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When everyone has a home

Housing and debt helpline for Northern Ireland – 028 9024 5640

October 2018

The Court of Appeal for England & Wales has found that a local authority failed to comply with its Public Sector Equality Duty and erred in its decision that an applicant for homelessness assistance was not homeless because it was reasonable to expect her to remain in her home. Victoria Taylor, a recent Queen's University Graduate who is currently undertaking an LLM in Human Rights and Criminal Justice and volunteering with Housing Rights, discusses the case. 

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Homelessness, Case law, Legal
Picture of chancellor's red box

Yesterday’s budget contained a number of measures designed to mitigate some of the most controversial aspects of Universal Credit. Here’s a quick run through of the most relevant housing and welfare announcements.

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Benefits, Welfare Reform

The Department for Communities has issued guidance on the effect of a recent upper tribunal decision concerning the meaning of the phrase “A person is responsible for a child or qualifying young person who normally lives with them”, which appears in the Universal Credit legislation.

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Benefits, Practical tips, Case law, Legal
Image of housing benefit application form and electricity meter cards

The UK Upper Tribunal has found that a First Tier Tribunal erred in law by deciding that a person who sold his former home and rented it back could not receive Housing Benefit. In an important decision, the court ruled that the test of whether someone could continue to occupy their home without relinquishing ownership is one of practical compulsion, rather than legal compulsion and does not necessitate that the lender has started legal action to recover possession of the property.

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Benefits, Practical tips, Affordability, Legal

The Housing Executive has published the results of its analysis of the costs of poor housing in Northern Ireland. The report suggests that it would cost approximately £305million to eliminate category 1 hazards across Northern Ireland's housing stock, but suggests that such costs would be recovered within 8 years via reduced NHS costs as a result of improved housing. 

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Regulation, Social Tenancies, Affordability

Regulations were issued in August expanding the existing capital disregards relating to benefit arrears. Capital, resulting from a benefit arrear payable as a result of an error or on a point of law can now be disregarded for the lifetime of the benefit award. Previously, such capital could only have been disregarded for a maximum period of 52 weeks.

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Benefits, Legislation, Welfare Reform

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has recently launched guidance for Departmental staff on what changes of circumstance trigger natural migration to Universal Credit.

Universal Credit is being rolled out at present and replaces the following benefits:

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Benefits, Welfare Reform

Community Housing Cymru, a body representing housing associations and housing mutuals in Wales, has reported that Universal Credit is increasingly leading to social housing tenants falling into arrears. 

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Benefits, Welfare Reform
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In a comprehensive research paper, Dr Julie Rugg, keynote speaker at our upcoming conference on the private rented sector, highlights concerns that private tenants in receipt of benefits are increasingly having to live in substandard accommodation.

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An estimated additional 177,000 properties in England are now subject to mandatory House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing as a result of the changes brought about by the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018.

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Legislation, Outside NI, Private Tenancies
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Housing Rights Autumn training programme is aimed at making doing your job easier. We run courses based on the feedback we get from housing professionals about the issues they are dealing with everyday.

The introduction of Universal Credit continues to be a key area of concern and we have a number of courses that will equip you to navigate the new system.

The Scottish Government's 2018 Annual Report on Welfare Reform has estimated that UK Government welfare cuts mean that £3.7 billion less is going to be on social security in Scotland by 2020/21. Additionally, the report find that reduced benefit spending is a key driver of increased poverty rates for lone parent families and families with three or more children. 

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Benefits, Outside NI, Welfare Reform

The NI Public Services Ombudsman has recently published criteria for investigations the Ombudsman conducts under Own Initiative powers, which came into effect in April this year.

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Regulation

Following a successful pilot Housing Rights has secured a contract to provide a free telephone and email advice service for landlords for the next three years.

Funding for the service, which is provided by the Department for Communities, means landlords can access free confidential advice to help meet their legal requirements.  The “Landlord Advice” service aims to promote a professional and well managed private rented sector that is good for both landlords and tenants.

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Regulation, Private Tenancies

AirBnB is an online platform, which helps people, largely tourists, find suitable short-term accommodation. For many homeowners or tenants with  a spare room, AirBnB has been a welcome stream of additional income, introducing them to tourists who are willing to pay to spend a night or two in a local home.

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Regulation, Practical tips