Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 177 - 7 June 2010

Monday 7 June 2010

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The Latest Housing Law News

New Housing Laws: the Queen's Speech included the statement that "A Bill will be introduced to devolve greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods and give local communities control over housing and planning decisions." That Bill is the Decentralisation and Localism Bill. It will: (1) lead to abolition of Home Improvement Packs; (2) create new trusts to make it simpler for communities to provide homes for local people; and (3) facilitate a review and possible replacement of the Housing Revenue Account basis for council housing finance. For more details, click here.

Housing Fraud: the Audit Commission report on The National Fraud Initiative 2008/9, published in May 2010, indicated that 97 units of social housing were recovered by social landlords last year using the data-matching service provided by the NFI. The report recommends that housing associations should take part in future NFI anti-fraud exercises and that the Tenant Services Authority should encourage them to do so. For a copy of the report, click here.

Accommodation for Gypsies and Other Travellers: two early measures from the new Coalition Government have serious repercussions for the Gypsy community's accommodation needs. First, the new Communities Secretary wrote to all local planning authorities on 27 May 2010 to inform them that regional planning considerations no longer need feature in consideration of planning applications. The Regional Spatial Strategies being developed to ensure sensible distribution of provision for Gypsies are to be scrapped as are the regional data collection exercises and regional plans relating to Gypsy Traveller provision. For a copy of the letter, click here. Second, the National Housing Federation has reported that the Government is to cut £30m from the Gypsy and Traveller Sites Grant. That effectively ends the programme which was designed to refurbish existing official sites. For the NHF report, click here. Concerns about these developments were raised in the House of Lords by Lord Avebury on 27 May 2010 (see Lords Debates, 27 May 2010, col 200)

Housing Benefit: the latest data for local reference rents was published on 30 May 2010. For the details and an explanation of how the data is used, click here.

Mortgage Rescue: while the Mortgage Rescue Scheme in England has "rescued" very few households, the scheme in Wales has been oversubscribed. All presently committed funding is likely to be exhausted by applications already submitted and it is reported that social landlords have been told to submit no further householder applications. For more details, click here.

Advice on Housing Law: the Community Legal Advice Service (funded by the LSC) has reported that in 2009/2010 its "specialist advisers" helped 28,328 members of the public with Housing Law problems. For the details, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

EA v GA and Westminster CC
[2010] EWCA Civ 586
27 May 2010
Two young children (aged 8 and 6) were born in Ireland and were Irish nationals. In March 2010, their mother removed them from Ireland and brought them to the UK. She had no right to remain in the UK. She had no entitlement to benefits and applied to Salford Council for help. It housed her for four weeks but then funded travel costs to London on condition that the trip was one way. Their father applied in the family court for the children's return. A judge gave directions for a hearing of the application but meanwhile directed Westminster council to house the mother and children, exercising the power in Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985 section 5. Westminster sought an order that Salford bear the costs of accommodating. The Court of Appeal held that the Act did enable an order to be made requiring a council to accommodate the family. The application should be made on notice to the council and any issue as to which council was to accommodate or pay could be decided by the family court judge.

Craftrule Ltd v 41-60 Albert Palace Mansions
[2010] EWHC 1230 (Ch)
27 May 2010
The majority of tenants occupying flats 41-60 Albert Palace Mansions set up a company to acquire the freehold of the blocks in which they lived. The freeholder claimed that the notice to enfranchise given by the company was defective because it related to 20 flats rather than to the two separate blocks of 10 flats each. The High Court held that the notice was valid. For the purposes of Leasehold Reform etc Act 2003 sections 3 and 4, the group of 20 flats comprised a "self contained part" of the overall mansion buildings even though the group was capable of further sub-division. For the judgment, click here.

Kernott v Jones
[2010] EWCA Civ 578
26 May 2010
In 1985, an unmarried couple bought a property in their joint names as their family home. In 1993 they separated. The woman remained in occupation, meeting all outgoings. In 2007 she brought a claim that she owned the entire beneficial interest in the home. It was agreed that, if the home had been sold in 1993, they would each have been entitled to a half share. The judge awarded the woman a 90% share. The man appealed. The Court of Appeal (by a majority) allowed the appeal. Joint purchase suggested equality of ownership. Nothing suggested that the parties had intended or agreed that the shares should be different if they separated and one remained in occupation. An equal share was what each was entitled to. For the judgment, click here.

