27 Oct 2022

CIH response to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities report on exempt accommodation

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) welcome the cross-party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee report on exempt accommodation and support services published today.

The Committee report highlights important failings, detailing a system that is a ‘complete mess’ and failing too many residents and local communities, conclusive of the written evidence CIH submitted to the committee, and the oral evidence provided on 27 April this year.

CIH support the Committee’s report recommendations that the government:

  • Introduce compulsory national minimum standards for exempt accommodation, including on referrals, care and support, and quality of housing
  • Give local councils the powers and resources to enforce these standards
  • Require all exempt accommodation providers to be registered
  • Create a National Oversight Committee to join-up existing regulators and mend the current ‘patchwork regulation’ which has too many holes
  • Ensure the providers of exempt accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse have recognised expertise to provide specialist support and a safe environment
  • Review the system of exempt housing benefit claims and clamp down on the exploitation of the lease-based exempt accommodation model for profit

Sam Lister, Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) policy and practice officer, who provided evidence to the Committee, said:
“The report is conclusive of our findings which showed the current systems of regulation, of which there are several, are not well coordinated, leaving gaps that unscrupulous landlords can and do exploit. In particular, registered provider status - with which comes certain privileges, - notably exemption from Housing in Multiple Occupation licensing - is actually being used as shelter from regulation. It is these gaps, combined with the fact that exempt accommodation allows landlords to charge full market rents safe in the knowledge that those rents will be fully covered by housing benefit, that is driving the abuse. We are pleased the Committee has recognised this. A key aim of any legislation to tackle the problem must be to close these regulatory gaps.

"We were shocked by the evidence to the committee that “organisations with no expertise are able to target survivors of domestic abuse and their children and provide neither specialist support nor an appropriate or safe environment.” We fully support the Committee’s recommendation where exempt accommodation is being used to house domestic abuse survivors. The higher rents housing benefit (exempt status) should only be available where the landlord can provide evidence that they have “recognised expertise and meet the standards in Part 4 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021”.

In a separate but related development to the Committee’s inquiry, CIH are working with Crisis and LUHC Committee Member Bob Blackman MP on the Private Members’ Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill to ensure that it meets these objectives. The Committee will be conducting pre-legislative scrutiny on the Bill on the 9 November and the Bill is due for its second reading on 18 November.