in the private sector, but will also strengthen the housing market
and the government's drive to meet its 2010 decent homes target.
- Selective Licensing - to help councils improve local communities by
ensuring bad landlords take greater responsibility for the
management of their property and deal with anti-social tenants.
- Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation - to improve controls on
HMOs, including a mandatory national licensing scheme to raise the
standards of some of the highest risk properties with some of the
most vulnerable people, whilst maintaining an adequate supply of
- Housing Health and Safety - to replace the current housing fitness
standard with an evidence-based Housing Health and Safety Rating
System. This will improve the condition of the housing stock and
help to meet the commitment to improve the worst housing conditions
for the most vulnerable people.
- Home Information Packs - to require anyone marketing a home to
provide key information up-front at the start of selling a home.
This will ensure the home buying and selling process becomes more
certain, transparent and consumer-friendly, whilst reducing stress
and the number of failed transactions.
- Right to Buy changes - to clamp down on companies and individuals
exploiting the rules and profiting at the expense of those in need
of affordable housing.
- Social housing ombudsman for Wales - to introduce a new office of
Social housing ombudsman for Wales for the purpose of investigating
complaints against social landlords in Wales.
- Grants for Social Housing - to provide for the Housing Corporation
and the National Assembly for Wales (in England and Wales
respectively) to pay grant to bodies other than Reg istered Social
As a result of a public consultation exercise on the draft Bill, the
recommendations by the ODPM Select Committee into the draft Bill, and
the report of the Home Ownership Task Force, the following provisions
have been added to the Bill:
- Further changes to the Right to Buy scheme
- Additional measures to help social landlords tackle anti-social
- Giving unmarried different sex partners and same sex partners who
do not enter into a civil partnership the same rights in relation
to tenancy succession
- Extending eligibility for disabled facilities grant to all those
1. The Housing Bill has been introduced into the House of Commons
today. It is accompanied by explanatory notes and a Regulatory Impact
Assessment on each of the main provisions.
2. Our approach to legislation is informed by extensive research and
earlier consultation exercises. Housing Bill - draft legislation for
consultation was published in March and consultation ended on 9 June.
The ODPM Select Committee also carried out pre-legislative scrutiny
of the draft Bill. The government's response is published here.
Health and Safety Rating System for Housing
3. Part 1 of the Bill provides for the replacement of the housing
fitness standard with the evidence-based Housing Health and Safety
Rating System. The existing housing fitness standard is a set of
basic requirements that homes should meet to be considered
acceptable places to live. Previous consultations have shown that
there is a broad consensus in favour of switching to an
evidence-based approach to housing.
4. The Bill therefore allows the secretary of state in relation to
England and the National Assembly for Wales in relation to Wales to
prescribe the Housing Health and Safety Rating System . This system
enables hazards to be assessed according to the risk of harm to
potential or actual occupants of the building.
5. The Bill enables local authorities to tailor their enforcement
actions to the severity of the health and safety hazards in the home.
6. The government has consulted on these proposals in the past. In
March 2001, the government published Housing Health and Safety -
Replacement of the Housing Fitness Standard by the Housing Health and
Safety Rating System, which set out the principles of the system and
proposals for modernising LHAs' enforcement powers.
Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation
7. Parts 2, 4 and 7 of the draft Bill set out provisions for a
mandatory licensing scheme for HMOs. The mandatory scheme will focus
on the larger, higher risk properties. It also provides discretionary
powers to licence smaller multiply- occupied properties where there
is a particular problem with this type of accommodation in an area,
for example, smaller shared student properties.
8. Its aim is that HMOs should provide a safe and acceptable form of
accommodation for their occupants. At present property management and
condition is worse and associated risks higher in this type of
property. Operators of HMOs should also benefit from a simpler, more
consistent, risk-based control regime.
9. Although local housing authorities already have a wide range of
powers they can use to control standards in HMOs, these powers have
not always been used fully or effectively. Some local authorities
already operate a registration scheme for HMO properties, however,
others do not - this Bill will make it a requirement for all local
authorities to operate a licensing scheme. Also the existing
legislation, devised over a number of years, needs updating. Some of
its provisions are inflexible in their detailed prescriptive
requirements. Others are ambiguous - the definition of HMO has been
the subject of much litigation.
