Standard letter by 2m18Zj

VIEWS: 1 PAGES: 31

									              The Housing Bill (Northern Ireland)

[now titled The Housing (Amendment) (No.2) Bill (Northern Ireland)]




                      Consultation Report




                        Housing Division

                            June 2010
                                                Table of Contents




Executive Summary .........................................................................................................2
Chapter 1 - Private rented housing ..................................................................................3
Chapter 2 - Homelessness ..............................................................................................7
Chapter 3 – Fuel poverty ................................................................................................10
Chapter 4 – Community safety / Anti-social behaviour ...................................................13
Chapter 5 – Housing Executive functions.......................................................................17
Chapter 6 – Housing Associations .................................................................................18
Chapter 7 – Equality .......................................................................................................19
Annexe A – Summary of proposals on which the Department consulted .......................23
Annexe B – Revised proposals for inclusion in Housing Bill following consultation ........28
Annexe C – List of organisations who responded to consultation ..................................30




                                                              1
Executive Summary
On 7 December 2009, the Department for Social Development launched, for public
consultation, its proposals for a Housing Bill. The consultation period lasted until 26
February 2010. During this time, the Department organised a public consultation event,
held in Belfast on 28 January 2010, and met with a number of stakeholders, including at
a membership consultation event jointly held by Housing Rights Service and Council for
the Homeless on 8 February 2010.


Over forty written responses were received to the consultation from a range of
organisations. A list of all those who responded is attached at Annexe C.


Most of the proposals were well-received by stakeholders, with almost universal support
for the proposals on fuel poverty and considerable support for a number of the
measures relating to the private rented sector. Some suggested the proposal to make
greater use of the private rented sector to house homeless households should be put on
hold until more work was done to improve regulation of the private rented sector. While
there was widespread support for those community safety proposals which underpin
existing housing management practice, there was a mixed response to the proposals
which had the potential to weaken security of tenure or strengthen existing sanctions.


A more detailed analysis of points made during consultation and the Department’s
responses are included in the chapters that follow.


In light of the consultation undertaken as well as the extent of the Assembly’s legislative
programme during the remainder of the mandate, the proposals for a Housing Bill have
been trimmed considerably. Annexe A summarises the proposals on which the
Department consulted and Annexe B the proposals on which the Department is
preparing a Bill. The working title of the Bill is now the Housing (Amendment) (No.2) Bill
(Northern Ireland). It is hoped to introduce the Bill in the Assembly in June 2010.




                                             2
Chapter 1 - Private rented housing

Proposals included in the consultation document
   Proposals in “Building Sound Foundations: a Strategy for the Private Rented Sector”
    that require primary legislation.
   Require owners or operators of HMOs to clarify the family relationships between
    tenants of particular properties
   Require private sector landlords to notify the appropriate authority of any of their
    properties that appear to fall within the definition of an HMO.
   Increase maximum fine for non-compliance with the HMO registration process to
    £20,000.




Summary of consultation responses received
Most of the proposals in chapter 1 received a broad welcome.


In terms of the proposals from “Building Sound Foundations”, some stakeholders
expressed concern that more specific detail had not been provided and noted that they
were unable to express a settled view without such detail.


The proposals for improving regulation of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) were
generally welcomed, although a number of stakeholders noted the difficulty of obtaining
definitive evidence to prove family relationships.


District councils, in particular, highlighted the challenges of effective regulation of HMOs
and made a number of further suggestions for improving regulation. Reference was
made to changes in the definition of family, for the purposes of HMO regulation, made in
the Housing (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2010 and the recent consultation on
the Regeneration and Housing Bill which envisages transferring responsibility for HMO
regulation from the Housing Executive to district councils.



