Homelessness Law and Practice – COVID-19 Update

Speaker: Sian McGibbon
Chambers: 4-5 Gray's Inn Square

OUTLINE
 What are the key measures taken to prevent homelessness and protect the existing homeless population during the pandemic?
 What are the implications of the crisis for the application of the existing homelessness legal regime;
 How are the courts handling homelessness cases in practice during the emergency period?

BACKGROUND
 The impact of Covid-19 on the homeless has been significant but largely unquantified
 The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has launched an inquiry to examine:
 How effective has the support provided by MHCLG and other Government departments in addressing the impact of COVID-19 on those in the private rented sector, rough sleepers, and the homeless?
 What problems remain a current and immediate concern for these groups?
 What might be the immediate post-lockdown impacts for these groups, and what action is needed to help with these?
KEY MEASURES TO PREVENT HOMELESSNESS
 Stay on possession proceedings
 Notice period extended to three months
 Extension of the Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims to the cover claims by private landlords
 Mortgage holidays for buy-to-let landlords and owner occupiers
 Increase of housing benefit and universal credit

KEY MEASURES TO PROTECT THE HOMELESS
 Exemptions from restrictions on movement for the homeless
 Strategy to ‘bring in those on the streets to protect their health and stop wider transmission’ set out by the Minister for Local Government and Homelessness
 £3.2 million in emergency funding for local authorities to support rough sleepers and vulnerable homeless people
 Use of third party accommodation including hotels and B&Bs
 Exemptions are available for providers who would have otherwise been required to close
 Social landlords continue to move tenants on from temporary accommodation
IMPLICATIONS OF COVID-19 FOR THE APPLICATION OF HOMELESSNESS LAW
 Authorities must continue to accept homelessness applications
 Housing relief duty
 Priority need
 Those categorised as being particularly vulnerable to coronavirus
 Victims of domestic violence
 Reasonableness of continued occupation
 Accommodation pending review

STATUTORY APPEALS
 Proceeding by phone
 Essential to have a channel of communication between legal representatives during the hearing
 Protocol Regarding Remote Hearings

JUDICIAL REVIEW
 Public counters at the Administrative Court Office are now closed
 Applications for immediate or urgent consideration should be made electronically to administrativecourtoffice.immediates@hmcts.x.gsi.gov.uk.
 Non-urgent claims should be sent electronically to the general court office email address administrativecourtoffice.generaloffice@hmcts.x.gsi.gov.uk.
 The Administrative Court is now working remotely by Skype or BT meet me
 Orders will be served on the parties by email

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SOCIAL CARE OMBUDSMAN
 The LGSCO has temporarily suspended all proceedings which require information from or action by local authorities or care providers
 This will inevitably impact complaints about the handling of homelessness applications

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