Two new pre-action Housing Protocols introduced: Social Possession and Housing Conditions

Two new pre-action protocols were introduced on 13 January 2020. These were a new and revised pre-action protocol for possession claims by social housing landlords and a new pre-action protocol for housing condition cases in England.

The new Pre-Action Housing Condition Protocol brings small changes to fully incorporate the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

This new protocol is replacing what was previously the Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Disrepair (Wales still use the old disrepair version.) This comes after the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 was introduced.

The main differences thus far are the words “housing disrepair” being replaced with “housing conditions.” And, in the pre-action letter of claim, the word “repairs” has been replaced with “works” throughout.

Furthermore, in ‘Annex A: Letter of Claim’, the ‘Housing Conditions’ section has been added and the ‘Claims’ section has been slightly amended. There are also some changes in ‘Annex B- Letter of Instruction to Expert.’

The protocol applies to residential property in England (Wales continues to use the older version) and relates to claims by tenants in respect of poor housing conditions. It continues its many objectives which include avoiding unnecessary litigation, encouraging landlords to carry out their remedial works responsibilities and giving guidance on the instruction of experts.

The protocol should be followed in disputes over the condition of housing in England.

The new and revised pre-action protocol for possession claims by social housing landlords resolves some contradictions in the previous version

For this new and revised pre-action protocol, the main changes are in Part 3. It now applies to claims brought by social landlords, and if they prove their case, the court must (in principle) grant possession. The protocol does not apply to claims concerning long leases, but Part 3 makes it clear that it applies to mandatory grounds and non-secure tenancies.

Part 3 seeks to ensure that, in cases where human rights, public law or equality law issues are or may be raised, the required information is before the Court at the first hearing. This is so that issues of proportionality may be dealt with as soon as possible, if appropriate, or that appropriate directions for trial may be given.

At Paragraph 2.12, changes have been made so that not less than 10 days before the hearing, the landlord should disclose what knowledge it possesses of the tenant’s housing benefit or universal credit (housing element), as well as provide up-to-date rent statements, to the tenant.

Ultimately, the protocol continues to encourage pre-action contact between the Landlord and Tenant which can enable parties to avoid litigation or can allow time in court to be used more efficiently if litigation does go ahead.