10. In March 1999, the government published a consultation paper
Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation - England. A parallel
paper was issued in Wales. These consultation papers proposed the
introduction of a compulsory licensing scheme.
Selective licensing of private landlords
11. The proposed discretionary powers will allow local authorities to
introduce a licensing scheme for private landlords in their area.
Licensing schemes will be targeted at communities within an authority
area experiencing problems in the private rented sector arising from
low housing demand or anti-social behaviour.
12. All private landlords where licensing operates will be required
to obtain a licence to rent out their property. Licences will relate
to whether the landlord is a fit and proper person to let property
and require certain minimum management standards are met. This will
help local authorities to stop bad landlords and anti-social tenants
from undermining other measures they had in hand to help
neighbourhoods in decline. Better management of rented properties and
recognition for responsible landlords would benefit good tenants,
responsible landlords and the community as a whole.
13. Areas of low housing demand suffer from the linked problems of
falling prices and rents, empty properties and, above all, crime and
anti-social behaviour. As owner-occupiers have left unpopular and
hard to sell properties, the private rented sector has grown and bad,
sometimes criminal, landlords have proliferated - forcing out
responsible tenants and owner occupiers, with the help of anti-social
tenants, and, thereby, contributing to the spiral of decline.
14. The aim is to ensure that landlords play their part in a
comprehensive local strategy to tackle low demand. This additional
regulation is justified by the pervasive and acute problems of low
demand areas. To keep the focus on better management and exclusio n of
criminal landlords, unsatisfactory housing would be tackled
separately, through the future housing condition regime.
15. Areas outside of low housing demand can also suffer
destabilisation from the activities of poor landlords and anti-social
tenants. So this power will be available to LHAs to tackle these
problems outside areas of low demand.
16. Consultation papers issued in England and Wales in October 2001
proposed measures for the selective licensing of private landlords in
Home Information Packs
17. The government is committed to making it easier for people buying
and selling homes in England and Wales through a new home information
pack. Legislation to introduce 'sellers' packs' was introduced in the
Homes Bill on 13 December 2000, but was unable to complete its
passage before Parliament was dissolved for the general election.
Legislation will be reintroduced as part 5 of the draft Housing Bill.
18. The seller's pack has been renamed the 'home information pack' in
recognition that it favours neither seller nor buyer, but is of
benefit to both. The home information pack proposals are the outcome
of extensive research into the home buying and selling process, and a
major consultation about options for improvements.
19. Research across a range of housing markets confirms the present
home buying and selling process in England and Wales is among the
slowest in Europe, is fraught with delays and failed transactions,
encourages problems and does not look after the interests of home
buyers and sellers. The problem is that under the present system key
information required to inform buyers' and seller's decisions only
becomes available after terms have been negotiated and agreed. Home
information packs will address this by ensuring key information is
available up front.
20. Home information packs are used in other countries, notably
Denmark and New South Wales in Australia, and work well. There are
also several home information pack schemes operating successfully in
England and Wales.
21. Home information packs have to be compulsory to ensure that every
one can benefit from them. Voluntary arrangements would not ensure
that all homes are marketed with a pack, and would not achieve the
objective of improving the process for the benefit of consumers. Most
transactions are part of a chain and a single missing pack in the
chain could cancel out the benefits of all the others.
22. A consultation paper published in March 2003 set out proposals
for home information packs to contain information about:
- terms of sale; evidence of title; replies to standard searches;
planning consents, agreements and directions, and building control
certificates; replies to preliminary enquiries made on behalf of
buyers; a home condition report based on a professional survey of
the property, including an energy efficiency assessment.
- for new properties, copies of warranties and guarantees.
- for leasehold properties, a copy of the lease; most recent service
charge accounts and receipts; building insurance policy details and
payment receipts; regulations made by the landlord or management
company; and memorandum and articles of the landlord or management
company. Most of these items are obtained at some stage under the
current process; home information packs will involve doing much the
same things but more efficiently, and earlier in the process.
