Friday, 24 February 2017

Law welcomed but fears remain councils can easily override tenant wishes

Tenants wary of ‘right to transfer’ regulations

Tenant groups have cautiously welcomed long-awaited rules on requesting stock transfers - but warned they may still allow councils to override tenants’ wishes too easily.

The government on Tuesday published the final version of the ‘right to transfer’ regulations, which will be decided on in parliament this autumn. This will implement section 34a of the Housing Act 1985, which forces councils to co-operate with tenants’ stock transfer requests.

The legislation was amended in December 2008, meaning the final regulations have taken nearly five years to appear.

The rules have been ‘streamlined’ following a public consultation, but 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 saying they want their homes to be transferred to a new housing association. If certain criteria are met the council would then have to co-operate.

However a council can object to the secretary of state ‘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’.

Jonathan Rosenberg, an activist advising tenant associations in London, said: ‘It contains a huge caveat that gives carte blanche to an authority to dictate how best to regenerate an area rather than a local community.’

The National Federation of Tenant Management Organisations previously voiced concerns the regulations would not be robust enough to prevent determined councils from denying tenants’ transfer requests. Its members will meet to examine the latest version.

Trevor Bell, co-ordinator at NFTMO, welcomed the regulations but added: ‘We will only find out if they are significantly robust when some of our members start to use them.’

Mr Bell said no more than a ‘handful’ of TMOs had expressed interest in using the regulations. Nigel Minto, head of housing at London Councils, said he didn’t expect a huge demand because of the costs involved.

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