The Government first announced plans for a shared ownership right to buy in October 2019. At the time the sector raised concerns about the impact the plans would have on housing associations ability to borrow. An election and a pandemic later the Government announced, during the CIH Housing Festival last week, the return of the right to shared ownership as part of its Affordable Homes Programme (AHP).
On 31 July, the consultation period ended on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)’s proposals for reforming the building safety regulatory system set out in the 'Building a Safer Future' document.
During the consultation period, we have seen a change of Prime Minister and a potential shift in emphasis towards new build. It is not clear yet whether the new government will be as committed to implementing the proposals being consulted on as Theresa May’s government said it was.
We thought it was important to add our voice to those calling for change by responding to the consultation. Many of the questions were “technical”, so our response focussed just on those areas where we thought we could make a useful contribution from our perspective as lawyers specialising in registered provider and local authority housing work.
Our response is available to read here.
Particular things we highlighted were:
- the need for any duties expressed in “outcome-based” terms to be accompanied by clear guidance and “worked examples”;
- the importance of clarity over the respective roles of the Health and Safety Executive and any new building safety regulator during the construction process;
- a call for the Government to act transparently in relation to fire safety issues, including publishing the full test reports from their fire door test programme, and early publication of the outcomes of the ongoing testing of non-Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding materials;
- the tension between the drive for “value-for-money” (particularly for local authorities that have faced severe budget cuts in recent years) and the desire of responsible landlords to specify better quality, and therefore potentially higher priced, materials (as highlighted by Dame Judith’s criticisms of “value engineering” in her review);
- how restrictions on specifying particular products or technical standards in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 can make it harder to specify that good quality products must be used in building construction or refurbishment;
- the “disconnect” between procurement processes under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and the leaseholder consultation provisions under the Service Charges (Consultation Requirements) (England) Regulations 2003;
- the practical difficulties over how a duty on residents to “cooperate” with the person accountable for building safety can be enforced;
- the need for Government to meet the costs of any safety works that are not to be recharged to leaseholders, otherwise those costs will, in practice, fall on a registered provider’s or local authority’s tenants; and
- the need for legislation to underpin the new arrangements.
If you would like more information in relation to the consultation or our response, please contact Andrew Millross.
Two final pieces of the possession jigsaw have been published on 15 September 2020. Mr Justice Knowles’ working group on possession proceedings has issued its guidance on the “overall arrangements” for possession proceedings.
One change proposed by the Building Safety Bill is the introduction of a duty holder regime, which will see statutory responsibility for the safety of higher risk buildings placed on key individuals
Throughout this pandemic, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been publishing various “Statements on Coronavirus” (Statements) which provide guidance on consumer rights during this time.
A recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the UK means new measures are being put in place in an effort to reduce the risk of a second wave. Whilst the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt, it is important to remain focused on the sector’s road to recovery.
Sometimes half an hour at a conference gives you the reality that has been staring you in the face all along. That was my experience watching “Change is on the Horizon”
Following our recent e-briefing on Possession Notices, Helen Tucker and Emilie Pownall from our housing litigation team discuss the impact of the changes on social landlords.
Not only has the possession stay been extended until 20 September, the notice periods to be given to tenants has been extended in certain circumstances with some important exceptions.
The Court has confirmed that a party cannot withhold its consent in order to re-write the original bargain.
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, building safety continues to be a key concern for social housing providers and their residents.
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