House of Commons - Explanatory Note
The Housing Bill - continued          House of Commons

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Clause 167: Disabled facilities grant: caravans

307.     Clause 167 extends eligibility for disabled facilities grant (DFG) to all those occupying caravans. Under Part 1 of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996, DFG is available for adaptations for disabled occupants of "qualifying park homes". However, the definition of qualifying park home excludes some groups of caravan occupants from eligibility. The clause replaces the term "qualifying park home", with the term "caravan". The term "caravan" is defined by reference to the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, which defines a caravan essentially as a structure designed or adapted for human habitation that is capable of being moved. This amendment does not apply to applications for DFG made before the date on which the clause comes into force.

Clause 168: Removal of duty on local housing authorities to send annual reports to tenants etc.

308.     Clause 168 removes section 167 from the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. This removes the statutory duty on LHA to produce a report to tenants about its functions as an LHA. The requirement upon LHAs to produce annual reports has largely become redundant as they now have to produce a best value performance plan.

Clause 169: Social Housing Ombudsman for Wales (SHOW)

309.     Clause 169 inserts a new sub-section 7 after 51(6) of the Housing Act 1996. After sub-section 7, new sections 51A, 51B and 51C are inserted. These sections, together with Schedule 8 (which inserts a new Schedule 2A into the Housing Act 1996), contain new provisions in respect of the office of the Social Housing Ombudsman for Wales (SHOW).

310.     New section 51A - This applies section 51 of the Housing Act 1996 (schemes for the investigation of complaints) in relation to social landlords in Wales and sets up the office of Social Housing Ombudsman for Wales (SHOW) to investigate complaints against social landlords in Wales. It also provides for the Local Commissioner for Wales to undertake this role. In Wales, the National Assembly for Wales currently undertakes investigation of complaints against Registered Social Landlords. Provision is made to allow for designation of the office, where there is more than one Local Commissioner. If the person who is SHOW ceases to be the Local Commissioner, he shall also cease to be the SHOW. The power to remove a Local Commissioner for Wales from office under the Local Government Act 1974 is extended to allow for his removal on the grounds of incapacity or misbehaviour in the office of SHOW. Schedule 2A contains further provisions about the SHOW (see below).

311.     New section 51B contains provisions whereby the National Assembly for Wales can issue regulations to make provision for the investigation of complaints against registered social landlords in Wales, including those matters as outlined under section 51B(2)(a)-(h).

312.     New section 51C defines the meaning of 'social landlord in Wales' and gives the National Assembly for Wales the power to amend or add to the descriptions of landlords who are to be treated as social landlords in Wales, subject to consultation with such persons as it considers appropriate. Sub-section 2 defines a "publicly-funded" dwelling. Schedule 8 inserts a new Schedule 2A into the Housing Act 1996 which makes further provision about the Social Housing Ombudsman for Wales, in particular his status, remuneration, staff and advisers, delegation of functions, the provision and publication of reports and determinations, expenses, absolute privilege for communications, disclosure of information, accounts and audit, accounting officer and examinations into use of resources.

PART 7 - SUPPLEMENTARY AND FINAL PROVISIONS

Clause 170: Register of licences and management orders

313.     Clause 170 requires every LHA to establish and maintain a register of licences granted under Parts 2 and 3, temporary exemption notices, and management orders under Part 4, with such particulars as may be prescribed by regulations. These registers are to be made available for inspection by the public at reasonable times and LHAs must, on request and, on payment of a reasonable fee, supply certified true copies of the register or an extract from it.

Clause 171: Approval of codes of practice with regard to the management of HMOs

314.     Clause 171 allows the appropriate national authority, after consultation, to approve a code of practice in relation to the management of HMOs. Non-compliance with the code is not an offence. However clause 45 requires an LHA to have regard to information about compliance with approved codes of practice when it makes a decision to designate an area for additional licensing. Clause 55 also provides that non-compliance with the code of practice approved under this section will provide evidence of unsatisfactory management arrangements and that such a code may be relevant to training requirements under clause 56. Clause 87 requires a court to have regard to compliance with the code before authorising an IMO for a HMO which is not subject to a licensing requirement.

