The Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill received Royal Assent on 10th May 2018, and so is now an Act of Parliament. Politicians of all parties welcomed the new law, saying it will “protect lifetime tenants who have to flee their home” (Heather Wheeler, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government) and “do a large amount of good for many domestic abuse victims across the country” (Melanie Onn, Great Grimsby, Labour). The debate in Parliament talked about removing a key barrier that prevents domestic abuse victims from leaving their perpetrator.
If so, that is to be welcomed.
But it is also important to know that various details and concerns have been left until the guidance is published.
One significant amendment that was not passed was about new housing association tenancies. Many women experiencing domestic abuse will move to a housing association property – including in areas where all the social housing is housing association and not council housing.
However, the Government limited the Act to local authorities, and said “housing associations will continue to have the freedom, which they have now, to offer lifetime tenancies wherever they consider it appropriate” (Heather Wheeler).
Some housing associations are developing good practice. For example, Gentoo, a housing association that provides over 29,000 homes in North East England, has recently produced a report showing how good practice by housing associations on domestic abuse makes financial as well as moral sense. But others are not so good.
So, what about housing associations? – we’ll have to wait and see… The Government has left it that “We expect housing associations to take very seriously their responsibilities for people fleeing domestic violence and abuse” (Heather Wheeler).