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Social Housing monthly law update - April 2020

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 month, with links to the relevant sources to find out more.

Commercial

How competitors can work together to protect the economy and consumers from the coronavirus crisis

TLT Publication | 01 April 2020

As the country finds itself in the midst of an economic and public health crisis, some have questioned whether competition laws could actually hinder the market’s ability to mitigate the hardships of the crisis by restricting rival firms from pooling information and resources, or formulating a joined-up response.

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COVID-19: impact on commercial contracts

TLT Legal Insight | 20 March 2020

In light of the escalating status of the COVID-19 as a pandemic and the UK moving into the delay phase of disease control, a number of businesses are looking for more guidance around what they should be doing to manage their contracts.

As a follow on from our previous update, more and more businesses are looking for relief from their contractual obligations. This article provides a recap on force majeure as well as considering what alternative options may be available.

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COVID-19: signatories working remotely - how can you maintain business continuity?

TLT Legal Insight | 18 March 2020

As the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, business leaders will be developing and implementing contingency plans to protect their employees, to ensure continued supply to their customers and to mitigate any adverse impact on their business.   A huge range of businesses are potentially at risk.  For those businesses it will be vital to identify and address perceived weak points in their business that might be exposed by the pandemic.

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Government response to the Law Commission report Electronic Execution of Deeds

House of Commons Written Statement | 3 March 2020

In a written statement, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice welcomes the Law Commission's report on Electronic Execution of Documents, noting that he agrees with the conclusion that formal primary legislation is not necessary to reinforce the legal validity of electronic signatures. Backing another recommendation, the Lord Chancellor said the Government will ask the Law Commission to review the law of deeds.

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Coronavirus and commercial contracts: could resulting business disruption trigger force majeure?

TLT Legal Insight | 28 February 2020

The global spread of the new coronavirus (officially called COVID-19) has been declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a “public health emergency of international concern”. With COVID-19 spreading throughout China and elsewhere, Governmental and non-Governmental organisations around the globe have attempted to contain the spread of the disease through the implementation of various measures, such as quarantines, port closures and travel restrictions/ bans.

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Construction

COVID-19 and construction projects: Can collaboration avoid untimely distractions and disputes?

TLT Legal Insight | 2 April 2020

The construction industry is working hard to keep projects rolling and sites open despite the unprecedented challenge presented by COVID-19. With the UK Government’s advice having now intensified around social distancing, self-isolation and many businesses closing in response to COVID-19, construction projects across the UK are likely to be impacted in one way or another with some sites also closing and apparent confusion over others.

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Corporate

COVID -19 - Government response: support through 'temporary, timely and targeted measures'

TLT Legal Insight | 24 March 2020

Many businesses will currently be experiencing significant disruption as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and that many will be looking to take advantage of the support available from the government to enable them to navigate this period of uncertainty.

We have summarised below the package of measures that the government has so far announced to support public services, people and businesses. The government has made it clear that these measures are by no means final and we will update further as and when additional measures are introduced.

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Data, Privacy and Cyber Security

Supreme Court hands down long-awaited judgment in Morrisons data breach claim

TLT Legal Insight | 1 April 2020

In a case that's been running since 2017 and closely followed by employers across all sectors, the Supreme Court has released its landmark judgment.

On 1 April 2020, the Supreme Court released its judgment in the long-running case of WM Morrison Supermarkets plc v Various claimants. The judgment allowed Morrisons’ appeal against a 2018 Court of Appeal judgment, which had held Morrisons vicariously liable for a data breach deliberately committed by a rogue employee. 

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Scale-up insights: episode four - getting to grips with data

TLT Podcasts | 11 March 2020

Data is vital to your business success, but how should you set up the right systems and processes to get the best out of it whilst complying with regulations?

In this episode, Nina Searle and Andrew Jennings are joined by Emma Erskine-Fox, associate in the Data, Privacy and Cybersecurity team, to take a detailed look at everything you need to know about data collection and storage from a pragmatic legal perspective.

Listen here

Employment

Pensions and COVID-19 - Revised guidance and regulatory easements

TLT Legal Insight | 2 April 2020

On 27 March 2020 the Pensions Regulator (TPR) issued new, practical guidance to employers and trustees on the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic. TPR recognises the major impact this is having on businesses and pension schemes globally and has announced a number of time-limited regulatory easements to give greater flexibility in a number of areas.

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The Job Retention Scheme - more detail published

TLT Legal Insight | 27 March 2020

The government has published detailed guidance on how its Job Retention Scheme will work in practice. The guidance is essential reading for all employers whose businesses are affected by coronavirus.