                                              3
Detailed points made and DSD response

Point raised                        DSD response
Need to further revise the          The Department is keen to ensure that the definition
definition of a house in multiple   of an HMO remains fit for purpose and will consider
occupation                          using a future legislative opportunity to revise the
                                    definition.
Need to re-focus the system of      The existing system attempts to take risk to
regulation for the whole private    occupants into account while simultaneously
rented sector based on risk.        ensuring there is not overregulation which might be
                                    to the detriment of a vibrant, healthy private rented
                                    sector.
                                    However, the Department acknowledges that there
                                    may be value in re-examining the system of
                                    regulation, particularly in terms of HMOs. The
                                    potential transfer of the HMO regulatory function to
                                    district councils might offer a good opportunity to
                                    undertake this work.
System of proving family            The intention is that this will be a relatively
relationship could prove            straightforward process designed to minimise the
bureaucratic and self-defeating     scope for improper avoidance of HMO regulation.
                                    Where the Housing Executive has good reason to
                                    believe that there is no family relationship, it will be
                                    for the owner/manager or person with control of the
                                    HMO to show otherwise. Failure to do so will mean
                                    the family relationship as claimed will not be
                                    accepted and the house regulated as an HMO.
The Housing Bill should promote     While the Department is sympathetic to the views
and develop incentives for large-   expressed, this is not a matter for housing legislation
scale purpose-built student         nor more generally one in which the Department has
accommodation.                      statutory authority for intervention.




                                              4
Rent books and tenancy terms        Tenancies in HMOs are already subject to the
should be provided to all HMO       tenancy provisions of the Private Tenancies
occupants.                          (Northern Ireland) Order 2006. These require rent
                                    books and terms of tenancy agreements to be
                                    provided to all private rented sector tenants,
                                    including those in HMOs.
Department should disseminate       The Housing Executive holds periodic information
information on the nature of HMO and awareness events which are targeted at HMO
regulation to ensure that           landlords, students and migrant workers. These
landlords are aware of their        events are used to explain the additional dangers
obligations and tenants of their    that come from living in an HMO as well as the
rights.                             rights and responsibilities of all parties in managing
                                    those dangers. The Department will give
                                    consideration to making ‘education and awareness’
                                    a statutory duty.
Minimum fines should be             The Department will consider seeking such
specified and revenue raised        provisions if the proposal on increasing HMO fines is
from fines should remain in         pursued in future legislation.
Northern Ireland and be available
for further improving HMO
regulation.
A minimum level of energy           “Building Sound Foundations: a Strategy for the
efficiency should be included for   Private Rented Sector”, published in March 2010
private rented properties.          commits the Department to taking appropriate action
                                    to raise the fitness standard for the private rented
                                    sector using the current Decent Homes standard as
                                    the starting point. Preliminary work on this issue will
                                    begin later in the year.




                                            5
Measures now being included in the Housing Bill
(i)     Place responsibility for providing evidence of family relations on owners/operators
        of privately rented accommodation where it is claimed that the occupants of the
        accommodation are members of two or fewer families and the accommodation is
        therefore exempt from the regulatory regime prescribed for Houses in Multiple
        Occupation (HMO). Failure to provide adequate evidence will result in a house
        having to comply with HMO regulation.


(ii)    Provide a power for the Department to create a mandatory registration scheme for
        private rented sector landlords in subordinate legislation.


(iii)   Provide a power for the Department to create a tenancy deposit scheme, to
        safeguard rent deposits and establish a mechanism for handling related disputes,
        in subordinate legislation.


(iv) Amend the Private Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 to make existing
        measures for regulating the private rented sector more effective.



Conclusion
Due to limitations on time, the other measures proposed in chapter 1 of the consultation
paper will not be included in the current Housing Bill. The Department will consider their
inclusion in future legislation.




                                               6
Chapter 2 - Homelessness

Proposals included in the consultation document
   Provide safeguards for homeless people in circumstances where the Housing
    Executive decides to discharge its homelessness duty by securing accommodation
    in the private rented sector.
   Provide for the Housing Executive’s duty under homelessness legislation to come to
    an end in cases where a person ceases to be eligible for such assistance.



Summary of consultation responses received
Making greater use of the private rented sector to house homelessness households, as
is the case in Great Britain, was well-received by many consultees. Some thought it
would be more equitable if the private rented sector were also used to house other
applicants on the social housing waiting list. A number of stakeholders pointed to the
importance of the safeguards, including the length of the tenancy and the arrangement
being voluntary, and the need to consider the suitability of the accommodation offered,
including the type and standard of the property and the affordability of rents. The need
for appropriate access to support services for vulnerable applicants housed in the
private rented sector was highlighted by a small number of stakeholders.


A few stakeholders opposed greater use of the private rented sector as a ‘permanent’
housing solution for homeless households, contending that the social rented sector
offered greater advantages, such as the right to buy, and a fuller range of statutory
protections. Others, while supporting greater use of the private rented sector,
expressed a view that it should follow on from the improved regulation of the sector
envisaged in “Building Sound Foundations: a Strategy for the Private Rented Sector”.


