Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 203 - 31 January 2011

Monday 31 January 2011

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The Latest Housing Law News

Reforming Social Housing: the Commons' Public Bill Committee which is considering the Localism Bill took evidence last week from organisations including the Chartered Institute of Housing, Shelter, the National Housing Federation, Brent Private Tenants Rights Group and the Tenant Services Authority. The Committee will now consider the detailed provisions of the Bill each Tuesday and Thursday. It must complete consideration of the Bill by no later than 4pm on Thursday 10 March. Housing practitioners suggesting amendments to MPs should note that the required notice period for amendments in a Public Bill Committee is three working days. Therefore amendments should be tabled by the rise of the House on Monday for consideration on Thursday, and by the rise of the House on Thursday for Tuesday. For details of the Committee's work, click here. For the record of the first day's sitting, which includes the Committee's membership list, click here.

Bankruptcy and the family home: the practice of trustees in bankruptcy seeking to sell the bankrupt's family home with vacant possession changed on 1 January 2011. The Official Receiver, as trustee of the bankruptcy estate, will no longer dispose of a bankrupt's interest in a family home until two years and three months after the bankruptcy order is made, except if an offer is received which is in the creditors' interests to accept. For the announcement of this change in practice, click here.

Anti-social behaviour: on 25 January 2011 the Home Office published the latest statistics on ASBOs. The tables show that the number of ASBOs granted each year has been falling since 2005 and only 1,671 were issued in 2009. Some 56% of orders are breached and the average number of breaches per ASBO is 4.4. For the full tables, click here.

Local authority services for the homeless: on 25 January 2011 the Housing Minister wrote to the Local Government Association about homelessness and rough sleeping. He said that the UK Government found it "difficult to understand why some councils appear to be targeting any disproportionate spending reductions on programmes that support the most vulnerable people in their communities" when the Government had maintained homelessness funding at £400m for English local authorities and had minimised the cut to Supporting People grants. For a copy of the letter, click here. At the same time, the Minister issued a response to an article in the Guardian about the effects on the most vulnerable of cuts to local government funding. For that response, click here.

Homeowners: on 26 January 2011 HM Treasury announced that it will: (1) transfer the regulation of new and existing second charge residential mortgages from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to ensure consistent standards of consumer protection and simplify the regulatory environment for lenders and borrowers; (2) ensure consumer protections are maintained when a mortgage book is sold by a mortgage lender to an unregulated firm; and (3) extend the current regulation of the sale and rent back market to all providers, to ensure appropriate protection for consumers. The FSA has been asked to begin work on these measures immediately ahead of new regulations to be published later in the year. For more details, click here.

Housing benefit reductions: on 24 January 2011 the House of Lords debated the regulations which will implement Housing Benefit reductions from April. The minister said that the UK Government "intend to commission independent, external research to help us evaluate the impact of the reforms... Among the issues that it would cover...will be homelessness and moves; the shared room rate and houses in multiple occupation; what is happening in Greater London; what is happening in rural communities; what is happening in black and minority ethnic households; large families; older people; people with disabilities and working claimants." For the Parliamentary debate, click here. For the National Housing Federation briefing on Welfare reform, housing benefit and affordability, click here.

Decent Homes: on 27 January 2010 Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East, moved a debate in Westminster Hall on the Communities and Local Government Select Committee's Report, Beyond Decent Homes. For details of the debate, click here.

Publishing information about individual homes: on 28 January 2011 the UK Government published a Privacy Impact Assessment document addressing its proposal to enable wider access to energy performance certificate (EPC) data, the benefits and proposed safeguards. For a copy, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

Yemshaw v Hounslow LBC [2011] UKSC 3
26 January 2011

Mrs Yemshaw left her matrimonial home with her two young children and applied for homelessness assistance from the council. She said that she had left because of her husband's behaviour. Although he had not assaulted her physically, or threatened to do so, he had shouted at her in front of the children to such extent that she had had to retreat to a bedroom with the children and she had not been given housekeeping money. She was worried that if she returned home she would be hit or that he would take the children away. Hounslow decided that this was not enough to amount to "violence" or "threat of violence" sufficient to deem her to be homeless under Housing Act 1996 section 177(1) and that it was reasonable for her to remain in the matrimonial home: section 175(3). This decision was upheld on a review and on appeal in the county court and in the Court of Appeal The reviewing officer and the courts had been following and applying the judgment in Danesh v Kensington and Chelsea in which the Court of Appeal had earlier held that "violence" referred only to physical contact. The Supreme Court allowed a further appeal and expressly overruled Danesh. It held that the word "violence" was not a term of art and its meaning could change and develop over time. "Violence" had should now be taken to embrace physical violence, threatening or intimidating behaviour and any other form of abuse which, directly or indirectly, may give rise to the risk of harm. It covered deliberate conduct that may cause psychological harm. The English Homelessness Code of Guidance (2006) para 8.21 represented the correct legal position. The review decision was quashed and remitted to Hounslow to reconsider. For the judgment, click here.

Morris v Southwark LBC [2011] EWCA Civ 25
25 January 2011

In settlement of a housing disrepair claim, the council agreed to carry out necessary works, pay £10,000 damages and meet the tenant's legal costs. The tenant had entered into a conditional fee agreement (CFA) in which her solicitors had agreed to indemnify her for the landlord's legal costs if she lost the case. In those circumstances, the council refused to pay any costs on the grounds that the CFA breached the rule against champerty and was void. The Court of Appeal upheld an order for the assessment of the costs. The law of champerty should not be extended to render void an indemnity given by a CFA. For the judgment, click here.

R(Forest Care Home Ltd) v Pembrokeshire CC [2010] EWHC 3514 (Admin)
21 December 2010

The council paid the care home fees for accommodating elderly residents to whom it owed the accommodation duty in National Assistance Act 1948 section 21. For the year 2010/2011 it decided that it would pay a flat rate fee of £390pw per resident. A group of care home owners sought judicial contending that such a fee was not commercially viable and that the council had erred in setting the rate. In the course of the claim, the council accepted that its decision had been flawed and set a higher rate of £405pw. The owners said that this was also too low. The High Court found that the council's decision-making process had been flawed and ordered that the rate be reconsidered afresh. For the judgment, click here.

Housing Law Articles

Its all about timing
(service charge demands)
J. Bates
[2011] 161 January New Law Journal issue 7449 p85

Positive discrimination
(social landlords and the Equality Act 2010)
P. Heath
[2011] 28 January Inside Housing 29
To read the article, click here.

The 80% challenge
(human rights and the new affordable rent tenancies)
H. Tucker and J. Plant
[2011] 28 January Inside Housing 29
To read the article, 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 a review by Robert Latham, click here.
To read another independent review, 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

10 February 2011
DIY Possession Claims post-Pinnock
An SHLA seminar in London
For the details, click here.

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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