to their staff
  • stock condition and asset management – investment should be based on a good, evidenced understanding of the overall condition of stock underpinned by up-to-date data
  • market sales exposure – the implications of the market cycle and a slowdown in some geographical areas on providers’ cash flow and development plans should be considered
  • reputational risk – business decisions, performance and probity across all areas of operation and board and executive members’ conduct should have regard to the expectations of all stakeholders
  • rents – strategies and business plans need to cope with changes in housing policy and related areas including welfare reform.

Read more

Consultation to enhance legal support for those facing eviction or repossession

Ministry of Justice | 4 October 2019

People at risk of losing their home are set to benefit from enhanced legal support following a consultation launched by the government.  New proposals will improve access to legal aid for anyone at risk of losing their home.  The consultation set to run for 12 weeks and follows extensive stakeholder engagement on how to improve current scheme.  Read more

Housing Secretary unveils green housing revolution

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 1 October 2019

A new green standard for new build homes will bring an environmental revolution to home building. Read more

The Future Homes Standard: changes to Part L and Part F of the Building Regulations for new dwellings

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 1 October 2019

A Consultation on the uplift to standards of Part L of the Building Regulations and changes to Part F. This uplift is the first step in achieving the Future Homes Standards. This consultation closes on 10 January 2020. Read more

Landlord and tenant

Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill 2019-20

15 October 2019,

The government introduced the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill 2019-20 into Parliament.  A Bill to amend the electronic communications code set out in Schedule 3A to the Communications Act 2003; and for connected purposes. Read more

Ensuring tenants’ access to gigabit-capable connections: consultation response

Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport | 10 October 2019

The government has confirmed its intention to amend the 2017 Electronic Communications Code to allow operators to apply for interim Code rights in relation to tenanted properties where the landlord has failed to engage in negotiations. The proposals will also enable landlords to challenge any order granted by the relevant tribunal.  Read more

Minimum energy efficiency standards - will a B rating be required by 2030?

TLT Legal Insight | 18 October 2019

The government has announced that by 2030 it may be unlawful to continue to let a non-domestic property with an EPC rating of below B.  This announcement comes as part of the government's package of measures to reduce carbon emissions.  Read more

Planning and environment

Development corporation reform: technical consultation

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 26 October 2019

This consultation seeks views on the effectiveness of the legislation governing development corporations.  The consultation invites ideas on whether and how legislative reforms might ensure that, in future, where it is appropriate for a development corporation to be used, a fit-for-purpose model exists.  This consultation closes on 21 December 2019. Read more

Government to introduce green number plates

Department for Transport | 22 October 2019

Launch of consultation on introducing green number plates for zero emission cars.

  • consultation launched on introducing green number plates to celebrate and encourage uptake of electric vehicles
  • green licence plates mean cleanest cars will be easily identifiable, helping their drivers to benefit from local incentives such as free or cheaper parking
  • announcement will turbo-charge the zero emission revolution and help the government achieve its target of net zero emissions by 2050

Read more

Government introduces ground-breaking Environment Bill

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs | 15 October 2019

Government introduces landmark Bill to Parliament to tackle the biggest environmental priorities of our time. The Bill aims to improve air and water quality, reduce plastic pollution and restore biodiversity. There will also be new legally-binding environmental improvement targets.  Read more

Court of Appeal denies council's claim to community infrastructure levy

TLT Legal Insight | 9 October 2019

The Court of Appeal has unanimously rejected a London council's claim to over £0.5million of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). The issue in R (on the application of Giordano Ltd) v Camden London Borough Council turned on the interpretation of regulation 40(7)(ii) of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010 (as amended) (the CIL Regulations). The CIL Regulations were further amended on 1 September 2019 and regulation 40(7)(ii) is now paragraph 1(6)(ii) of Schedule 1 to the CIL Regulations.  Read more

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at November 2019. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms and conditions.

Insights & events View all