Most stakeholders acknowledged the technical nature of the proposal to provide for the
Housing Executive’s duty to come to an end under homelessness legislation where an
applicant is no longer eligible for such assistance and on this basis, supported the
proposal.

                                            7
Some stakeholders questioned UK immigration policy which determines the entitlements
to social assistance for non-UK nationals. The Department acknowledges the points
made but it is important to note that immigration is an excepted matter which is outside
the statutory competence of the Northern Ireland Executive and Northern Ireland
Assembly.




Detailed points made and DSD response

Point raised                      DSD response
Improved regulation of the        The Department acknowledges this position. The
private rented sector should      Housing Bill will provide powers for the Department to
precede greater use being         create a mandatory landlord registration scheme and a
made of the sector to house       tenancy deposit scheme. These measures, along with
homeless households.              others being developed, will contribute significantly to
                                  improving confidence in the private rented sector.
The private rented sector         Currently, the private rented sector is used primarily as
should also be considered for     temporary accommodation for homeless households.
those on the social housing       In 2009, the Housing Executive also launched a pilot
waiting list.                     Partner Landlord Scheme in Newry which seeks to
                                  offer applicants on the social housing waiting list the
Evaluation should be              opportunity, on a voluntary basis, to have their housing
undertaken of existing use of     needs met in the private rented sector. Subject to
the private rented sector to      satisfactory evaluation, this scheme may be extended
house homeless households.        to other parts of Northern Ireland.
Consideration should be given     The Department acknowledges the need to consider
to the nature of the safeguards   both safeguards and suitability. These factors will play
and the suitability of            an important role in any future work on this issue.
accommodation.                    It should be noted that the proposal to provide
                                  safeguards for homeless people in circumstances
                                  where the Housing Executive decides to discharge its

                                             8
                                  homelessness duty by securing accommodation in the
                                  private rented sector is no longer part of the Housing
                                  Bill.
Will the impact on migrants of    No. This is a technical measure which the Housing
the proposal to bring the         Executive estimates will impact on less than ten
Housing Executive’s               applicants per year. This number will decline further
homelessness duty to an end       after April 2011 when the UK’s transitional
where a person ceases to be       arrangements relating to A8 nationals (from countries
eligible for such assistance be   which joined the European Union in 2004) ends.
significant?                      The Housing Executive has no legal means of
                                  allocating accommodation to a person ineligible for
                                  such accommodation by virtue of immigration-related
                                  legislation. In practice, this proposal will do nothing to
                                  alter this position. Instead, it aims to recognise this
                                  position by bringing the Housing Executive’s
                                  homelessness duty to an end in these limited
                                  circumstances.



Measures now being included in the Housing Bill
(i)   Bring the Housing Executive’s duty under homelessness legislation to an end
      where a person ceases to be eligible for assistance.




Conclusion
The Department will consider including the provision of statutory safeguards for
homeless people, in circumstances where the Housing Executive decides to discharge
its homelessness duty by securing accommodation in the private rented sector, in future
legislation.




                                             9
Chapter 3 – Fuel poverty



Proposals included in the consultation document
   Give the Housing Executive and registered housing associations powers to broker
    energy at a discounted price for their tenants



Summary of consultation responses received
This proposal received almost universal support.


Three stakeholders identified research evidence which points to the greater impact fuel
poverty has on the well-being of the young and older people and questioned whether
this proposal was equitable as many older people, in particular, live in owner-occupied
accommodation.


In response, the Department would like to draw attention to Government’s Fuel Poverty
Strategy, published in 2004. This strategy contains a number of interventions designed
to tackle fuel poverty across all tenures, with a particular focus on vulnerable people.
The energy brokering proposal will complement, rather than replace, this wide-ranging
strategy. A new fuel poverty strategy will be published for consultation later this year.



