Government launches consultations on housing and domestic abuse

16 February 2022

Domestic abuse can frequently lead to people becoming homeless. According to Government figures, domestic abuse remains one of the top three causes of people becoming homeless, with 11.6% of households citing domestic abuse as their main reason for being homeless during 2020/2021.

On 15 February 2022, the Government launched two public consultations seeking views on proposed amendments to the law on accessing and maintaining social housing for victims of domestic abuse.

Both consultations will run for 12 weeks until 10 May 2022.

Local connection in homelessness applications

People fleeing domestic abuse may not qualify for social housing in the area they flee to because they do not have a local connection (usually meaning that they have not lived there for long enough and do not have well-established connections to the area).

Government guidance already encourages local authorities to take account of this and to make appropriate provision for victims of abuse who do not have a local connection. But the Government believes that too many local authorities are still denying allocations of social housing to victims of domestic abuse because they lack a local connection.

The Government is inviting views on whether it should introduce regulations to exempt domestic abuse victims from needing a local connection, including:

  • Whether there should be a time limit on how long after fleeing abuse the exemption should apply and, if so, how long;
  • Or whether, instead of a time-limited exemption, people fleeing abuse should be exempt from having a local connection indefinitely so long as they can show that they moved to the new area for reasons connected with domestic abuse.

The Government is also seeking views on whether it should produce further statutory guidance to help local authorities in dealing with homelessness/housing applications in cases of domestic abuse.

Joint tenancies

When a couple have a joint social housing tenancy, serious legal problems can arise when there has been domestic abuse:

  • If just one joint tenant serves a notice to quit on the landlord, the tenancy will come to an end. A perpetrator of domestic abuse can therefore threaten to end the tenancy against their partner’s wishes or can even serve a notice to quit and make their partner homeless.
  • If the victim of domestic abuse flees the property, they can find themselves still legally responsible for any rent arrears which the abusive partner accrues or for any damage to the property which the abusive partner causes.

The Government is seeking views on how common these behaviours are and whether current legal tools are adequate to address them. Current legal tools include:

  • Obtaining a temporary injunction to prevent a perpetrator of domestic abuse from serving a notice to quit on a joint tenancy;
  • A local authority landlord evicting a perpetrator of domestic abuse where their partner has fled, using ground 2A of schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1985;
  • Where a victim of domestic abuse has served a notice to quit and ended a joint tenancy because of the abuse, allowing that person to return to the property under a new sole tenancy;
  • Section 81ZA of the Housing Act 1985 (which was inserted by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021) which requires a local authority to grant a secure tenancy to a person who had to give up a secure or assured non-shorthold tenancy because of domestic abuse and needs new accommodation for reasons related to the abuse.

The consultations can be responded to at:

This analysis was first published on Lexis®PSL.