Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 19th March 2018.

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Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 5:30 pm, 19th March 2018

I thank the hon. Lady for mentioning Solace, which has a very good reputation across London. It is quite right that it should get a namecheck in this place.

The Bill will do two things. First, it will ensure that if victims of domestic abuse who have a lifetime social tenancy need to flee their current home to escape abuse, they will be granted a new tenancy and retain their lifetime tenancy in their new social home. It will also apply to lifetime tenants who, having fled their homes, may be considered to have lost their security of tenure, or may have lost their lifetime tenancy altogether before they are rehoused. The Bill will specifically protect all lifetime social tenants in such circumstances, whether they have a secure local authority tenancy, or an assured tenancy with a private registered provider of social housing —a housing association.

Secondly, the Bill will ensure that victims of domestic abuse who are joint lifetime tenants and want to remain in their home after the abuser has left or has been removed can be granted a new lifetime tenancy after the joint tenancy has ended. We have Baroness Lister of Burtersett to thank for her persistence in ensuring that the Bill should be extended to apply to that situation as well. The provisions will apply to all local authorities in England, and not only when the tenant is a victim of domestic abuse, but when a member of the household, such as a child, has suffered domestic abuse. The definition of domestic abuse has deliberately been drawn widely to apply not just to those who have suffered physical abuse and violence, but to victims of psychological, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.

The Bill delivers on a commitment the Government made to the House during the passage of the Housing and Planning Act 2016. We committed to ensuring that when local authorities move to fixed-term tenancies, the regulations that specify when they may grant a further lifetime tenancy would make that mandatory for victims of domestic abuse. Primary legislation is necessary for us to deliver on that commitment, and I am very pleased to be introducing it today.

I should make it clear that the Bill does not create a new requirement for local authorities to rehouse lifetime tenants who are the victims of domestic abuse, and does not require local authorities to grant a further tenancy to victims in their own homes after the perpetrator has left. However, it ensures that when a lifetime tenant is rehoused in those circumstances, or when a victim is granted a new tenancy in his or her home after the previous tenancy has ended, the victim does not lose security of tenure. The purpose is to remove an impediment that could prevent victims from leaving their abusive situations, or from taking steps to secure their safety in their current social homes. The Government are absolutely committed to supporting victims of domestic abuse.