Clause 172: Management regulations in respect of HMOs

315.     Clause 172 provides that regulations be made for ensuring that there are satisfactory standards of management in place, and that these standards should be observed in respect of all HMOs, and makes it an offence if regulations under this section are not complied with. The maximum penalty on conviction of such an offence is a level 5 fine (currently £5,000). The regulations can apply to any HMO irrespective of whether it is subject to a licensing requirement.

Clause 173: Power to require documents to be produced

316.     Clause 173 allows an LHA to require a relevant person to provide documentation and information that they need to carry out their functions under Parts 1-4 of the Bill. There is no requirement for a person to produce documents that he would be entitled to refuse to provide in proceedings in the High Court on the grounds of legal professional privilege. The clause defines "relevant person" for these purposes.

Clause 174: Enforcement of powers to obtain information

317.     Clause 174 provides for enforcement powers where a person fails to respond to a notice to provide information or documentation under the preceding clause. Failure to co-operate is an offence punishable by a fine not exceeding level 5 (currently £5,000). Intentional alteration, suppression or destruction of a document that is required to be produced under clause 168 is an offence which can be punished by a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (£5,000) if tried in the Magistrates' Court or an unlimited fine if tried in the Crown Court.

Clause 175: Use of information obtained for certain other statutory purposes

318.     Clause 175 allows an LHA to use information that it has obtained for housing benefit or council tax purposes in order to carry out its functions under Parts 1-4 of this Bill. So, for example, if several claims for housing benefit are made from the same address, the LHA will be able to investigate whether the property in question ought to have a licence under Part 2 of the Bill.

Clause 176: False or misleading information

319.     Clause 176 makes it an offence if a person supplies false or misleading information under Parts 1-4 or Part 7 of the Bill. The maximum penalty on summary conviction (i.e. conviction in the Magistrates' Court) is to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the statutory scale (currently up to £5,000).

Clause 177: Powers of entry

320.     Clause 177 allows an LHA powers of access to a property in order to determine whether its powers under Parts 1 to 4 or 7 of the Bill should be exercised. A person authorised to enter a property will need written authorisation from the LHA stating the purposes for which entry is to be authorised. Permission under this clause does not include a power to use force to obtain entry.

Clause 178: Warrant to authorise entry

321.     Clause 178 enables a Justice of the Peace to issue a warrant for admission to premises, for example, where entry under the previous clause has been refused. This includes power to enter by force if necessary. A person entering unoccupied premises under a warrant must leave premises as effectively secured against trespassers as he found them.

Clause 179: Penalty for obstruction

322.     Clause 179 (1) makes it a criminal offence to obstruct an officer of the LHA in the performance of the LHA's functions under parts 1 to 4 and clause 177. The maximum penalty on conviction is a fine not exceeding Level 4 (currently £2,500).

Clause 180: Additional notice requirements for protection of owners

323.     Clause 180 allows the owner of a property to serve notice of their interest in a property for the purposes of Parts 1-4 and Part 7.

Clause 181: Power to prescribe forms

324.     Clause 181 allows the appropriate national authority to prescribe by regulations the form of any notice, statement or document required under the Bill.

Clause 182: Power to dispense with notices

325.     Clause 182 provides that the appropriate national authority may dispense with the service of a notice required to be served by an LHA under the Bill if certain conditions apply.

Clauses 183-185: Service of documents and things done electronically

326.     Clauses 183-185 make provision for the service of documents, including the service of documents in electronic form.

Clause 186: Proof of designations

327.     Clause 186 makes provision regarding proof of any designation made by an LHA either for additional HMO licensing under clause 45 or for selective licensing under clause 67.