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Coronavirus Act 2020 receives Royal Assent: employment aspects

TLT Legal Insight | 27 March 2020

The Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020.

One of the measures introduced is the statutory right for workers to take emergency volunteering leave to help support essential health and social care services. This comes just 24 hours after the scheme was introduced, during which time reportedly over 400,000 volunteers have signed up.

The Coronavirus Act (‘the Act’) also provides for the modification of the statutory sick pay (SSP) regime, so that SSP is payable from the first day of sickness or self-isolation and can be funded by HM Revenue and Customs. Both these changes require secondary legislation so are not yet in force and will only take effect from the date appointed by the government.

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Employers do not have to report gender pay gaps this year

TLT Legal Insight | 24 March 2020

In light of the current situation regarding the Coronavirus outbreak, employers will not be required to report their data in respect of any gender pay gap for this reporting year (2019/2020).

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Coronavirus job retention scheme: What do we know so far?

TLT Legal Insight | 23 March 2020

Employers were provided with some reassurance last week when the Chancellor announced a new scheme which will provide a grant for salary costs of employees who are retained by employers during the coronavirus crisis.

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Coronavirus: options for HR

TLT Legal Insight | 16 March 2020

Pay and self-isolation

The position in relation to pay depends on the circumstances. If employees are unwell due to the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), then normal sick pay policies and procedures will apply. 

If you require employees to stay away from work as a precaution, it is likely that this should be on full pay, as a form of health and safety suspension.

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Coronavirus and your workforce: key questions for HR teams

TLT Legal Insight | 10 March 2020

The rapid spread of coronavirus is equally rapidly becoming an HR issue. We look at five knotty questions on dealing with the impact of the coronavirus on your workforce.

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Sick pay from day one for those affected by coronavirus

Department for Work and Pensions | 4 March 2020

Statutory Sick Pay will be made available from day one when self-isolating, instead of day four, the Prime Minister announced today.

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How can employers protect both their reputation and whistleblower rights?

TLT Legal Insight | 26 February 2020

A recent case has warned that employers must tread carefully when making statements to the press to ‘put the record straight’ on whistleblowing disclosures.

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Home Secretary announces new UK points-based immigration system

Home Office | 18 February 2020

New points-based immigration system will open up the UK to the brightest and the best from around the world.  The new system, which takes effect from 1 January 2021, will end free movement.  It will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions and visas will only be awarded to those who gain enough points.

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Bereavement leave and other April 2020 employment law changes

TLT Legal Insight | 13 February 2020

New arrangements for leave under the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 will come into force on 6 April 2020, giving those who suffer the loss of a child under the age of eighteen, or suffer a stillbirth after twenty-four weeks of pregnancy, a new entitlement to leave either in one two week block or two one week blocks.

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Consultation outcome: Salaried workers and salary sacrifice schemes: changing the National Minimum Wage rules

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy | 11 February 2020

The response document sets out the government’s plans to remove excessive burdens on businesses employing salaried workers without removing protections or benefits for these workers.

The government is also making it easier for businesses to comply with the National Minimum Wage (NMW) rules by:

  • improving guidance and support
  • resuming the NMW naming scheme with a focus on educating employers and workers. 

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Acas publishes new guidance on non-disclosure agreements

Acas | 10 February 2020

There's been a lot of publicity around the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in cases that involve workplace sexual harassment or discrimination.  These concerns have raised questions around the general use of NDAs at work. In response, workplace experts Acas have published new advice to help employers and workers understand what NDAs are and how to prevent their misuse.

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Energy

Heat networks: building a market framework

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy | 6 February 2020

The Government are seeking views on policy options for the development of a regulatory framework for heat networks to protect consumers, support market growth and develop low carbon networks.

This consultation closes on 1 May 2020

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Health and Safety

Government confirms the biggest changes to building safety in a generation

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 2 April 2020

New measures announced include mandatory sprinkler systems and consistent wayfinding signage in all new high-rise blocks of flats over 11 metres tall.

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Consultation outcome: Building a safer future: proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 2 April 2020

In June 2019, the government published the ‘Building a Safer Future’ consultation detailing proposals to achieve long-term reform of the building safety system. This document sets out the government’s proposals for a reformed building safety system covering the performance of all buildings as well as the management of fire and structural safety risks in new and existing buildings in scope. It takes into account the responses received from the consultation.