Detailed points made and DSD response

Point raised                         DSD response
Could energy brokering be            There is no clear statutory mechanism for achieving
extended to include other            this in housing legislation. However, it is important
housing tenures?                     to note that energy brokering in the social sector has
                                     the potential to attract new entrants to the domestic
                                     energy market in Northern Ireland which would have
                                     an indirect benefit for all domestic energy


                                            10
                                      consumers.
Will the proposal mean that           No. The proposal is for social housing landlords to
social landlords will be buying       act as brokers, negotiating energy at a discounted
energy and selling it to tenants?     price for their tenants. Landlords will not be buying
                                      and selling energy and tenants who decide to join an
                                      energy brokering scheme remain responsible for
                                      paying the energy company for services provided.
Need for Departmental oversight       The Department agrees with this position and
of energy brokering schemes           intends to retain an oversight role which will be built
developed.                            into the Housing Bill, in relation to the Housing
                                      Executive, and included in statutory regulation, in
                                      relation to registered housing associations.
The Department should aim to          Much has already been achieved in improving the
ensure that social housing is         energy efficiency of social housing. The 2006
energy efficient.                     House Condition Survey showed that social housing
                                      was the most energy efficient housing tenure.
                                      Government continues to invest in improving the
                                      standard of social housing and in improving energy
                                      efficiency in other tenures through a range of
                                      schemes.




Measures now being included in the Housing Bill
(i)    Provide powers for the Housing Executive to broker energy at a discounted price
       for their tenants.
(ii)   Provide powers for district councils to promote domestic energy efficiency in their
       districts.




                                             11
Conclusion


It is now clear that registered housing associations already have the statutory power,
under the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1992, to undertake energy brokering with
Departmental oversight. For this reason, the energy brokering proposal in the Housing
Bill will focus on providing a similar power for the Housing Executive.


The Housing Bill will also contain one proposal not included in the consultation paper.
This relates to providing powers for district councils to promote domestic energy
efficiency in their districts. This measure, which provides statutory authority for
functions which a number of councils are already undertaking, was originally intended
for the Regeneration and Housing Bill and was included in the consultation on that draft
Bill published in March 2010. It received widespread support from stakeholders who
responded to that consultation.




                                             12
Chapter 4 – Community safety / Anti-social behaviour

Proposals included in the consultation document
   Strengthen the existing forms of injunction against anti-social behaviour and breach
    of tenancy agreement.


   Enable the Housing Executive and registered housing associations to extend the
    period of an introductory tenancy by up to 6 months.


   Enable the courts to grant demotion orders in respect of Housing Executive and
    housing association secure tenancies.


   Provide a structured discretion for judges when considering applications for orders
    for possession of secure tenancies in cases involving anti-social behaviour.


   Enable the Housing Executive and registered housing associations to withhold
    consent to an exchange of tenancies where either party has been involved in anti-
    social behaviour.


   Permit the disclosure of information to enable the Housing Executive and registered
    housing associations to withhold consent to an exchange of tenancies or to refuse to
    complete a house sale.


   Enable the Housing Executive to take such action as it considers necessary for the
    prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour.


   Enable the Housing Executive to treat individuals as ineligible to be provided with
    social housing under the homelessness legislation where evidence of their anti-
    social behaviour does not emerge until the Executive has completed its assessment
    of their housing circumstances.




                                            13
Summary of consultation responses received
There was widespread support for those measures which underpin existing housing
management practice, such as improving information sharing between social housing
landlords and allowing them to take account of anti-social behaviour in decisions on
whether to consent to an exchange of tenancies.


On the remainder of the proposals, the Department received a wide and diverse range
of views. Some stakeholders identified the impact of anti-social behaviour and asserted
that, in light of this, the measures proposed were not sufficiently robust and wide-
ranging, while others expressed concern about measures which, in their view,
weakened security of tenure or strengthened existing sanctions. Of particular concern
to these latter stakeholders were the use of demotion orders and the proposal to enable
the Housing Executive to treat individuals as ineligible to be provided with social housing
under the homelessness legislation where evidence of their anti-social behaviour does
not emerge until the Executive has completed its assessment of their housing
circumstances. Some stakeholders expressed a concern that such measures could
have a detrimental impact on young people and, in particular, people with disabilities.


A few stakeholders questioned whether there was evidence to support the need for all
the measures proposed and one suggested that other jurisdictions had adopted a
mixture of sanctions and support to address a range of anti-social behaviour and
suggested that the Department consider moving toward such an approach.



