Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 200 - 10 January 2011

Monday 10 January 2011

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The Latest Housing Law News

Reforming Social Housing: the majority of the proposed reforms to social housing in England will be implemented through enactment of the Localism Bill (Part 6). The House of Commons Second Reading of the Bill is scheduled to take place next week (17 January 2011). The Explanatory Notes, written by civil servants to explain the Bill's provisions, are now available by clicking here.

Reforming Housing Benefit: a major tranche of changes to housing benefit (local housing allowance) will take effect in April 2011. The Government has been working with local authorities to help with preparations for the changes. Detailed guidance was issued last year in Circular HB/CTB A25/2010. For a copy of the circular, click here. Model letters, leaflets and publicity materials have also been issued as detailed in the January 2011 issue of HB Direct. For a copy of that issue, click here.

Mortgage Rescue Scheme: the Government's arrangements for the Mortgage Rescue Scheme (MRS) in England will change at the start of the next financial year in early April 2011. Exactly how the new scheme will look is not yet clear. Meanwhile some confusion appears to have been caused about whether the lead social landlords participating in the current MRS scheme should be taking any more referrals under existing arrangements. The Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) is to write to all social landlords engaged with the scheme to remind them to continue to accept referrals which meet the eligibility criteria. For more details about how applications are made and handled see the HCA's Mortgage Rescue Toolkit which can be found by clicking here. That should be read with the updates of the MRS schemes posted on the HCA website and available by clicking here. Local authorities can now refer any homeowner at risk of mortgage repossession to Shelter for specialist money and housing advice. That facility can help to assist households in need of specialist mortgage debt advice when mortgage rescue under the MRS is not possible. For information about the service, or to request a referral form, local authorities can contact Shelter's HMS Mortgage Support Team on 0344 515 1125 or at mrs@shelter.org.uk.

Homeless Teenagers: a recent survey of 99 local housing authorities in England has revealed that less than a third of teenage applicants for homelessness assistance are being referred by housing staff to childrens' services departments for full needs assessments under the Children Act 1989. They are thereby missing out on the full package of assessment, accommodation, care and support to which most are entitled. For the full survey findings, click here.

Empty Homes: on 7 January 2011 the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announced an intention to use regulation-making powers to change and restrict the circumstances in which Empty Dwelling Management Orders can be made in respect of privately owned empty housing by local authorities. Use of EDMOs will be limited to empty properties that have become magnets for vandalism, squatters and other forms of anti-social behaviour, the property will have to be empty for at least two years before an EDMO can be obtained (the present period is six months), and property owners will have to be given at least three months' notice before the order can be issued. For the announcement, click here. The organisation Empty Homes has published a myth-busting document on EDMOs. For a copy, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

Clift v Slough Borough Council [2010] EWCA Civ 1171
21 December 2010

The claimant witnessed an incident of anti-social behaviour and reported it to the council's ASB officer. She was so disappointed with the ASB officer's response that she complained to the council. The investigating officer took the view that the claimant's disposition and conduct had been such that she should be added to the council's violent persons register and other staff and agencies warned about her. The claimant sued for libel. The council claimed qualified privilege. The judge decided that qualified privilege applied to the communication to front-line staff who might come into contact with the claimant but not to the communications to other staff and agencies. A jury awarded £12,000 compensation. The council appealed on the basis that qualified privilege covered all the communications the council had made about the claimant. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. The claimant had an Article 8 right to the protection of her reputation. That could only be interfered-with in a manner that was proportionate. The publication to staff and others who may never have dealings with the claimant was not proportionate and was unlawful. The defence of qualified privilege could not be deployed to uphold an unlawful act. For the judgment, click here.

Javed v Solihull MBC [2010] EWCA Civ 1652
1 December 2010

The claimant was a victim of domestic violence who had fled the family home with her children. She applied for homelessness assistance. The council accepted that it owed the claimant the main housing duty in Housing Act 1996 section 193. To release it from that duty it made her an offer of accommodation under its allocation scheme. The claimant rejected the offer as unsuitable. She said that the offered property was in an area where she would be isolated from other members of her ethnic minority community and her children would be forced to move schools. A reviewing officer upheld the council's decision. The county court dismissed an appeal. The Court of Appeal refused an application for permission to bring a second appeal as the case raised no important issue of law or practice and there was no other compelling reason to grant permission.

Housing Law Articles

Recent Developments in Housing Law
J. Luba and N. Madge
[2011] January Legal Action
For details about the January issue, click here.

Housing Law Books

Defending Possession Proceedings
The new (seventh) edition of Defending Possession Proceedings by Jan Luba QC, John Gallagher, Derek McConnell and Nic Madge - which runs to over 1000 pages - has been published. Price: £55.00. For full details, click here.
To read an independent review, click here.
To watch an independent review, click here.

Housing Allocation and Homelessness
The new (second) 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.
To read an independent review, click here.
To read a review by Robert Latham, click here.

Repairs: tenants' rights
The new (fourth) 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, 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 Events

This Week

13 January 2011
Social Housing Reform Examined
An NHC Conference in York
For the details, click here.

Later this Month

21 January 2011
Recent Developments in Housing Law
A LAG training day in London
For the details, click here.

28 January 2011
What difference does Pinnock make
A Shelter training seminar in London
For the details, click here.

Later this Year

11 February 2011
Public Sector Housing Law Conference 2011
A Jordan Publishing conference in London
For the details, click here.

10 March 2011
The Mental Capacity Act 2005: Where are we now?
A Garden Court Chambers half-day seminar
For the details, click here.

28 March 2011
Housing Benefit, Rent Arrears and Possession Proceedings
A LAG training day in London
For the details, click here.

1 April 2011
Housing & Support for Migrants
A LAG training day in London
For the details, click here.

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