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Fire Safety Bill

UK Parliament | 19 March 2020

This government bill would make provision about the application of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 where a building contains two or more sets of domestic premises; and would confer power to amend that order in future for the purposes of changing the premises to which it applies. The bill received its first reading in the House of Commons on 19 March 2020 and is due to receive its second reading on a date to be appointed.

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Housing

Guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19): landlord right to rent checks

Home office | Immigration Enforcement | 30 March 2020

Advice for landlords carrying out right to rent checks during the coronavirus pandemic.

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COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities

Ministry of Housing | Communities & Local Government | 28 March 2020

Non-statutory guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities in the private and social rented sectors in the context of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Stay on possession proceedings practice direction

Courts and Tribunals Judiciary | 27 March 2020

The Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chancellor signed Practice Direction 51Z (PD) in relation to possession proceedings during the coronavirus pandemic. It follows the Coronavirus Act 2020 emergency legislation and complements the provisions therein to prevent imminent evictions and delay possession proceedings. The PD is effective immediately, i.e. from 27 March 2020. The main changes effected by the PD are:

  • All proceedings for possession brought under CPR Part 55 and all proceedings seeking to enforce an order for possession by a warrant or writ of possession are stayed for a period of 90 days from 27 March 2020.
  • Claims for injunctive relief are not subject to the stay set out in paragraph 2 of the PD.
  • The PD ceases to have effect on 30 October 2020.

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Regulator responds to coronavirus impacts with changes to regulatory approach

Regulator of Social Housing | 26 March 2020

Reports that the Regulator of Social Housing has written to all registered providers of social housing setting out the changes it is making to its regulatory approach in response to Coronavirus and its expectations about providers contacting the regulator about significant compliance challenges, including in addressing emergency and urgent repairs and their statutory compliance with health and safety requirements.

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Government support available for landlords and renters reflecting the current coronavirus outbreak: guidance

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 26 March 2020

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government guidance outlines measures to ensure that renters affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) in either social or private accommodation will not be forced out of their home. From 26 March 2020 landlords will have to give all renters three months' notice if they intend to seek possession. From 27 March 2020 all ongoing housing possession action will be suspended for an initial period of 90 days.

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Coronavirus Act 2020: evictions

UK Legislation | 25 March 2020

On 25 March 2020 the Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent. Section 81 of, and Schedule 29 to, the Act amend subsisting legislation to ensure that tenants in the private and social rented sectors are protected from eviction for a reasonable and specified period of time (in effect, for a period of 90 days from 27 March 2020), in recognition of the unusual circumstances arising from the Covid-19 outbreak. For the above purposes, the Act was brought into force with immediate effect.

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Extra protection for businesses with ban on evictions for commercial tenants who miss rent payments

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 23 March 2020

  • Commercial tenants unable to pay rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction
  • Measures support ongoing conversations between landlords and tenants about voluntary arrangements
  • Latest measure builds on the unprecedented package of support for businesses already announced

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Complete ban on evictions and additional protection for renters

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 18 March 2020

Government announces radical package of measures to protect renters and landlords affected by coronavirus.

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Payment Holidays offered to Help to Buy homeowners affected by Covid-19

Homes England | 18 March 2020

Homeowners who are struggling to pay interest fees on their Help to Buy equity loans will be offered payment holidays, the Government has announced.

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RSH statement on coronavirus

Regulator of Social Housing | 11 March 2020

The regulator expects registered providers of social housing to follow the official advice issued by the Government.

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Regulator highlights areas increasing the risk of non-compliance before new Rent Standard is in force

Regulator of Social Housing | 5 March 2020

RSH has published an addendum to its 2019 Sector risk profile and updated its Regulating the standards document to reflect the changes.

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Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act: key elements coming into force on 20 March 2020

TLT Legal Insight | 13 January 2020

A reminder that key elements of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 come into force on 20 March 2020.  Please see the Legal Insight we published on this in January 2020.

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Business Plan 2020-21 and revised Scheme published

Housing Ombudsman | 3 March 2020

The Housing Ombudsman has published its Business Plan for 2020-20 together with a revised Scheme. New provisions under the revised Scheme, which will take effect from 1 July, include:

  • A new power that allows the Ombudsman to issue complaint handling failure orders when a complaint gets stuck in the landlord’s process or where landlords do not provide evidence requested by the Ombudsman in a timely manner.
  • A ‘severe maladministration’ finding to clarify the range of determinations from service failure to maladministration to severe maladministration, together with a requirement for the landlord to demonstrate learning after the Ombudsman’s decision.
  • A more proactive approach in identifying possible systemic failure and to undertake further investigation either into an individual landlord or sector-wide issues. Any systemic failing found would be referred to the Regulator of Social Housing, as part of a broadening range of closer working processes between the two organisations.
  • Developing a new complaint handling code to achieve greater consistency across landlords’ complaint procedures.

