The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has launched a consultation seeking views on proposals to introduce regulations to enable victims of domestic abuse who need to move to another local authority district to escape domestic abuse to qualify for an allocation of social housing in the new area.
The consultation will also examine how local authorities are making use of the existing legislation and guidance to support victims who wish to move within and across local authority boundaries.
The consultation, Local connection requirements for social housing for victims of domestic abuse, covers:
- Current priority given to domestic abuse victims for social housing allocations
- Social housing allocation qualification criteria for domestic abuse victims
- Scope of proposed regulations for removing residency requirements and local connection tests for domestic abuse victims who apply for social housing
- Ensuring a connection between housing allocation and domestic abuse
- Support for victims across the United Kingdom
- Exemption from residency and local connection tests for domestic abuse victims across different housing tenures
- Introducing accompanying statutory guidance alongside proposed regulations.
- Joint working between local authorities.
The consultation runs until 10 May 2022. The proposals relate to England only.
In the introduction to the consultation the DLUHC said: “During passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill [which received Royal Assent on 29 April 2021] the government gave a commitment to consult on regulations to disapply local connection tests for victims of domestic abuse who apply for social housing. The purpose of local connection tests as part of the qualification criteria for social housing allows local authorities to prioritise applicants who can demonstrate a close association with their local area.
“Local connection is usually established where people have lived in an area for at least 6 months out of the previous 12 months or 3 years out of the previous 5 years, or where the applicant may have well-established family or local associations to an area.
“The government has already set clear guidance that it is not reasonable or practical for domestic abuse victims to be required to satisfy a local connection test in order to qualify for social housing as they often have fled from another local authority where they were previously a resident. This means that councils are already expected to take account of special circumstances such as this, by making provision for appropriate exceptions on local connection tests for abuse victims. Councils also retain discretion to deal with individual cases where there are exceptional circumstances.”
However, the Department said it was concerned that victims were still being denied social housing allocations because they had no local connection.
“Often, victims who have escaped to a refuge need to resettle in a new area as they are still at risk in the area they fled. This is especially important given we know that the majority of victims who were placed in a refuge came from a different local authority area to the refuge they moved to,” it said.
“We therefore consider that the use and appropriateness of statutory guidance should be reviewed. We want to consider the pros and cons of introducing regulations to prevent local authorities from applying local connection tests to domestic abuse victims, as well as assessing the scope of the regulations, and the circumstances in which such exemptions should apply.”
The DLUHC has also launched a second consultation after concerns were also raised during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 over the current rules on joint tenancies, which mean that victims of domestic abuse who are in a joint tenancy with their abuser can be vulnerable to the threat of being made homeless by their abuser. "Should the victim want to stay in the family home, there is currently no straightforward means to remove the abuser from the tenancy and remove the risk of homelessness," it said.
The Government said it had been "carefully considering these issues", adding that the Consultation on the impacts of joint tenancies on victims of domestic abuse "will enable us to better understand the complex legal and practical issues".
It is therefore seeking views on the impacts of the law on joint tenancies on victims of domestic abuse in the social rented sector. The Department said it was interested in whether:
- perpetrators are using their ability to end a joint tenancy to threaten the victim with homelessness;
- victims feel trapped in their joint tenancy with the perpetrator;
- the current guidance for social landlords is sufficient to support victims in joint tenancies; and
- the law on transferring joint tenancies is functioning successfully for victims.
This consultation also runs until 10 May 2022.