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The Homelessness Reduction Bill – Continued

The Homelessness Reduction Bill has passed its second reading in the House of Commons after winning support from MPs across the benches. This means that it is now one step closer to becoming law. Our previous blog on the Bill can be read here.

The bill, introduced by Conservative backbencher Bob Blackman, will toughen up the legal duties on councils to prevent homelessness. The bill will require councils to help all those who are homeless and not just those who are considered a priority need such as those with dependent children or who are particularly vulnerable. In particular, it is intended to stop council’s telling tenants to remain in properties until such time as a bailiff’s appointment has been made.

The bill also includes an extension of the period in which councils must intervene to stop a household becoming homeless. Currently, councils must act if a household is at risk of becoming homeless within 28 days. But the 28 days will be increased to 56 days, forcing councils to recognise earlier those who are at serious risk of losing their home.

A duty to provide temporary accommodation for 56 days to all people with a local connection but who are not in priority need was substantially watered down after councils said it would place too much pressure on them and would be too expensive.

The bill has been further redrafted due to a strong push by councils to allow them to tell tenants to remain in property up until the point where a possession order has been made. There is ongoing discussion about this issue and it is likely that the bill will end up moving back to its original aim, requiring local authorities to house tenants much earlier.

The government has announced that it will provide additional funding to cover the costs councils will face in taking on the new responsibilities to prevent homelessness. The Department for Communities and Local Government has also suggested that funding would be made available but at this stage the DCLG is unlikely to commit to firm figure.

The bill will now go to the committee stage in parliament where it will be further scrutinised by MPs. At this stage, it is likely that the bill will undergo further amendments and changes.

Comment
In general, this bill is likely to be positive for landlords and tenants in that it will sharply reduce the number of tenants who are told to remain by the local authority when the landlord has sought possession. It is hoped that this bill will therefore reduce the number of stressful possession claims and speed up the process of finding suitable housing for tenants.

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