Part 7 of the Bill is a collection of important measures, although there is perhaps not a common theme running through them other than that. The clause relates to secure tenancies and contributes towards the Government’s wider aim to support victims of domestic abuse to leave their abusive circumstances, and to ensure that they and their families have the stability and security they need and deserve.
Clause 65 does two things. First, it will ensure that victims of domestic abuse who have or had a lifetime social tenancy, and who have had to flee their current home to escape abuse, will retain the security of a lifetime tenancy in their new social home where they are granted a new tenancy by a local authority. The provisions apply to all local authorities in England and protect all lifetime social tenants in such circumstances, regardless of whether they hold a secure local authority tenancy or an assured tenancy with a private registered provider of social housing—usually a housing association.
Secondly, the clause will safeguard domestic abuse victims who hold a joint lifetime tenancy and who want to continue living in their home after the perpetrator has moved out or been removed from the property. It does this by providing that, if the local authority grants them a new sole tenancy, it must be a lifetime tenancy. The provisions apply when the tenant is a victim of domestic abuse, and they extend to situations where a member of the household—for example, a child—has suffered domestic abuse. In the year to the end of March 2019, nearly 1,500 local authority lettings were made to social tenants who cited domestic violence as the main reason they left their former social home. Although that is a small proportion of new tenants overall, the provisions would protect more than 1,000 households affected by domestic abuse.
The measures largely mirror current provisions in the Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Act 2018. That Act, which delivers on a 2017 manifesto commitment, ensures that when the mandatory fixed-term tenancy provisions in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 are brought into force, the security of tenure of victims of domestic abuse will be protected. After listening carefully to the concerns of social housing residents, the Government announced in August 2018 that we had decided not to implement the mandatory fixed-term tenancy provisions at that time. In order to ensure that victims of domestic abuse are protected, we also announced that we would legislate to put in place similar protections for victims of domestic abuse where, as is the case now, local authorities offer fixed-term tenancies at their discretion; the clause gives effect to that commitment. The clause also amends the definition of “domestic abuse” in the 2018 Act to bring it in line with the definition in this provision.