Clause 187: Orders and regulations

328.     Clause 187 makes provision in relation to orders and regulations made under the Bill. Any power of the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales to make orders or regulations under the Bill is exercisable by statutory instrument.

Clause 188: Offences by bodies corporate

329.     Clause 188 makes provision for offences by a body corporate. It provides that an officer of the body corporate may be liable for a breach committed by the body corporate, if responsible for an offence committed by that body.

Clause 189: Power to up-rate level of fines for certain offences

330.     Clause 189 allows the Secretary of State to up-rate the fines for certain offences in line with inflation.

Clause 190: Local inquiries

331.     Clause 190 allows the appropriate national authority to hold any local inquiries he considers appropriate for carrying out his functions under this Bill.

Clause 191: Meaning of "house in multiple occupation"

332.     Clause 191 provides a definition of a "house in multiple occupation". Essentially this is a house, hostel, self-contained flat or other relevant building which is occupied by persons who do not form a single household and where there is a degree of sharing of the facilities of a toilet, personal washing facilities or cooking facilities or where the living accommodation lacks such facilities or is not self-contained. Certain converted blocks of flats come within this definition (see explanatory note on clause 193 below). However, in subsequent clauses 193-195 and Schedule 9, this definition is further refined and particular exemptions are specified for certain premises. The appropriate national authority may, by regulation, further amend the provisions of clauses 192-195, with consequential amendments to other statutory provisions.

Clause 192: HMOS: houses and other relevant buildings

333.     Clause 192 provides definitions of a "house", "hostel", "self-contained flat" or "other relevant building".

Clause 193: HMOs: certain converted blocks of flats

334.     Clause 193 defines the "converted blocks of flats" that come within this definition of HMO. These are blocks that have been converted into self-contained flats that did not comply with the most recent Building Regulations when they were built and where the vast majority of occupants are not owner-occupiers. There is provision in clause 50 for the appropriate national authority to modify by regulation the effect of Part 2 and the definition of "person in control" as it applies for the purposes of that Part as they apply to buildings falling within the definition in this clause. There is also provision in clause 86 for the appropriate national authority to modify by regulation the effect of Part 4 and the definition of "person in control" as it applies for the purposes of that Part as they apply to buildings falling within the definition of this clause.

Clause 194: HMOs: persons not forming a single household

335.     Clause 194 provides that persons shall be treated as a "single household" if they are all members of the same family. Persons married to each other or living together as a couple may be regarded as members of the same family. Couples of the same sex who are living together as if they were husband and wife are to be regarded as members of the same family. Regulations made by the appropriate national authority may further specify how persons may be regarded as forming a single household by reference to particular relationships. It is intended to make regulations to provide that employees such as au pairs and nannies are treated as part of a single household with their employers.

Clause 195: HMOs: persons treated as occupying premises as only or main residence

336.     The first category of person specified covers accommodation occupied by students whose term-time accommodation is to be regarded as being occupied by them as their sole or main residence, irrespective of whether they also have different accommodation that they occupy during holidays. The second category of person covers accommodation occupied by women fleeing domestic violence, which is deemed to be their sole or main residence, irrespective of the fact that they may have other accommodation to which they could return if the threat of domestic violence were removed. The appropriate national authority also has a power to specify in regulations other circumstances where property is to be regarded as occupying a building or part of the building as their "only or main residence".

Clause 196: Meaning of" appropriate national authority" "local housing authority" etc

337.     Clause 196(1) to (6) makes provision about the meaning of "appropriate national authority" and "local housing authority" (LHA).

338.     Subsection (7) applies the provisions of section 618 of the Housing Act 1985 to the Bill. As a result, the Common Council of the City of London may appoint a committee for any purposes of the Bill which they consider would be better managed by committee. The provisions of section 618 about membership and disqualification will apply to any such committee; in particular, a tenant of the Common Council may be a member of the committee but may not vote on matters arising under the Bill which relate to land in which he is beneficially interested.