Detailed points made and DSD response

Point raised                         DSD response
Will landlords have discretion to    Landlords can withhold consent to an exchange of
treat each application for an        tenancies on certain grounds. The Housing Bill will
exchange of tenancies on its own     amend existing legislation to include anti-social
merits?                              behaviour as a new ground on which landlords will
                                     be able to withhold consent to an exchange of
                                     tenancies. Landlords will retain scope to consider
                                            14
                                     each case on its merits.
Will this ground (in terms of        Social landlords will be able to take into account
permitting the withholding of        acts of anti-social behaviour by any member of
consent to an exchange of            either household which is party to the prospective
tenancies) cover all members of      exchange of tenancies.
the household or just the tenant?
Information shared needs to be       The Housing Bill will open a data gateway under the
handled responsibly.                 Data Protection Act 1998 which would allow the
                                     sharing of information in certain defined
                                     circumstances. Arrangements for handling and
                                     managing this information will continue to be
                                     governed by the Data Protection Act.
Is there evidence to indicate that   The need for several proposals (such as improving
all the measures are needed and      information-sharing and enabling social landlords to
will the Department consider         withhold consent to an exchange of tenancies where
approaches used in other             either party has been involved in anti-social
jurisdictions?                       behaviour) was identified during the Assembly’s
                                     scrutiny of the Housing (Amendment) Bill. Other
                                     proposals aimed to track developments in England,
                                     such as the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 and the
                                     Housing Act 2004.


                                     The Department has noted the suggestion about
                                     different approaches in other jurisdictions and is
                                     currently undertaking an examination of such
                                     approaches to help inform the longer-term way
                                     forward.




                                            15
Measures now being included in the Housing Bill
(i)    Improve the sharing of information between social housing landlords (by opening
       relevant data gateways under the Data Protection Act 1998) to facilitate good
       housing management practice.


(ii)   Enable the Housing Executive and registered housing associations to withhold
       consent to an exchange of tenancies where certain orders for possession, anti-
       social behaviour orders or injunctions have been made in respect of either party to
       the proposed exchange or a member of their households.




Conclusion
Following consultation with the Social Development Committee of the Northern Ireland
Assembly, the power to share information has been extended beyond exchanges and
house sales, as envisaged in the consultation document, to cover all aspects of housing
allocations, including requests for a transfer of tenancy.


The other measures proposed in the consultation document will be considered for future
housing legislation.




                                             16
Chapter 5 – Housing Executive functions



Proposals included in the consultation document
   Enable the Housing Executive to make arrangements with other bodies for the better
    performance of its functions.
   Enable the Housing Executive to provide indemnities for its members and staff.



Summary of consultation responses received
These proposals were supported by stakeholders.



Measures now being included in the Housing Bill
Due to limitations on time, none of the measures in this chapter will be included in the
current Housing Bill.



Conclusion
The measures proposed will be considered for inclusion in future housing legislation.




                                            17
Chapter 6 – Housing Associations

Proposals included in the consultation document
   Abolish the rent surplus fund.



Summary of consultation responses received
This proposal was supported by stakeholders.



Measures now being included in the Housing Bill
Due to limitations on time, this measure will not be included in the current Housing Bill.
The Department will use its existing powers to simplify the accounting requirements for
registered housing associations in relation to the Rent Surplus Fund.




Conclusion
The abolition of the Rent Surplus Fund will be considered for inclusion in future housing
legislation.




                                            18
Chapter 7 – Equality


NORTHERN IRELAND ACT 1998
Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 requires the Department in carrying out its
functions to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity:
      between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age,
       marital status or sexual orientation;
      between men and women generally;
      between persons with a disability and persons without; and
      between persons with dependants and persons without.


Without prejudice to the obligations set out above, the Department is also required, in
carrying out its functions relating to Northern Ireland, to have regard to the desirability of
promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion
or racial group.


The Department published an equality screening of the proposals contained in the
consultation document to determine if they were likely to have a significant impact on
equality of opportunity. This screening did not identify any adverse differential impact of
the proposals on the equality categories outlined above.



Summary of consultation responses received
Most stakeholders agreed with the Department’s conclusion on the equality screening
and a number identified a range of proposals, such as improved regulation of the private
rented sector, the energy brokering proposal and several of the community safety
proposals, which they felt would do much to positively promote equality of opportunity.
In terms of community safety, for example, some stakeholders contended that a number
of the measures would do much to improve the lives of victims of anti-social behaviour,
particularly older people.




                                               19
Some consultees identified areas where they felt more analysis or greater consideration
of equality issues was needed. These centred primarily on some of the community
safety proposals which potentially weaken security of tenure or make existing sanctions
more effective. Three stakeholders also questioned whether the proposal on energy
brokering was equitable, given that it would seem to have no impact on the young and
older people living in private housing.