Oluic v Croatia
[2010] ECHR 686
20 May 2010
Mrs Oluic was an owner occupier of part of a building. Another part of the building was being run as a bar. Mrs Oluic complained to the local authority about the noise generated by the bar, late into the night. Numerous official sound measurements were taken over a lengthy period demonstrating that noise in excess of permitted levels could be heard in her home. After legal action had proved ineffective, she complained to the European Court of Human Rights that the failure of the authorities to stop the excessive noise amounted to an infringement of her right to respect for her home (Article 8). The court held that the noise levels endured were such that the state had failed to protect her right to respect for her home. It awarded her 15,000 euros in damages, plus costs. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

Craigdale Housing Association v Scottish Information Commissioner
[2010] CSIH 43
19 May 2010
A housing association asked its local police force for the number of registered sex offenders living in particular geographical areas. The intention was to establish whether areas in which the housing association was operating were bearing a greater burden in housing such offenders. The Chief Constable declined the request relying on exemptions in the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. That decision was upheld on appeal by the Commissioner. The association appealed to the Court of Session. It allowed the appeal and remitted the matter to the Commissioner to reconsider. For the full judgment, click here.

Croydon LBC v Crawford
[2010] EWCA 618
11 May 2010
The defendant was a secure tenant of the council. It sought an outright possession order on grounds of anti-social behaviour (drug-dealing from the premises by the tenant's son and another male). After a trial, the judge made a conditional suspended possession order lasting three years. The defendant sought permission to appeal on the grounds that it was not reasonable for any order to be made, or that the order should have been postponed rather than suspended, or that the order should have been for a shorter duration. The Court of Appeal refused permission to appeal. No real prospect of success had been established. The judgments contain useful indications on the correct approach to hearsay evidence and the framing of grounds of appeal in relation to possession orders.

Brent LBC v Stokes
[2010] EWCA Civ 626
27 April 2010
The defendant occupied, without permission, a pitch on an official council Gypsy caravan site. When she declined to move to an alternative pitch to enable a site office to be built on the occupied pitch, the council sought possession. The defence asserted that the decision to evict had been taken in breach of public law principles and relied on an "Article 8 Gateway B" challenge to that decision. The county court judge granted a possession order and the High Court dismissed an appeal. The Court of Appeal refused permission to bring a second appeal. The council was under no statutory obligation to give further reasons for, or otherwise explain, its decision to evict a trespasser. In the absence of any positive evidence that the council had failed to take account of relevant considerations, the defence was not seriously arguable. For the High Court judgment, click here.

Housing Law Articles

No room for error
(consultation on service charges)
R. Highmore and M. Dowden
[2010] 160 New Law Journal 720
To read the article, click here.

Housing Law Books

Housing Allocation and Homelessness - new edition
The new edition of Housing Allocation and Homelessness: Law and Practice by Jan Luba QC and Liz Davies has been published. Price: £50.00.
For full details, click here.

Repairs: tenants' rights
The new edition of Repairs: tenants' rights by Jan Luba QC, Deirdre Forster and Beatrice Prevatt has been published. Price: £45.00. For full details, click here.
To watch an independent review, click here.
To read an independent review, click here.

Housing Law Handbook - 10% off
The Housing Law Handbook, edited by Stephen Cottle and written by other members of the Garden Court Housing Team, provides a first port of call for lawyers and advisers dealing with housing. The book covers possession proceedings, homelessness rights, the allocation of social housing, and other routes into housing. To claim your 10% discount, order online and quote promotion code GCTHLH when prompted.
To read an independent review, click here.

Housing Law Consultations

Closing on 6 July 2010
The UK Government's consultation on new proposals for council housing finance. For the consultation documents, click here.

Closing 20 July 2010
The consultation exercise on the proposed new procedural rules for the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber). For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Housing Law Events in June and July 2010

This Week

8 June 2010
Housing Advocacy
An HLPA evening training seminar in London
For the details, click here.

Later in June 2010

14 June 2010
Introduction to Housing Law
A Legal Action Group Training Day in London
For the details, click here.

17 June 2010
Public Law Defences and Article 8
A Garden Court Chambers evening seminar.
For the details, click here.

25 June 2010
Housing and Anti-Social Behaviour
A Jordans Conference in London
For the details, click here.

28 June 2010
Housing Disrepair
A Legal Action Group Training Day in London
For the details, click here.

29 June 2010
Housing Law 2010
An NHC Conference in York
For the details, click here.

July 2010

2 July 2010
Law on Trial 2010: Housing
A Birkbeck College Social Rights evening seminar
For the details, click here.

8 July 2010
Possession 9/10ths of the law? Not for tenants
A Garden Court Chambers evening seminar
For the details, click here.


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