An end to anti-social tenants and individuals misusing the social housing system?
12 February 2024
The Government recently announced significant reforms in social housing allocation to ensure fairness and restrict access for those who misuse the system, as per the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
These reforms aim to exclude individuals displaying anti-social behaviour through a possible ban or a “three strikes and you’re out” policy while prioritising applicants with strong connections to the UK and their local areas.
Housing Minister, Lee Rowley, emphasised the Government’s intention to make social housing allocation fairer, highlighting that abusing the system or opposing British values would have consequences.
The reforms are designed to favour law-abiding citizens who contribute to the country, ensuring they have access to social housing in their communities.
What the Government says
Key aspects of the reforms include the introduction of UK and local connection tests for eligibility, with a requirement for applicants to have a connection to the UK for at least ten years and to their local area for at least two years.
Additionally, individuals with higher incomes might be ineligible for social housing, though current tenants will remain unaffected.
The reforms also propose disqualifying individuals with certain anti-social behaviour convictions or civil sanctions from social housing for up to five years and could extend to disqualifying terrorist offenders.
The changes will complement existing improvements in social housing quality and quantity, including the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 and the £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme, contributing to a more consistent and fair allocation process across local housing authorities.
What does this mean for social housing landlords?
The announced reforms might mean changes that directly impact how you allocate housing and manage your properties.
The key implications include:
- Stricter eligibility criteria: you will need to apply new eligibility tests based on applicants’ connections to the UK and their local area, as well as income thresholds. This could necessitate updates to your application and vetting processes.
- Handling anti-social behaviour: the introduction of a potential five-year ban for individuals involved in anti-social behaviour or criminal activities means you need to closely monitor tenant behaviour and enforce the new rules. It may also require you to work more closely with local authorities and police to identify and manage such cases.
- Prioritisation of applicants: you will have to adjust your allocation policies to prioritise applicants with a stronger connection to the UK and the local community. This prioritisation might lead to changes in the demographic makeup of social housing tenants, with a focus on those who have contributed to the community or country.
- Increased administrative duties: implementing these reforms could increase the administrative burden on social housing providers. This includes more detailed assessments of applicants’ eligibility, maintaining records of applicants’ and tenants’ behaviour and possibly dealing with a higher volume of appeals or queries from those denied housing.
- Legal and regulatory compliance: landlords must ensure their policies and procedures comply with the new regulations once they become law. This may require legal consultation and training for staff to understand the changes and how to apply them effectively.
- Community relations: with a focus on rewarding those who contribute positively to their communities, you may also need to engage more with your community to foster environments that align with these values. This could involve community-building activities or support services for tenants.
- Impact on housing stock: the reforms might affect the demand for social housing in certain areas, especially where there are significant numbers of applicants who no longer qualify under the new criteria. Landlords will need to strategise how best to manage their housing stock in light of these changes.
Overall, these reforms aim to make the social housing system fairer and more reflective of contribution and need.
For landlords though, it means adapting to a more regulated and structured allocation process, with a significant emphasis on community integration and the management of anti-social behaviour. Birketts has experience managing compliance for a range of social housing legislations, do get in touch if you have any questions or require further advice.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at February 2024.