There has never been a more exciting – or challenging – time to be working with registered providers. Deregulation has not only opened up many more innovative ways to deliver affordable housing to communities across the country but is also the driver for a change in the way registered providers manage themselves.
Funding changes and welfare reform have accelerated the transformation of the sector by encouraging a much more commercial outlook among RPs. Our extensive experience of advising businesses across all legal disciplines and our in depth knowledge of the housing sector is a winning combination. Whatever you are trying to achieve, we can help you.
Our sector knowledge
Our social housing team operates at the sector’s coalface: in a recent example, one of our partners, Carol Matthews, a leading housing lawyer, was instrumental in lobbying for the repeal of S.133 restriction in title, now incorporated as an amendment in the Housing and Planning Act 2016. As a result of her pioneering work, the borrowing capacity of many of our LSVT clients has been significantly improved by the consequent uplift in the value of their portfolios.
But we know that funding is just one part of the picture: the move away from government regulation and grant, to self-regulation, value for money, and an imperative for RPs to ‘sweat their assets’ has created a different set of pressures. You are being encouraged to balance risk taking with good governance and financial viability – but in a risk intolerant environment. The senior members of the team, led by Andrew Dudley, are all recognised by both Chambers UK and the Legal 500 as well-respected lawyers with long-established reputations in the sector.
How can we help you?
It is more important than ever that you have the right professional advice that meets the competing demands of the law makers, government, funders and most importantly your customers. You need legal advisers who can help you run your business more efficiently, understand the different types of registered provider, and help you navigate the legacy of over 50 years of social housing legislation (particularly critical for advising LSVTs).
Our legal team focuses on your business as a whole, allowing us to use our knowledge of the law and our many years of commercial experience to help you manage all the issues you encounter in the course of running your business.
We are completely flexible in our approach and adjust our service to suit you and your changing needs. Sometimes you might want bespoke advice on a particular area of law; at other times you require volume work carried out cost-effectively. We can also work with your in house team to deliver a project from beginning to end. We have the expertise, cost base and commitment to deliver what you need and how you need it.
And it’s not just our unrivalled understanding of the housing sector and its history that is important to our clients but also the fact that our housing team works very closely with all the relevant legal disciplines.
Corporate & governance
Registered providers have now been given the freedom to be more commercial in their activities, but that still comes with “hidden” regulation.You are expected to stress test all your decisions and make the right ones.Over 50 years of direct experience helping the social housing sector and the private corporate market means our team are ideally placed to help you with corporate and governance advice. You can benefit from the knowledge and expertise of our 16 non-contentious corporate and governance lawyers, who are supported by a range of other legal specialists across the firm.
We can support you with safeguarding, data management, protection and security through our unique 'Data Action Network' supported by the Information Commissioner's Office, the network is specifically designed to help housing providers by giving access to knowledge, legal advice and risk-based support about data protection and security matters.
Finance and treasury
Registered providers are being challenged on a daily basis to get the most out of their assets in the best interests of their customers and to build more homes. One way to do this is to raise private finance, and our team pushes the boundaries to help you do so.
We helped pioneer the repeal of section 133 of the Housing Act 1988 which opens the door to increasing the value of some of your assets overnight.We have gone further devising a methodology that helps achieve significant increases in value. The result –you have a healthier balance sheet and the ability to borrow more
When it comes to raising finance, our team has devised bespoke trackers designed to make your life easier in what can be a very time consuming and stressful project.We can also help assess your stock establishing early on whether it is “ready to charge “
Housing management teams face daily challenges, we know this and have a specialist team in place to support you in dealing with these issues. We work with registered providers with a range of stock including general needs, supported and retirement homes, affordable and market rents, and long leasehold to find cost-effective approaches to solve problems.
To help you, we deliver 'lunch and learn' meetings covering a plethora of housing, property or asset management related topics. We can arrange either, one-off, or a series of sessions to suit your individual needs.
Private rented sector
The private rented sector is a fantastic opportunity for you. However, some significant pitfalls relate to the management of property and managing your tenants. With our help, you can avoid the pitfalls and resolve issues swiftly to maximise returns.
We can offer you a safe pair of experienced hands which enables you to focus on your business and maximise the return on your investment.
Property & construction
These days your property teams need support from lawyers who are not only experienced in registered provider property work but increasingly private acquisitions for open market sales. They also need to call upon more varied skills, and that is where we can help. Our property lawyers have extensive experience of registered provider and private housebuilder work. Our team covers all forms of site acquisition and RP disposals and includes specialist planning and construction lawyers. We also have specialists in strategic land acquisition and disposal
Our clients range from national registered providers to smaller, regional housing associations to private developers. We assist them on a range of developments from sites acquired for “land and build” purposes to accommodate mixed tenure affordable housing units through to pepper potted units acquired under a Section 106 Agreement and open market sales.
Employment and HR
We understand your greatest business asset is your people, as employment law solicitors, we believe our approach is different. We take our time to ensure we understand your business and the vital role your employees play, which allows us to offer practical advice that not only ensures that you manage your employees in a legally compliant manner, but it is also in tune with the way you need to do business.
Our approach is to offer timely, commercial and pragmatic advice along with pro-active account management and transparent, flexible billing arrangements - all aspects of our five-star service.
- Acting for London-based RP on a £9m housing redevelopment and refurbishment project which involved: drafting of the bespoke building contract, decanting of tenants and leaseholders with compensation and homes’ loss payments, S106 planning agreements and nominations arrangements. We advised on a complete refinancing of the RP which needed to integrate with a significant local authority grant funding arrangement requiring an intercreditor agreement with the banks and the local authority.
- Negotiated IT contract with supplier of integrated housing management IT system on behalf of RP. The cutting-edge system provides a range of online services to its tenants including the ability to lodge repair issues and complaints via an app, make online rent enquiries, and provide information in pre-tenancy checks.
- Advising on the acquisition of a residential care home by a registered provider.
- Advising a client on a sensitive rule change necessitated by the provisions of S93 Housing & Planning Act 2016
- Charging of 1500 properties across the North East including stock with a mix of tenures, planning constraints, and title issues to resolve prior to charging.
- Undertaken property security work for over 2,500 properties to support bonds worth over £550m, both completing in one month in early 2018
- Dealt with the acquisition and disposal of properties for two separate RPs at a total value of £33m as part of stock rationalisation exercises
- Advised on the uplift of RPs portfolio of 5000 properties from EUV to MVSTT. This increased their borrowing capacity by £36m on LSVT stock as a result of the repeal of the S133 restrictions.