Detailed points made and DSD response

Point raised                          DSD response
Greater equality analysis is          The Department acknowledges the point made.
needed on the proposal to             This proposal will no longer be going forward as part
provide safeguards                    of the Housing Bill. The Department will review its
for homeless people in                equality analysis on this issue should the proposal
circumstances where the               be considered for inclusion in a future Bill.
Housing Executive decides to
discharge its homelessness duty
by securing accommodation in
the private rented sector
The community safety proposals        The Department acknowledges the points made.
which potentially weaken security     These proposals will no longer be going forward as
of tenure or limit access to social   part of the Housing Bill. The Department will review
housing could have a detrimental      its equality analysis on these issues should the
impact on young persons and           proposal be considered for inclusion in a future Bill.
disabled people, particularly
those with mental disabilities.
The energy brokering proposal is      This proposal was recommended by the Fuel
not equitable. Research               Poverty Taskforce in 2008. The Taskforce drew its
evidence shows that fuel poverty      membership from a broad range of organisations,
impacts most on young people          including voluntary groups and consumer
and older people. The proposal        organisations. It is designed to complement, rather

                                             20
will do nothing for young people     than replace, Government’s wide-ranging Fuel
and older people living in private   Poverty Strategy, published in 2004. This strategy
housing. In light of this, the       contains a number of interventions designed to
equality issues need to be more      tackle fuel poverty across all tenures, with a
fully explored.                      particular focus on vulnerable people. The strategy,
                                     as a whole, does much to promote equality of
                                     opportunity, particularly for those section 75 groups
                                     most vulnerable to the impact of fuel poverty, such
                                     as the young and older people.


                                     In light of this, the Department cannot endorse the
                                     view expressed.
The proposal to bring the            This proposal does not represent a change in policy
Housing Executive’s duty under       and the measure will not have a significant impact
homelessness legislation to          on any section 75 group.
come to an end where a person
ceases to be eligible for            At present, the Housing Executive cannot legally
assistance will have significant     allocate accommodation to a person who is not
impact on migrant workers.           eligible, under immigration-related legislation, for
                                     social assistance. The proposal represents no
                                     material change for applicants in this position.
                                     Instead, the measure is designed to correct a legal
                                     anomaly whereby, even in the circumstances
                                     described, the Housing Executive retains a duty
                                     under homelessness legislation, a duty which it
                                     cannot legally discharge.
                                     The Housing Executive has estimated that, at
                                     present, no more than ten applicants per year would
                                     be affected by this proposal. This number will
                                     decrease considerably following the UK Government
                                     bringing to an end its transitional scheme covering
                                     A8 nationals (i.e. those from countries which joined
                                     the European Union in 2004).
                                            21
What is the intention of the         The Housing Executive has powers to seek
proposal to extend the scope of      injunctions against anti-social behaviour in relation
injunctions to cover sites           to all property it owns or manages, with the
provided for Travellers?             exception of sites for Travellers. The aim of this
                                     measure would be to ensure that the Housing
                                     Executive would have the same range of tools
                                     required to protect Travellers from anti-social
                                     behaviour as it does for any other kind of tenant.


                                     This proposal will no longer be going forward as part
                                     of the Housing Bill.




Measures now being included in the Housing Bill
In light of a range of factors, including the comments above, the Housing Bill will not
contain the proposal to provide safeguards for homeless people in circumstances where
the Housing Executive decides to discharge its homelessness duty by securing
accommodation in the private rented sector and those community safety proposals
which potentially weaken security of tenure or limit access to social housing.


The Department does not agree that the proposals on energy brokering and to bring the
Housing Executive’s duty under homelessness legislation to come to an end where a
person ceases to be eligible for assistance present a significant risk to the Department’s
obligation to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity.



Conclusion
The Department has conducted a revised equality screening on all the proposals going
forward as part of the Housing Bill. This is available at http://www.dsdni.gov.uk/hsdiv-
housing-policy-documents.htm, or on request from housing.bill@dsdni.gov.uk or tel.
(028)90829267.



                                            22
Annexe A – Summary of proposals on which the Department
consulted



Chapter 1 - Private rented sector
     (i) A range of proposals from ‘Building Sound Foundations: a strategy for
     the Private Rented Sector.


     (ii) Require owners or operators of HMOs to clarify the family relationships
        between tenants of particular properties (this is required because the
        definition of an HMO depends to some extent on the number of different
        families living in the accommodation).


