HC Deb 20 May 2004 vol 421 cc60-1WS
The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill)

The Government has today issued a consultation paper seeking the views of social landlords and tenant groups on its proposals to update guidance issued in 1993 on the exception from the right to buy scheme of homes that are particularly suitable for occupation by elderly persons.

From the inception of the right to buy in 1980, certain kinds of property have been excepted from the scheme. These are listed in paragraph 11 of schedule 5 to the Housing Act 1985. One of these exceptions is that a landlord may deny a tenant the right to buy if his home is particularly suitable for occupation by elderly persons, having regard to its location, size, design, heating system and other features paragraph 11 also provides that a tenant denied the right to buy on these grounds may appeal to the Secretary of State. A joint Department of the Environment and Welsh Office circular, issued in 1993, provides guidance on the main points on which the Secretary of State will normally expect to be satisfied when determining such appeals.

The Government's Housing Bill proposes that such appeals by tenants living in England should, in future, be determined by a residential property tribunal rather than by the Secretary of State. This will provide administrative benefits but will make no substantive difference to landlords or to tenants who appeal under paragraph 11. Such appeals in Wales will continue to be determined by the National Assembly for Wales. The Government do not propose to change the terms of the exception in paragraph 11 in any way.

In support of this transfer of jurisdiction, the Government proposes to review and update the guidance in the 1993 circular. Clearer guidance will benefit both tenants and landlords by reducing ambiguities that have led to unnecessary work, disagreements, and disappointment. Among other things, the Government proposes that landlords should explain the effect of the paragraph 11 exclusion to their tenants, and that elderly tenants who are being rehoused should be advised if in their landlords' view the right to buy would be unlikely to apply to the properties that they are being offered.

The responses to the consultation paper will be taken into account in preparing the revised guidance. It is intended that the new circular will be issued by the end of 2004.

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