Brixton MP Helen Hayes today (1 February) introduced “Georgia’s Law’’ to parliament in Westminster.
Designed to protect the rights of social housing tenants forced to move due to violence, it is named after one of her constituents.
“No-one should face homelessness because they or a member of their household is threatened with serious violence, yet that is exactly what happens to far too many families who are forced to make an emergency move because a member of their household is at risk,” she told MPs.
She said her Bill would protect the secure tenancy of a social housing tenant forced to move into temporary accommodation due to a threat of violence to them or a member of their household.
It would also ensure social landlords work together to identify a safe permanent home as soon as possible.
The Bill is backed by Shelter, the National Housing Federation, and MPs across party lines.
Social housing providers have no legal duty at present to give priority to rehousing tenants who are forced to make an emergency move due to a threat of violence.
Alongside the severe shortage of social homes, this can leave families already traumatised by the circumstances of their move trapped in overcrowded and unsuitable temporary accommodation, waiting for months or even years to be re-housed.
“For a family with children, becoming homeless in this way adds further instability, every child in the family and making it harder to recover from the trauma,” helen Hayes said.
Her Bill is named after her constituent, Georgia, who was placed in temporary accommodation after her teenage son was threatened by gang members who visited the family home.
Police advised Georgia that she needed to move immediately for her family’s safety.
Her housing association did not have any suitable homes available and referred her to the local authority who provided temporary accommodation.
The housing association then began proceedings to end her tenancy, effectively making her homeless and facing a very long wait to be rehoused.
After Helen Hayes intervened, the housing association accepted responsibility for Georgia’s housing needs and had since found her a new home.
However, there is no legal duty on social landlords to prioritise cases like this.
Helen Hayes’ Bill would make two important changes to current housing law:
That secure social housing tenants (whether council or housing associations) should have their tenancy rights protected in a situation in which they have to move because they, or a member of their household face a threat to safety with a right to be moved as quickly as possible to an alternative home on the same tenancy terms
That a new duty to cooperate is conferred on social landlords in circumstances where a tenant needs to move to an area outside of the area within which their current landlord holds property.
“Having to make an emergency move because someone in your family is at risk of serious violence is a terrifying and destabilising experience, affecting the whole family,” the MP said.
“My Bill seeks to minimise the trauma and instability tenants face in these circumstances by acknowledging in law that no-one should face homelessness as a result of being threatened with violence, protecting existing tenancy rights in law, and ensuring that social landlords cooperate with each other to find a new permanent home as quickly as possible.
“Tackling serious violence requires multiple solutions. Ensuring that social landlords have a duty to act to limit the harm caused by a risk of violence is an important reform in keeping our communities safe, and I hope the government will support Georgia’s Law.’
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “We wholeheartedly support the principle that anyone forced to move home due to a threat to their safety has a right to be rehoused on the same terms.
“To help identify suitable permanent accommodation for those at risk we must address the shortage of social housing.
“It is therefore essential that this Bill is backed by an increased supply of homes for social rent.”
Helen Hayes’ Bill – The Social Housing (Emergency Protection of Tenancy Rights) Bill – was introduced under the “10 minute rule” which allows a backbench MP to make their case for a new Bill in a speech lasting up to 10 minutes.