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CMA finds evidence of serious issues in leasehold selling

Competition and Markets Authority | 28 February 2020

The CMA has found troubling evidence of potential mis-selling and unfair contract terms in the leasehold housing sector, and is set to launch enforcement action.

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Fees for social housing regulation

Regulator of Social Housing | 28 February 2020

England’s Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has confirmed its plans to increase fees for housing associations by 15% in 2020/21.

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Inclusion Housing Community Interest Company Ltd v Regulator of Social Housing [2020] EWHC 346 (Admin)

BAILII | 24 February 2020

Inclusion Housing applied for judicial review of the Regulator of Social Housing’s regulatory judgement that Inclusion was non-compliant with the governance and financial viability standards. The High Court dismissed Inclusion’s claim, holding that the irrationality, proportionality and reasons challenges were not made out.

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Direction on the rent standard from 1 April 2020

Regulator of Social Housing | 26 February 2019

The direction requires the regulator of social housing to set a new rent standard for registered providers of social housing with effect from 1 April 2020.

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Housing Secretary clamps down on shoddy housebuilders

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 24 February 2020

Homebuyers who are faced with shoddy building work in their new homes will be protected by a new, independent Ombudsman.

  • A New Homes Ombudsman will protect homebuyers from rogue developers
  • Under new rules, rogue builders will have to pay compensation for shoddy work
  • The Ombudsman will be independent and enforced in law as soon as possible
  • Housebuilders must join the Ombudsman so all homebuyers see swift action to resolve issues
  • Builders must also put quality first to sell homes under the government’s new Help to Buy scheme

This Ombudsman announcement comes after a 3-month long consultation held last year: Redress for purchasers of new build homes and the New Homes Ombudsman.

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Fees for social housing regulation

Regulator of Social Housing | 20 February 2020

The principles of the regulator's fee-charging scheme for registered providers and practical guidance about its operation.

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Rents guidance: Statutory guidance

Regulator of Social Housing | 13 February 2020

This page includes guidance on how to apply for an exemption to the Rent Standard and the annual rent increase limits.

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Shared ownership (England): the fourth tenure?

House of Commons Library | 24 February 2020

A House of Commons Library briefing paper explains how shared ownership housing operates in England and outlines Government policies to extend shared ownership, including proposals for a new national model for shared ownership and a new right to shared ownership for housing association tenants. It also examines the key barriers to extending shared ownership.

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Sublet Property (Offences) Bill 2019-21

Parliament | 10 February 2020

A Private Members Bill to make the breach of certain rules relating to sub-letting rented accommodation a criminal offence; to make provision for criminal sanctions in respect of unauthorised sub-letting; and for connected purposes.

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New guidance for landlords

Housing Ombudsman Service | 10 February 2020

The Housing Ombudsman published new guidance notes aimed at assisting landlords with policies and in responding to complaints.  These guides cover the key elements they would expect to see in landlords’ policies and will help landlords to develop their policies to reflect what they consider to be best practice. They include:

  • Complaints policy
  • Compensation policy
  • Anti-social behaviour policy
  • Managing unacceptable behaviour policy

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Government to cut the cost of new homes by a third

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 7 February 2020

Housing Secretary announces plans to cut costs of a proportion of new homes by a third for first-time buyers.  The First Homes scheme will give people the opportunity to buy a home in their local area – saving eligible first-time buyers on average around £100,000.  The discount will be prioritised for veterans and key workers such as nurses, police officers and firefighters

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Regulator of Social Housing: consultation on equality objectives

Regulator of Social Housing | 30 January 2020

The Regulator of Social Housing launched a consultation on its equality objectives. Private and local authority registered providers, tenants, lenders and other interested stakeholders are invited to give feedback on whether they think the proposed objectives meet the RSH’s obligations under the Equality Act, and if appropriate activity has been identified to help achieve the overall objective.

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Insolvency

UK company directors' duties under threat of insolvency during the Covid-19 outbreak

TLT Publications | 30 March 2020

The profound business and market interruption already caused by the Covid-19 outbreak has introduced insolvency risks for many otherwise healthy businesses.

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Landlord and tenant

Coronavirus: is your landlord still providing services?

TLT Legal Insight | 26 March 2020

The Covid-19 global pandemic is changing usual working practices. How does the government’s requirement that people only leave their homes to work if it cannot be done from home affect the usual operation of buildings?

