Thursday 5th December 2013 is a red letter day for the Right to Transfer as The Housing (Right to Transfer from a Local Authority Landlord) (England) Regulations 2013 came into force as Statutory Instrument 2013 No. 2898.
This finally gives tenants the power to use the statutory Right to Transfer granted by Parliament in 2008. The wait was frustrating but now it is here tenants cannot hang about to use it, there is only a small window to get a stock transfer through in the current round.
The tenants in Bushbury Hill (where I work) have certainly not let the grass grow under their feet. The regulations came into force 5th December and Bushbury Hill EMB served a Proposal Notice under the Right to Transfer on 6th December. There are not huge numbers of tenant groups considering this route at present and we’re not aware of any others that have acted yet so I’m going to say that Bushbury Hill EMB is the first to take this step.
How we got here
Bushbury Hill EMB made good use of the time it’s taken for the Regulations to come into force. In October members voted at an extra ordinary general meeting (EGM) in favour of serving the Proposal Notice. In November we notified all tenants of the decision and consulted them about this. As this consultation was supportive of the decision of the EGM, the Proposal Notice could be served as soon as the Regulations came into force.
Getting the RTT Proposal Notice together
As no-one has ever served an RTT Proposal Notice we are really having to blaze a trail on this. This has meant drafting a notice taking account of the Regulations, the Statutory Guidance and seeking a legal opinion.
As well as wording the Proposal Notice we had to gather supporting evidence that demonstrated that the tenant group, the houses, the area covered and the decision making process all meet the regulatory requirements. We have access to the Council’s housing management system and our internal record keeping is pretty good, but there were still omissions and anomalies that had to be found and corrected. We think we’ve crossed every “t” but as it’s never been done before, we’ll have to wait and see.
Now it is up to the Council
Now that the Proposal Notice has been served, the Council has 28 days to either accept it, reject it giving reasons or advise that it will go to the Secretary of State for a determination within 21 days. Council officers are also in the position of being the first to have to work with the RTT regulations. We have done our best to make the Proposal Notice compliant but how this will be assessed is uncertain as there is no precedent to call on.
We don’t know what can and cannot make a Proposal Notice invalid. For example the regulatory thresholds for a tenant group to be able to use the RTT are 20% of tenants as members and 20% of Secure tenants as members. Bushbury Hill EMB has membership levels at 77% & 76% respectively so we’re pretty confident that this should not be an issue. However, if for example there was a mistake in our count of +/- 1 tenant or member would this make the whole notice fail? The threshold would still be exceeded by over three times, so does the principle of de minimis apply?
The 28 days will be up on 2nd January so we should know as soon as we’re back at work in the New Year. It seems likely that 2014 will be a very interesting one for the Right to Transfer.