     (iii) Require private sector landlords to notify the appropriate authority of
        any of their properties that appear to fall within the definition of an HMO.
        Responsibility for regulation of HMOs currently rests with the Housing
        Executive. The onus is on the Executive to identify properties that should be
        placed on the register of HMOs, which adds unnecessary cost to regulation
        and diverts resources away from the effective enforcement of safety
        standards.


     (iv) Increase maximum fine for non-compliance with the HMO registration
         process to £20,000. This would bring the penalty into line with England.



Chapter 2 - Homelessness
     (v) Provide safeguards for homeless people in circumstances where the
         Housing Executive decides to discharge its homelessness duty by
         securing accommodation in the private rented sector. While the
        Executive has discretion under existing legislation to place homeless
        applicants in private sector accommodation, it is proposed that this option
        should only be exercised where the accommodation is suitable for the

                                          23
        applicant’s needs and the tenancy will last for at least 12 months.


     (vi) Provide for the Housing Executive’s duty under homelessness
        legislation to come to an end in cases where a person ceases to be
        eligible for such assistance. This is intended to deal with circumstances
        where an applicant loses their eligibility because of a change in their
        circumstances and would ensure that such applicants have access to
        statutory rights to review and appeal.



Chapter 3 – Fuel poverty
     (vii) Enable the Housing Executive and registered housing associations to
        broker energy at a discounted price for their tenants. Economies of scale
        would make energy more affordable for tenants of social housing and
        contribute to the alleviation of fuel poverty in social housing. The proposal
        also has the potential to generate wider benefits for energy consumers in
        Northern Ireland as it may encourage more energy providers to enter the
        local domestic energy market.



Chapter 4 – Community safety
     (viii) Strengthen the existing forms of injunction against anti-social
         behaviour and breach of tenancy agreement. It is proposed to broaden
         the scope of existing injunctions, for example by providing for injunctions to
         exclude individuals from any premises and by enabling the Police to arrest
         any person who has breached an injunction.


     (ix) Enable the Housing Executive and registered housing associations to
         extend the period of an introductory tenancy by up to 6 months. All new
         Housing Executive and registered housing associations tenancies are let on
         an “introductory” basis. An introductory tenancy lasts for a trial period of 1
         year and if a tenant engages in anti-social behaviour during that period the
         courts will grant an order for possession without any requirement for the

                                          24
    landlord to prove grounds for possession. The proposal would allow social
    landlords to extend the introductory period in individual cases, thereby
    providing an alternative to eviction where there is concern about a tenant’s
    conduct.


(x) Enable the courts to grant demotion orders in respect of Housing
    Executive and housing association secure tenancies. Such an order
    would remove the tenant’s security of tenure where the court is satisfied that
    the tenant or a person living with or visiting the tenant has engaged in, or has
    threatened to engage in, anti-social behaviour. Such tenants would, in effect,
    be placed “on notice” that they can be evicted at any time.


(xi) Provide a structured discretion for judges when considering
   applications for orders for possession of secure tenancies in cases
   involving anti-social behaviour. This means that the courts would be
    required to take account of certain factors such as the effect of the nuisance
   and the likely effect of the nuisance continuing or being repeated. The aim is
   to ensure that consistent decisions are made in these cases.


(xii) Enable the Housing Executive and registered housing associations to
    withhold consent to an exchange of tenancies where either party has
    been involved in anti-social behaviour. Under existing legislation,
    landlords cannot withhold consent to such an exchange unless there are
    statutory grounds for refusal. This proposal would make involvement in anti-
    social behaviour a legitimate ground for refusal.


(xiii) Permit the disclosure of information to enable the Housing Executive
    and registered housing associations to withhold consent to an
    exchange of tenancies or to refuse to complete a house sale. As a
    consequence of data protection legislation, social landlords may not be
    aware that a tenant who has applied to buy their home, or to exchange
    houses with another tenant, is the subject of court proceedings for anti-
    social behaviour such as a possession order or injunction. This proposal
                                    25
         should help to ensure that social landlords are in possession of all relevant
         facts.


     (xiv) Enable the Housing Executive to take such action as it considers
          necessary for the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour. While
          the Housing Executive continues to take part in crime prevention initiatives
          designed to protect vulnerable tenants, it has no formal authority to do so.
          This proposal would provide the appropriate statutory cover for such activity.


