Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Government sets out right to transfer rules

Long-awaited plans to give tenants’ groups the right to take ownership of their estates have been published.

The Communities and Local Government department yesterday published its ‘right to transfer’ regulations, which will come before parliament in the autumn. The regulations will bring into force section 34a of the Housing Act 1985, which forces councils to co-operate with tenants’ stock transfer requests.

The rules have been ‘streamlined’ following responses to a public consultation on an earlier draft of the regulations, although a controversial mechanism to allow the secretary of state to halt transfers in some circumstances has been retained.

Under the plans, tenant groups can serve a notice on a council saying they want their homes to be transferred to a new housing association. If certain criteria are met the council would have to co-operate, by providing facilities to help tenants carry out a feasibility study, agreeing a timetable for transfer and to provide facilities and information to help the tenants’ develop their transfer option.

Following a consultation last year, a number of changes have been made to the regulations.

A requirement for an assessment of the competency of the tenant group has been dropped. The CLG has accepted that this is unnecessary as a new tenant-led landlord would have to be assessed by the Homes and Communities Agency. The CLG has also removed a requirement for an arbitrator to become involved if a council rejects a transfer proposal. Instead tenants can complain to the secretary of state.

The CLG has increased the minimum properties to be transferred in a proposal from 25 to 100 and has clarified that a majority of secure tenants are needed for proposals to go through.

The regulations include measures to allow the secretary of state to halt transfers in circumstances where there is ‘clear evidence of a significant detrimental effect on the local authority’s ability to provide housing or other services in the wider authority area’. The department rejected calls for more detailed criteria for such an intervention as it does not wish to ‘fetter’ the discretion of the secretary of state.

The regulations state: ‘An authority can object only where it can show clear evidence of a significant detrimental effect on the local authority’s ability to provide housing or other services in the wider authority area or on the regeneration of the area.’

Tenant groups have previously complained that this allows councils to have tenant-led stock transfer requests blocked too easily.

Mark Prisk, housing minister, said: ‘The new right to transfer is a win-win offer for tenants, giving them the chance to decide who owns and manages the homes they live in, and a commitment to new affordable homes being built in their area.

‘I want to see tenants making full use of the rights at their disposal, and councils standing ready to work with them to maximise any deal’s potential to meet local housing need.’

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