In this legal insight, we look at this, and other practical issues for building occupiers and owners.

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Commercial landlords banned from exercising forfeiture rights for non-payment of rent

TLT Legal Insight | 25 March 2020

Commercial landlords’ forfeiture rights for non-payment of rent will be suspended until at least 30 June under measures contained in the Coronavirus Bill, currently being rushed through Parliament.

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COVID-19: The impact on existing and future leases

TLT Legal Insight | 17 March 2020

Property owners need to consider the effect of the global pandemic on their portfolios.

The action required will vary depending on whether you are looking at an existing lease, or are in the process of negotiating a lease.

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Planning and environment

Robert Jenrick plans for the future to get Britain building

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 12 March 2020

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP sets out proposals to bring Britain’s planning system into the 21st century.

  • Developers encouraged to build upwards and above stations
  • New map of brownfield sites to make the most of unused land
  • Proposals being considered to turn disused buildings into homes more quickly

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Community Infrastructure Levy: How to ensure that you can split payments

TLT Legal Insight | 10 March 2020

The recent case of The Queen on the application of Oval Estates (St Peter’s) Ltd and Bath & North East Somerset Council [2020] EWHC 457 (Admin) saw the High Court reject Oval Estates’ bid to avoid paying an entire CIL bill for a phased housing scheme in one go.

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The race is on to power up EV infrastructure

TLT Legal Insight | 19 February 2020

Accelerating the ban on carbon-emitting cars demonstrates the UK’s commitment to tackling climate change – now the hard work creating a national charging network begins.

The drive towards an electric vehicle (EV) future has just stepped up a gear, with the Government’s recent announcement that it will bring its slated ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars forward from 2040 to 2035, with hybrid vehicles now included as well. It’s an ambitious target which sends a clear signal to the world that the UK is taking its commitment to national carbon neutrality seriously and that it is prepared to take bold and decisive steps as it leads the way in the transition towards “clean” transportation.

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Consulting on ending the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans

Office for Low Emission Vehicles | 20 February 2020

The Department for Transport (DfT) and Office for Low Emission Vehicles published a short consultation on ending the sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035 or earlier, if an earlier transition is feasible. The consultation closes on 29 May 2020.

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Real estate

100% business rates relief in 2020-21 for 45% of properties | Budget 2020

TLT Legal Insight | 12 March 2020

Business rates relief was high on the agenda in this year’s budget. Whilst retailers, leisure operators and the hospitality industry will welcome the changes, what will happen after the year is up?

Read our legal insight to find out more about the changes, and what the government is proposing in the longer-term.

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Fearn and others v The Board of Trustees of the Tate Gallery [2020] EWCA Civ 104

Court of Appeal | 12 February 2020

Viewing platform not a nuisance or Article 8 ECHR breach of privacy

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Regulatory

Coronavirus: home working and your obligations to employees

TLT Legal Insight | 25 March 2020

It is not news to anyone, that right now we are in the middle of an unprecedented period of disruption, and many of us are following government guidelines and working at home. Home working is a concept that we are all familiar with in theory, but potentially not in practice, and not for the timeframe that we could be facing.

In light of the rapid changes, what should businesses and their employees alike be aware of, when working from home?

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Tax

Tax changes from COVID-19 measures

TLT Legal Insight | 25 March 2020

The steps taken in reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the closure of pubs and restaurants, will have major implications for many businesses. As a result, the government has announced an unprecedented series of measures on Friday designed to support businesses who will suffer.

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Revised IR35 rules delayed until April 2021

TLT Legal Insight | 23 March 2020

Stephen Barclay, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced during the Budget resolution debates on Tuesday 17 March that the commencement of the revised IR35 rules will be delayed until April 2021. The move has been widely welcomed and allows businesses to focus on dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

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Review of changes to the off-payroll working rules: report and conclusions

HM Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs | 27 February 2020

The Government’s review of the changes to the off-payroll working rules has now concluded and the Government has published its response.  In January 2020, the Government announced a review of the implementation of the April 2020 reform, to address concerns from affected businesses and individuals. The reform will go ahead on 6 April 2020.This report outlines a number of changes the Government has identified to address concerns and support the smooth and successful implementation of the reform. The Government will continue to listen to stakeholders, and monitor and evaluate the operation of the rules.

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Company cars – time to go electric?

TLT Legal Insight | 20 February 2020

Boris Johnson’s announcement to accelerate the ban on selling new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars has put a spotlight on electric cars. In this article, we look at how the government is using the tax regime to encourage employers to embrace electric.

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This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at April 2020. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms and conditions.

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