Obtaining a property to create a home is a major transitional stage in life

Obtaining a property to create a home is a major transitional stage in life. Rising prices are the main barrier for people trying to get on the property ladder, with no alternative than to remain living with parents, join up with friends or even share with strangers (Redfern review, 2016 p56). The average home costs eight times the average remuneration and thirty percent of local authorities report that figure to be more like ten times (DCLG, 2015 table 577), renting is the only option available to many groups of people. 2.2 million working households with below average incomes spend a third or more of their disposable income on housing, making it impossible to save for a deposit confining them in long term rental accommodation (family resources survey cited in DCLG, 2017). However, tenants need greater stability (Priced Out, 2018) and should be protected against exploitation and abuse because of raising rental shortages (DCLG, 2017 para 4.4).
Private rental tenants have limited security of tenure with assured shorthold tenancies, landlords can evict occupants through no fault of the tenant. Section 21 evictions (Housing Act 1988, s21) are lawful notices to quit; purely by following regulations set down by parliament any landlord will be mandatory granted a court order to regain possession of their property. Defences against the issuing of a section 21 notice for statutory noncompliance by the landlord include any of the following; no deposit protection within 30 days of payment and presented in the correct format (Housing Act 2004, p.6 ch. 4 & S.I. 2007/797); failure to serve prescribed information relating to safety certificates (HA 1988, s. 21a); failure to disclose if requested the landlord’s identity and contact information (Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, s. 1) and insufficient notice given in by the initial notice to quit (HA 1988, s. 21). However, private rental has material benefits there is greater choice regarding; properties: there are no waiting lists; contract: some properties may include furniture, removing the need to constantly move furniture around from property to property; community: greater availability in affluent areas and design: choice of floor plan, room sizes and exterior dimensions to suit the household needs.
Nevertheless, all tenants have statutory protection; a court order must be obtained by all landlords (Protection from Eviction Act 1977, s 3) to gain back possession of a property and not to engage in ‘monstrous behaviour’ (Lord Denning MR in Drane v Evangelo) and a landlord cannot interfere with a tenants exclusive rights to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the accommodation: only having access to the property for repairs/servicing with sufficient prior notice (LTA 1985, s.11). Figures from the English Housing Survey (EHS) suggest social sector rentals make up seventeen percent of England’s tally of households (DCLG 2017), consisting of both Local Authority (LA) Secure Tenancy (HA 1980 amended HA 1985 part 4) homes and Housing Association (HA) Assured Tenancy (HA 1988) rental properties. Social housing stocks have experienced a decline from twenty-nine percent, consolidated in the first housing survey of 1967, whereas private rental sector has remained stable at twenty percent. The introduction of the right to buy for LA (HA 1980 & consolidated HA 1985, part V) secure tenants has decreased the housing stock with minimal replenishment since, which has also been extended on a pilot scheme for some HA tenants. Severe shortages of adequate and affordable housing extended allocation waiting registers (HA 1996) phenomenally until LAs could amend their allocation policies (Localism Act 2011, s.160Z & HA1996 s.166A) and physically remove any ineligible person forcing them into the private rented sector. According to the EHS 2015-16 overcrowding across all tenures, possibly due to combined housing shortage and adequate affordable housing, has remained stable in social sector at six percent, has grown over the years in the private sector to five percent and has remained relatively low among owner occupiers at one percent. Contrasting the percentages of households who under occupy their home to; owner occupiers: fifty percent; private assured shorthold tenancies: fourteen percent and social (secure and assured tenancies) sector: ten percent. Much more people under occupy their home than that who are overcrowding, suggesting there is adequate facilitation of the housing stock if everyone were allocated housing as per their needs.
Social tenants have a range of statutory benefits not rewarded to private tenants. Mutual exchange; the ability to exchange properties with another tenant of either LA or some HA (conditional to tenancy agreement), subject to household need, social mobility or economic requirements (LA per HA 1985, s.92). Succession; following the death of the main tenant or a joint tenant, then certain members of the household are eligible to take over the tenancy: HA 1985 s.91 for secure tenancies and HA 1988 s.17 regarding assured tenancies sets out the eligibility criteria for succession and assignments to another when no death has occurred. Whilst social tenants have greater rights, these rights come into force once the probationary period of the tenancy moves to a secure or assured tenancy, respective to the landlord.
As previously stated all landlords must obtain a court order to evict occupants from their property, social landlords must adhere to the pre-action protocol and demonstrate which grounds they wish to regain possession of their property. Unlike assured shorthold tenancies, secure and assured tenancies possession orders will not be granted when there is no fault of the tenant. Grounds for possession are set out in schedule 2 of HA 1985 regarding secure tenants and schedule 2 of HA 1988 regarding assured tenants; tenants still under the twelve-month probationary period are dealt with under HA 1996, part V.
1.3 million households remain on the social housing allocation registers (Redfern review, 2016) waiting endlessly for a secure and affordable home, 71,500 households at 31st March 2016 were sheltered in temporary accommodation (NAO, 2016) and the loss of an assured shorthold tenancy within the private sector is the greatest cause of homelessness to date (DCLG, table 774). Having no home does not necessarily make a person eligible for housing within the social sector, as previously mentioned regarding the criteria for the allocation registers, similar criteria are prevalent when making a homeless application. The threshold test (HA 1996, Part VII) attempts to define the neediest in society due to the limited availability of accommodation, it is divided into five sections; Eligibility; Homeless; Priority need; Intentionality and Local connections.
Eligibility (HA 1996, s.185); This is the first test and if the test is not met then further tests will not be processed and the application will have failed. The rules involved in defining eligibility for homelessness assistance are almost identical to the allocations register policy for local authorities (Astin, 2015) relating to immigration status and the right to reside in the United Kingdom.
Homeless (HA 1996, s.175); This test questions the actual status of the person making the application. Homeless has a broad definition not necessarily meaning having nowhere to sleep/live and for this test the umbrella term can be sub divided into three distinct categories. First No accommodation; as the term suggests a person with no accommodation and living on the streets. Secondly; Accommodation but not reasonable to occupy, a person may have a tenancy agreement but for reasons such as safety and violence it is not permissible for that person to be residing at the property. Finally; Accommodation but excluded from occupation, people falling under this category could have been illegal evicted or have a mobile home but nowhere acceptable to set down. Also considered under this category are the people who have been served a section 21 notice to quit from their private landlords. Prior to 3rd April 2018, these types of evictions pre-empting homelessness would be considered when there was twenty-eight days remaining on the termination date however, this has now been extended to fifty-six days (Homelessness Reduction Act, 2017).
Priority (HA 1996, s.189); Priority need is established by personal circumstances, medical grounds and age of the household concerned; it includes pregnant women, children, health conditions and strictly defined vulnerability.
Intentionality (HA 1996, s.191); This part of the test begins to look into the circumstances which led to the homelessness, did the person claiming homeless assistance play a contributory part in becoming homeless and is there anything to which the homeless person could have done differently to have avoided the outcome.
Local Connection (HA 1996, s.198); Local authorities have a duty to accept people who have a local connection to their designated area, akin to the allocations register. If a person has passed all four of the previous tests and falls at this stage, the LA can defer the application to the authority where the applicant would of obtained locality. Each LA defines their own criteria for this subdivision (LA 2011) with no defined consistency nationally.

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