Clause 197: Meaning of "lease", "tenancy", "occupier" and "owner" etc.

339.     Clause 197 gives the meaning of "lease", "tenancy", "occupier" and "owner". In particular sub section (4) provides that the definition of "lessee" includes a statutory tenant.

Clause 198: Meaning of "person having control" and "person managing" etc

340.     Clause 198 defines what "person having control" means in relation to the person receiving the rent of the tenanted property. Essentially this is the person who receives (directly or through an agency or trustee) the rents of the tenants. This clause also contains a definition of "person managing".

Clause 199: Minor and consequential amendments

341.     Clause 199 introduces Schedule 10, which contains minor and consequential amendments. Subsection (2) enables the Secretary of State to make supplementary, incidental and consequential provisions by order for the purposes of the Bill. Subsection (3) allows such an order to modify any Act or subordinate legislation for those purposes. Any order made under subsection (3) must receive the approval of both Houses of Parliament. The power in subsection (2) is also exercisable by the National Assembly for Wales in relation to provision dealing with matters with respect to which the functions are exercisable by the Assembly.

Clause 201: Devolution: Wales

342.     Functions of the Secretary of State under the Housing Acts of 1985, 1988 and 1996 are exercisable, as respects Wales, by the National Assembly for Wales, pursuant to the National Assembly for Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 1999. Clause 201 provides that the reference in that Order to those Acts is to be treated as a reference to those Acts as amended by the Bill. This will enable the National Assembly for Wales to exercise, as respects Wales, any new powers conferred on the Secretary of State by amendments to those Acts made by the Bill.

Clause 202: The Isles of Scilly

343.     The clause allows the Secretary of State to make an order providing for the Bill to apply to the Isles of Scilly with specified modifications.

Clause 204: Short title, commencement and extent

344.     Clause 204 provides that the Bill extends to England and Wales and makes provision for commencement. Details of commencement of each of the provisions of this Bill are set out below.

345.     Subsection (8) enables the Secretary of State, by order, to make transitional provisions in connection with the coming into force of any provision of this Bill and subsection (9) enables the National Assembly for Wales to make such provision for matters with respect to which functions exercisable by the Assembly.

SCHEDULES

Schedule 1: Procedure and appeals relating to improvement notices

346.     Schedule 1 sets out the procedures for serving, revoking and varying improvement notices, and the procedures and time limits for appeals against such notices.

Schedule 2: Procedure and appeals relating to prohibition orders

347.     Schedule 2 sets out the procedures for making, revoking and varying prohibition orders, and the procedures and time limits for appeals against such orders.

Schedule 3: Improvement notices: enforcement action by local housing authorities

348.     Schedule 3 enables enforcement action in respect of an improvement notice to be taken by local housing authorities either with or without agreement. It also enables authorities to recover the expenses they incur in taking such action without agreement, and provides a right of appeal by persons from whom they have sought recovery of expenses.

Schedule 4: Licences under Parts 2 or 3: mandatory conditions

349.     Schedule 4 (j201) sets out mandatory conditions to be attached to licences granted under Parts 2 or 3. Paragraph 1 sets out the conditions that apply to both Parts 2 and 3 licences. Paragraph 2 sets out a condition that only applies to Part 3 licences. Paragraph 3 enables the appropriate national authority by regulations to amend paragraphs 1 or 2 by adding or removing conditions.

Schedule 5: Licences under Parts 2 and 3: procedures and appeals

350.     Schedule 5 sets out the procedures and appeal mechanisms in relation to licences under Parts 2 and 3. Part 1 sets out the procedure the LHA must adopt in granting or refusing to grant a licence. Part 2 is concerned with procedures relating variation or refusal to vary and revocation and refusal to revoke licences. Part 3 sets out the right to appeal against licensing decisions and the mechanisms which apply.