Right to Buy
22. The Right to Buy scheme was introduced in 1980. Since then,
some 1.55 million local authority tenants (and more recently, tenants
of stock transferred across to housing associations exercising the
'preserved RTB') in England have acquired their homes. Tenants
qualify for RTB after only two years, and can buy their home at a
discount but, if they resell the property within three years of
buying it, they must repay some or all of the discount they received.
Rapidly rising property values in some parts of the country are
encouraging early re-sales, sometimes to companies, putting pressure
on the availability of affordable housing in these areas.
23. To address this, the Government has decided to make changes to
the Right to Buy scheme (including preserved Right to Buy for Housing
Association tenants). It has already lowered by Order the maximum
amount of Right to Buy discount for which an individual tenant may
qualify in 41 local authority areas. The Bill continues this process
- extending the qualification period for the Right to Buy from two
years to five years
- extending the period after sale during which landlords may require
owners to repay some or all of their discount on early resale, from
three years to five years.
- Providing that landlords have discretion to waive repayment.
- changing repayment to a percentage basis rather than the current
flat rate basis.
24. Responding to calls from the ODPM select committee, the home
ownership task force and responses to the public consultation, the
government has added the following provisions to the Bill:
- Provide that RTB will not apply where there is a clear intention
that the property in question will be demolished during the next 18
months (as part of a regeneration or renewal scheme).
- Clarify and enhance landlords' responsibility to advise tenants on
the implications of the RTB and hence home-ownership. Tenants are
not always fully aware of what is required, in practical and
financial terms, for home ownership;
- Provide that RTB owners who wish to resell within 10 years must
offer first refusal at full market price on their properties to
their former landlord (local authority or RSL).
- Tackle exploitation by making agreements to resell within the
specified discount repayment period (now three years, to be
extended to five year s by the Bill) 'relevant disposals' that would
trigger repayment of discount. This would target 'deferred re-sale'
agreements between tenants and property companies, which sub-let on
tenants' behalf; and
- End the little-used Rent to Mortgage scheme.
Tackling anti-social behaviour in the social sector
25. As foreshadowed in the draft Housing Bill, local authorities will
be given the flexibility to extend an introductory tenancy beyond its
usual 12-month period.
26. In response to the public consultation and select committee's
concerns about anti-social behaviour, we will add further measures
to the Housing Bill which will:
- allow landlords of secure tenants to refuse a mutual exchange
application if successful court action has been taken against a
tenant or a member of their household for ASB
- prevent tenants completing a RTB purchase where the landlord is
seeking a possession or demotion order against a tenant on the
grounds of anti-social behaviour. If the court decides that such an
order should not be made, or the application is withdrawn, the
obligation on the landlord to complete the sale would be restored.
Same Sex Succession
27. It is government policy to equalise the rights of same sex
couples and different sex couples in relation to tenancy succession.
28. Government recently launched a consultation paper in preparation
for a Civil Partnerships Bill to equalise the position between
married partners and same sex partners who enter into a civil
29. The select committee scrutinising the Housing Bill made the
recommendation that the issue of succession for same sex partners be
dealt with in that Bill.
30. The Housing Bill will therefore give unmarried different sex
partners, and same sex partners who do not enter into a civil
partnership, the same rights in relation to tenancy succession.
Grants for Social Housing
31. The Housing Bi ll contains provision for the Housing Corporation
and the National Assembly for Wales (in England and Wales
respectively) to pay grant to bodies other than registered social
landlords, such as developers and housebuilders, to develop
affordable housing. A consultation paper 'Increasing the
effectiveness' of powers to regulate registered social landlords in
England and Wales was issued on 31 March and consultation ended on 23
June. A copy of the consultation document is available on the ODPM
Disabled Facilities Grant
32. The Bill will extend eligibility for disabled facilities grant to
all those occupying caravans as their only or main residence.
Social Housing Ombudsman for Wales
33. The proposal is to establish a new office of social housing
ombudsman for Wales for the purpose of investigating complaints
against social landlords in Wales and provides that this office will
be held by a Local Commissioner in Wales (CLAW).
34. At present, investigation of complaints against RSLs in Wales is
undertaken by the National Assembly for Wales, which also regulates
RSLs in Wales under the Housing Act 1996. The creation of the social
housing ombudsman for Wales would provide an independent means of
investigating complaints against RSLs in Wales.