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The Housing Act (2004)

A summary of the key stages in the introduction of the Housing Act 2004 and its main provisions. Includes links to the Act and explanatory notes.


The Housing Act is a key piece of legislation, containing wide-ranging measures of reform to help protect the most vulnerable in society while creating a fairer housing market for all those who own, rent or let residential property.  It will also strengthen the Government's drive to meet its 2010 decent homes target.

In March 2003, the draft Housing Bill was published for public consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny. The ODPM Select Committee report on the draft Housing Bill was published in July 2003, with the Government response to this report published on 10 November 2003.

Regulatory Impact Assessments were prepared for each of the main provisions of the Act. These set out the impact each proposed provision will have on business, charities or voluntary bodies.

In April 2004 The Housing Bill Race Equality Impact Assessment was published for consultation. The response to that consultation was published in October 2004.

Following the successful completion of its passage through parliament, the Housing Act 2004 received Royal Assent on Thursday 18 November 2004. 

The Act is accompanied by explanatory notes that are intended to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified, and who have no specialised knowledge of the matters dealt with in the Act.

Summary of main provisions

Once it had received Royal Assent, Communities and Local Government (then ODPM) produced factsheets setting out the Act's main provisions. Links to the factsheets or related pages are provided for the main provisions:

  • new Housing health and safety rating system to replace the housing fitness standard. This will help local authorities target the worst-condition properties, often housing some of the most vulnerable people
  • Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) with mandatory licensing for larger, higher-risk HMOs and discretionary powers to license smaller, multiple-occupied properties
  • enabling local authorities to tackle low housing demand and the difficulties of anti-social behaviour through new powers to Selective Licensing
  • local authority's duties and powers to make management orders
  • the introduction of The Home Information Pack to bring together, at the start of the home buying and selling process, important information (such as a home condition report) which, at present, is collected piecemeal in the weeks and months after an offer has been accepted
  • changes to the Right to Buy to tackle profiteering, including extending the initial qualification period for right to buy from two to five years and extending from three to five years the period during which discount must be repaid when the property is resold
  • six measures recommended by the Park and mobile homes Working Party
  • increasing the effectiveness of powers to regulate Registered Social Landlords
  • provision for the Housing Corporation and National Assembly for Wales to pay grants to companies that are not registered social landlords;
  • enabling local authorities to tackle anti-social behaviour (ASB) by: extending an introductory tenancy beyond a  twelve month period; refusing a mutual exchange application because of ASB; and preventing a tenant completing a RTB purchase on ASB grounds
  • enables local authorities to apply for an Interim Empty Dwelling Management Order ("interim EDMO" - see Frequently asked questions ) where a dwelling has been vacant (for at least six months) long-term
  • provisions to ensure that where landlords, or their agents, require Tenancy deposit protection, those deposits will be safeguarded by a scheme sponsored by the government
  • allows a Residential Property Tribunal to impose a Rent Repayment Order (RRO - a financial penalty) upon a landlord who, without reasonable excuse, manages or lets a property which ought to be licensed under Part 2 or 3 of the Act and is not licensed
  • provisions to require district councils to assess the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers in their area, and to produce a strategy detailing how these needs can be met
  • a provision to update by order, the statutory overcrowding provisions
  • extending Delivering housing adaptations to all those occupying caravans as their only or main residence
  • a Social Housing Ombudsman for Wales to investigate complaints against social landlords in Wales (Further information available from the National Assembly for Wales - email. housinginternet@wales.gsi.gov.uk)

The Housing Act 2004 is accompanied by explanatory notes and Regulatory Impact Assessments of each main element.

Our approach to legislation has been informed by extensive research and consultation. The Housing Bill was published in draft in March 2003 for public consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny. The ODPM Select Committee's report and recommendations helped finalise the Bill ready for introduction.

There have been other earlier consultation exercises: on the home information pack (described then as the seller's pack) in 1998; on HMO licensing in 1999, and on the HHSRS and selective licensing of landlords in 2001.

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