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).
Social landlords may be surprised to learn that “landlords should be able to carry out routine as well as essential repairs for most households”.
This was what the Minister for Housing said in a letter sent to social housing residents this week. The letter was sent to “update residents on the steps the Government is taking to reopen society” and support residents and their families to “move on with their lives”. It contains links to government guidance on a wide range of initiatives connected with Covid-19 (this e-briefing comments only those aspects of the letter that are relevant to repairs).
During the Covid-19 pandemic, many social landlords have had to limit repairs to emergency repairs and compliance work, such as gas servicing and fire equipment testing. Some social landlords have also been able to undertake external maintenance.
A letter sent directly to their residents by the Government saying that social landlords will now be carrying out routine repairs may, therefore, come as a surprise. Although the letter recognises that the backlog of repairs that built up during lockdown may cause landlords to be slower than usual in responding to new, non-essential repairs, the encouragement to report all repairs means that social landlords should now prepare for an influx of routine repairs requests.
However, while the Government’s letter indicates a move to recommence carrying out non-urgent repairs, this is still far from “business as usual”. The letter confirms that only repairs to remedy a “direct risk” should be carried out where households are self-isolating or containing an individual who is shielding. Repairs will invariably take longer to complete due to tradespersons having to comply with social distancing and hygiene guidance. This will increase repairs costs for landlords and/or their contractors.
Delays in repairs being completed will inevitably result in more complaints and referrals to solicitors looking to bring claims against landlords for tenant compensation. The increased expectations created by the letter are unlikely to be helpful in managing this process.
For more information
For advice on repairing obligations, please contact Baljit Basra.
For advice on health and safety issues, please contact Tim Coolican.
For advice on repairs and maintenance contracts, 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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