CWAG News Update January 2021

CWAG News Update January 2021

This update includes the following: 

·         National Lockdown - Latest Covid Guidance Updates
·         CWAG Clienting Survey – feedback and next steps
·         Government Announces Reform of Leasehold
·         CWAG Finance and Business Planning Meeting
·         New reports setting out landlord performance on tenant complaints

This update includes the following: 
·         National Lockdown - Latest Covid Guidance Updates
·         CWAG Clienting Survey – feedback and next steps
·         Government Announces Reform of Leasehold
·         CWAG Finance and Business Planning Meeting
·         New reports setting out landlord performance on tenant complaints

National Lockdown - Latest Covid Guidance and Updates

Moving home
Allocations of social homes can continue, as can all lettings in social housing.
People can still move home, whether they are renting or buying. People outside their household or support bubble should not help with the house move unless absolutely necessary. Estate and letting agents and removals firms can continue to work. If people are looking to move, they can go to property viewings.
Maintaining essential services
Where people cannot work from home - including, but not limited to, people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction, or manufacturing - they should continue to travel to their workplace. This is essential to keeping the country operating and supporting sectors and employers.
Certain businesses and venues providing essential goods and services are permitted to stay open, whilst following COVID-19 secure guidelines.
Businesses providing repair services may also stay open, where they primarily offer repair services. This means that landlords can continue to provide repair services, and this includes safety inspections.
Canteens in extra-care housing can also remain open for the consumption of food by certain residents where it is reasonably necessary for safeguarding that person’s physical or mental health.
Shielding guidance has been reintroduced for the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable - guidance
Court Proceedings and Evictions
The eviction ban has been extended until 21 February 2021, for all but the most serious cases, with measures kept under review. Revised regulations are set out in a Statutory Instrument. 
There are exemptions for the most serious cases including illegal occupation, false statement, anti-social behaviour, perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social sector, where a property is unoccupied following death of a tenant and serious rent arrears greater than 6 months’ rent.
Court rules and procedures introduced in September in response to the pandemic remain in place and courts will continue to prioritise the most serious cases (outlined above).
All landlords will continue to be required to give six-month notice periods to tenants until at least 31 March except in the most serious circumstances. The Government will review whether a further extension to this measure is needed and provide more detail in due course. 
In addition, from February, a new mediation pilot will be available to support landlords and renters who face court procedures and potential eviction. It will offer mediation as part of the possession process to try and help landlords and tenants reach a mutual agreement and keep people in their homes.
Support for Rough Sleepers and the Homeless
The Government has announced an extra £10 million in funding for local authorities in England to continue their work to accommodate rough sleepers in the pandemic. The funding will target rough sleepers who previously refused help and ensure as many rough sleepers as possible are registered with a GP and hence have access to vaccinations as these are rolled out.
For further details see press release Extra covid protections for rough sleepers and renters

CWAG Clienting Survey – Feedback and Next Steps

At the end of last year, CWAG surveyed members on their ALMO clienting arrangements and approach to managing regulatory compliance and risk. A summary of key findings from the survey is available on the CWAG website.
To take this forward, CWAG is proposing a joint piece of work with the NFA which will consider the implications of changes to regulation on the client function and showcase good-practice, for both councils and ALMOs to learn from, and promote RSH understanding of the sector.
If your council would be interested in volunteering to contribute case studies to this project, please contact the Policy Officer.

Government Announces Reform of Leasehold

In response to recommendations made by the Law Commission in July last year, the Government has announced a fundamental overhaul of English Property Law. Legislation to reform leasehold will be introduced in the upcoming session of Parliament.
Millions of leaseholders will be given the right to extend their lease by a maximum term of 990 years at zero ground rent. These changes mean that any leaseholder who chooses to extend the lease on their home will no longer pay any ground rent to the freeholder, a change that could save them thousands, to tens of thousands of pounds.
An online calculator will be introduced to determine how much the leaseholder will need to pay to extend their lease or buy their freehold. This aims to stop freeholders quoting unreasonable and inflated prices.
The government will also set up a Commonhold Council, to begin the process of moving to a commonhold system for flats. Commonhold involves buyers of flats owning the freehold to their individual property and forming a management company with other residents in their block – thereby putting themselves in control of service charges and removing the need for third-party freeholders and management companies.

Ombudsman launches reports setting out landlord performance on tenant complaints in 2019/20

There are now two new reports available on the Ombudsman website which form part of the drive towards greater openness and transparency around landlord performance and complaints:
Performance Reports for 2019/20 show individual landlord performance, including the categories of complaints received, decision outcomes, types of order issued and timeliness in complying with the orders. The reports also include comparisons with average performance of similar landlords by type and size. Individual landlord performance reports 2019/20
Geographical analysis of determinations by region 2019/20 – This report maps the complaints dealt with by the Ombudsman over the year and highlights some interesting regional differences, for example Greater London accounts for almost half of all investigations whilst rates for other regions are broadly similar despite different social housing stock profiles. Regional report 2019/20

CWAG Finance and Business Planning Meeting

The annual CWAG Finance and Business Planning Meeting took place on 13th January 2021 over Teams, which enabled more colleagues to attend this year. The meeting was led by Steve Partridge and other colleagues from Savills.
In the first session Steve navigated us through the key HRA business planning challenges and drivers in the current policy environment including the Social Housing White Paper, Right to Buy and stock replacement, the new Rent Standard, Covid19 pressures and more…
This was followed by a session focussed on the investment challenges involved in decarbonisation, building safety and Decent Homes 2.  
Finally, we were joined by Kelsey Walker who outlined the implications of a stronger consumer regulator for councils with ALMOs, highlighting the need for local authorities to understand their direct responsibility for ensuring tenant safety and delivering compliance with consumer standards.
The presentation slides and other material are available on the CWAG website