     (xv) Enable the Housing Executive to treat individuals as ineligible to be
         provided with social housing under the homelessness legislation
         where evidence of their anti-social behaviour does not emerge until the
         Executive has completed its assessment of their housing
         circumstances. It is suggested that persons who are involved
         in anti-social behaviour should not be in a position to access social housing
         even if they meet the statutory criteria for homelessness assistance and it is
         proposed to seek consultees’ views on this.



Chapter 5 – Housing Executive functions
     (xvi) Enable the Housing Executive to make arrangements with other bodies
          for the better performance of its functions. It is proposed that the
          Department should have power to make regulations to prescribe
          arrangements which may be entered into by the Housing Executive to
          delegate its functions and to pool its resources with other bodies so that
          there can be a single provider of services in key areas.


    (xvii) Enable the Housing Executive to provide indemnities for its members
         and staff. This would ensure that officers of the Housing Executive whose
         duties require them to be involved in the management of other housing-
         related bodies would be protected in the event of, for example, those bodies
         becoming insolvent.


                                          26
Chapter 6 – Housing Association functions
   (xviii) Abolish the rent surplus fund. Registered housing associations have a
         statutory duty to show in their accounts surpluses arising from increased
         rental income (such surpluses are known as “the rent surplus fund”). It is
         proposed to repeal the relevant legislation to relieve housing associations of
         what has become an unnecessary bureaucratic burden.




                                          27
Annexe B – Revised proposals for inclusion in the Housing
(Amendment) (No.2) Bill following consultation


Private rented housing
(i)     Provide a power for the Department to create a mandatory registration scheme for
        private rented sector landlords in subordinate legislation.


(ii)    Provide a power for the Department to create a tenancy deposit scheme, to
        safeguard rent deposits and establish a mechanism for handling related disputes,
        in subordinate legislation.


(iii)   Amend the Private Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 to make existing
        measures for regulating the private rented sector more effective.


Fuel poverty
(iv) Provide powers for the Housing Executive to broker energy at a discounted price
        for its tenants.


(v)     Provide powers for district councils to promote domestic energy efficiency in their
        districts.




Anti-social behaviour in housing
(vi) Improve the sharing of information between social housing landlords (by opening
        relevant data gateways under the Data Protection Act 1998) to facilitate good
        housing management practice.


(vii) Enable the Housing Executive and registered housing associations to withhold
        consent to an exchange of tenancies where certain orders for possession, anti-
        social behaviour orders or injunctions have been made in respect of either party to
        the proposed exchange or a member of their households.


                                               28
Houses in multiple occupation – improving the operation of existing legislation
(viii) Place responsibility for providing evidence of family relations on owners/operators
     of privately rented accommodation where it is claimed that the occupants of the
     accommodation are members of two or fewer families and the accommodation is
     therefore exempt from the regulatory regime prescribed for Houses in Multiple
     Occupation (HMO). Failure to provide adequate evidence will result in a house
     having to comply with HMO regulation.


Homelessness – improving the operation of existing legislation
(ix) Bring the Housing Executive’s duty under homelessness legislation to come to an
     end where a person ceases to be eligible for assistance.




                                            29
Annexe C – List of organisations who responded to consultation
Age NI                                      Fermanagh District Council
Antrim Borough Council                      Hearth Housing Association
Ards Borough Council                        Holyland Regeneration Association
Ark Housing Association                     Housing Rights Service
Armagh City and District Council            The Law Society of Northern Ireland
Ballymena Borough Council                   Mulholland After-Care Services
Banbridge District Council                  National Energy Action Northern Ireland
Belfast City Council                        Newtownabbey Borough Council
CBI (Northern Ireland)                      Northern Ireland Association for the Care
Chartered Institute of Housing              and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO)
Chief Environmental Health Officers         Northern Ireland Federation of Housing
Group                                       Associations
Citizens Advice Northern Ireland            Northern Ireland Housing Council
Committee on the Administration of          Northern Ireland Housing Executive
Justice                                     Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments
Community Relations Council                 Commission
Consumer Council of Northern Ireland        North Down Borough Council
Council for the Homeless Northern           Participation and the Practice of Rights
Ireland                                     Project
Cookstown District Council                  Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
Craigavon District Council                  Simon Community Northern Ireland
Disability Action                           Sinn Féin
Down District Council                       South Tyrone Empowerment Programme
Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough          (STEP)
Council                                     Supporting Communities Northern Ireland
Energy Savings Trust                        West Belfast Partnership Board




                                       30

								
To top