Schedule 6: Management orders: procedure and appeals

351.     Schedule 6 sets out the required procedure for making final or IMO management orders under Part 4. Part 1 sets out the procedure the LHA must use in making management orders. Part 2 sets out the procedure in connection with variation and revocation of management orders, including refusal to vary or revoke the orders. Part 3 sets out the right to appeal against management order decisions and the mechanisms which apply.

Schedule 7: Penalty charge notices under section 137

352.     Schedule 7 contains detailed provision relating to penalty charge notices. It also provides for the Secretary of State to make regulations relating to the amount of the penalty charge and other matters relating to penalty charge notices and their service.

Schedule 8: New Schedule 2A to the Housing Act 1996

353.     Schedule 8 inserts a new Schedule 2A into the Housing Act 1996 which makes further provision about the Social Housing Ombudsman for Wales, in particular his status, remuneration, staff and advisers, delegation of functions, the provision and publication of reports and determinations, expenses, absolute privilege for communication, disclosure of information, accounts and audit, accounting officer and examinations into the use of resources

Schedule 9: Buildings which are not HMOs (except in Part 1)

354.     Schedule 9 defines buildings which are not HMOs for the purposes of the Act other than Part 1These includes buildings owned by LHAs, RSLs and other public sector bodies; buildings which are regulated by other legislation and prescribed as exempt; certain buildings occupied by students and religious communities; buildings occupied by long leaseholders (subject to section 188) and buildings occupied by no more than two people.

Schedule 10: Minor and consequential amendments

This Schedule makes minor and consequential amendments needed as a result of this Bill

Schedule 11: Repeals

355.     This Schedule repeals a number of provisions made redundant by changes made in this Bill.

CONCLUDING SECTIONS

FINANCIAL EFFECTS OF THE BILL

Housing Health and Safety Rating System

356.     There will be little effect on public expenditure, although LHAs will have to incur the start-up costs of acquiring appropriate IT equipment and ensuring their officers are trained in the use of the system. Government will provide extra resources for these additional costs.

357.     On average the cost of compliance for property owners will not be greater than under the current housing fitness regime. There will be benefits from implementation of the HHSRS in health gains owing to better-targeted intervention over a number of years. The HHSRS is focussed on dealing directly with those hazards that cause accidents and ill health, whereas the housing fitness standard has been less directly targeted at these hazards. These benefits are difficult to quantify but could be substantial and reflected in lower rates of mortality and lower rates of contact with medical services.

HMO licensing and selective licensing of landlords

358.     There will be little effect on public expenditure, although there will be start-up costs which Government is committed to funding. In many cases setting up new licensing regimes will involve adapting existing schemes for the registration of HMOs.

359.     HMO licensing and selective licensing schemes should in the main be self-financing out of application fees.

Home information packs

360.     There will be little effect on public expenditure, although the appropriate national authority will incur expenditure as a result of making grants. Sellers and/or private companies, such as estate agents, will meet any costs relating to the home information pack proposals. Both sellers and buyers, as well as others involved in the process, stand to benefit from efficiency savings and reductions in abortive costs which result from an improved process.

Right to Buy

361.     There will be a limited effect on public expenditure. The number of sales under the scheme is unlikely to be affected. The sums repaid to landlords as a consequence of resales within the specified five year period will increase by small amounts where the property values increase.

Grants for social housing

362.     One of the aims of the proposal for the appropriate national authority to pay grants to non-Registered Social Landlords is to promote greater value for public subsidy through increased competition

Disabled facilities grant

363.     The clause will increase the number of occupants eligible for disabled facilities grant, but the impact on public expenditure should be limited.

Part 6 - other provisions

364.     The other provisions in Part 6 are not expected to have any significant impact on public expenditure.

EFFECTS OF THE BILL ON PUBLIC SERVICE MANPOWER

 
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Prepared: 8 December 2003