From 6 April 2017 Registered Providers will not need to get consent to dispose of social housing.
In its place a new notification scheme is being introduced, which is part of a series of amendments to existing rules designed to reduce the regulatory burden surrounding social housing.
Included in the changes is the removal of sections 172 to 175 of the Housing Regeneration Act 2008. These are the sections which, up until now, have set out how Registered Providers can get the consent of the HCA to dispose of social housing dwellings, subject to some exceptions.
After 6 April, consent won't be required. Instead, Registered Providers will need to notify the regulator. The form that notification will take is unclear but, the HCA is expected to supply more details on that this month. It may be that notification is similar to the forms that to date, have been used to notify the HCA of a disposal under the HCA's general consent.
From a practical point of view, the application of section 172 has not always been straightforward. Registered Providers have had to consider whether consent is required as well as a number of exemptions. Then, if consent is required, whether the anticipated disposal is one that requires a bespoke consent or can be self-certified as a disposal falling within one of the categories in the General Consent issued by the HCA.
Even in assessing whether a transaction falls within the general consent, there are further conditions that need to be met - including the need to obtain valuations.
Many will therefore welcome the removal of such a complex consent regime. Although it remains to be seen whether the process of notification will be more straightforward. Also what, if any, conditions need to be met for a Registered Provider to be satisfied that it can make a disposal.
The other point to note is that the notification process will apply to the disposal of all land by a Registered Provider. This means that there will be instances where under the current regime no action was needed but, under the new arrangements, notification will be required. As ever, the devil will be in the detail of the notification procedure. More news on that to follow.
A final word of warning. Once the deregulatory measure comes into force, charitable Registered Providers that are not 'exempt charities' (i.e. co-operative and community benefit societies -formerly industrial and provident societies), will need to consider whether any steps need to be taken to comply with the restrictions on the disposal of land set out in section 117 of the Charities Act 2011. Up until now, by obtaining consent under section 172 or confirming that the disposal complies with the HCA General Consent, it has not been necessary to do this.This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at March 2017. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions