Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 210 - 28 March 2011

Monday 28 March 2011

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The Latest Housing Law News

Squatting: on 21 March 2011, the UK coalition Government announced that it will take steps in the New Year to make squatting a criminal offence. Meanwhile it has published 'strengthened' and updated guidance for homeowners, indicating what steps they can take if a squatter invades their home. For the announcement, click here. For the guidance, click here.

Housing and Anti-Social Behaviour: on 23 March 2011, the Chartered Institute of Housing, HouseMark and SLCNG jointly issued a draft new housing management standard to drive engagement by social landlords with the problem of ant-social behaviour. For a copy of the draft, click here. Comments are sought by 3 May 2011. For details of how to respond, click here.

Annual Reports to Social Housing Tenants: the social housing regulator for England, the Tenants Services Authority (TSA), requires every social landlord to publish an annual report to its tenants. It commissioned four national organisations representative of the interests of tenants to review the hundreds of reports published in 2010. Their overall assessment of the reports was that "on average they are just under adequate." For a copy of the report of the review, click here.

More Help for Home Purchasers: in last week's budget, the Chancellor announced a new scheme, FirstBuy, to help 10,000 first time buyers over the next two years. The scheme will provide an equity loan of 20% of the purchase price to top up a first time buyer's own deposit of 5%, enabling the buyer to take out a mortgage for 75% of the property. Loans will be free of charge for the first five years and will be repaid on resale of the property, with the funds then recycled to fund more purchases under the scheme. The first homes bought with the help of the scheme are expected to come on stream in September 2011. For more details, click here.

Avoiding Mortgage Repossession: Shelter has cleared the 296 mortgage rescue cases passed to it when the Government's Mortgage Rescue Fast Track team closed last August. Its role in the 2011/2012 Mortgage Rescue Scheme (England) will be two-fold: (1) to provide Mortgage Debt Advice for local authorities to help them prevent homelessness (the number for council staff is 0300 330 0517); and (2) to offer support to housing associations dealing with blocked applications under the MRS scheme or with post-rescue debt problems (housing associations should Email - mrs@shelter.org.uk).

Inspecting Social Landlords: the social housing regulator for England, the Tenants Services Authority (TSA), is seeking views on the future role for inspection of social landlord's services. It proposes to abolish routine inspections of landlords and the Key Lines of Enquiry by which performance has previously been measured. From July 2011, inspections will target specific issues of concern. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

Glasgow Housing Association v Campbell [2011] CSOH 55
24 March 2011

The defendant tenant fell into arrears of rent when he allowed a non-dependent to stay in his flat and his housing benefit was reduced. The non-dependant failed to pay a promised contribution to the rent and the tenant failed to meet the shortfall between his benefit and his rent. The housing association sought possession in 2008. After several hearings, a decree of ejectment was eventually made in September 2009. Mr Campbell applied to set aside the decree relying, as exceptional circumstances, on (1) his full medical history and disabilities (which had not been known to the trial judge); (2) the fact that there was a £300 disturbance payment which could be set-off against the arrears; and (3) that an arrears-direct arrangement could be set up to meet the arrears by deduction from his welfare benefits. The Court of Session held that the tenant and his solicitors had had ample opportunity to raise these three matters, and adduce evidence in support of them, during the proceedings. They did not justify the use of the exceptional power to set aside a decree. For the full judgment, click here.

R(O) v Hammersmith & Fulham LBC [2011] EWHC 679 (Admin)
23 March 2011

The claimant was a severely disabled child. His parents reluctantly concluded that he could no longer live at home but instead required full time residential care at a specialist school. The council took the view that he could continue at home with support and could attend a local specialist facility. In a claim for judicial review, the High Court rejected the parent's assertion that a duty to accommodate arose under Children Act 1988 section 20(1)(c) as soon as a child's parents concluded that they were prevented from accommodating him. The matter was one for objective assessment by the council. However, the council's decision was flawed on the facts and was set aside. For the full judgment, click here.

Mayor of London v Haw [2011] EWHC 585 (QB)
17 March 2011

The Mayor sought possession of a patch of grass on Parliament Square Gardens onto which Mr Haw's peace camp had encroached from the pavement. Following earlier litigation, the Court of Appeal had remitted to the High Court the question of whether an eviction would be 'proportionate' having regard to Mr Haw's rights under Human Rights Act 1998 Schedule 1 Articles 10 and 11 (to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly). The High Court made a possession order. The evidence had failed to show why Mr Haw could not sleep on the pavement or carry out his protest from there. The Mayor had established that the continued encroachment interfered with the rights of other users of the gardens and that eviction would meet a pressing social need. There were no lesser means of interfering with Mr Haw's rights and the making of an order would be 'proportionate'. For the full judgment, click here.

Ellis v Angus Council [2011] CSOH 44
4 March 2011

The claimant was a young woman with a depressive illness. She had been an assured shorthold tenant in receipt of housing benefit but had failed to pay-over her benefit to the landlord. She was evicted for arrears of rent. The council decided that she had become homeless intentionally and that decision was upheld on review. The relevant part of the Code of Guidance (para 7.18) stated: "Failed tenancies are a common occurrence for young people when they first leave home, especially if they have not had much in the way of support to sustain a tenancy. Local authorities should consider the position sensitively and only make a finding of intentionality where there is compelling evidence that the applicant deliberately refused to accept advice or engage with agencies who could provide support and were aware of the consequences of their actions." The claimant sought a judicial review on the basis that (1) the council had failed to have regard to the guidance and (2) the guidance was not mentioned in the relevant decision letters. The Court of Session dismissed the claim. It held (1) although the council was required to have regard to the Code, the guidance it contained was not binding; and (2) it was not necessary for the decision-maker to refer to a provision of the Code if he did not consider it applicable to the circumstances of the case. For the full judgment, click here.

Southwark LBC v X Croydon County Court
25 February 2011

This case appears to be the first successful application for a gang-member injunction under the Policing and Crime Act 2009. The council's case was that the defendant, a man aged 18, had encouraged gang-related violence in music videos. The injunction operates for 12 months and prohibits the defendant from: (1) entering a large part of the Peckham area of the borough; (2) mixing with more than two other people anywhere in Southwark; (3) associating with other known gang members in the borough; and (4) producing, promoting or appearing in any music video which could encourage violence. For more details, click here.

Dharmaraj v Hounslow LBC [2011] EWCA Civ 312
24 January 2011

The council's reviewing officer issued a decision that the claimant had become homeless intentionally. It was sent by fax to the claimant's solicitors who had applied for the review on his behalf and who had sent the council a letter giving them his authority. The claimant contended that the time limit for appeal to the county court did not begin to run until the letter was notified to him. The Court of Appeal held that a review decision may be notified to an applicant or their authorised agent and the date it was notified was the date it was received by either of them. The council's obligation to give notice of the time limit for an appeal in a reviewing officer's letter did not require it to reproduce the words of the legislation but simply to set out the substance of them.

Housing Law Articles

Recent Developments in Housing Law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2011] March Legal Action p25

Valuable Possession
(commentary on Pinnock and Powell)
J. Holbrook
[2011] 161 New Law Journal p425

The game of ping-pong is over
(commentary on Pinnock and Powell)
[2011] 23 March HLPA Meeting Paper
Click here for a copy.

Court rulings clear up complexities
(the impact of Pinnock and Powell on flexible tenancies)
G. Shapps MP. Minister for Housing
[2011] 25 March Inside Housing p18
Click here for a copy.

A spanner in the works
(commentary on Daejan v Benson)
S. Bagg
[2011] 25 March Inside Housing p31
Click here for a copy.

Housing Law Events

This Week

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.

Next Week

5 April 2011
Gypsy and Traveller Law Update
A LAG training day in London
For the details , click here.

This Spring

6 May 2011
Homelessness & Lettings Conference 2011
A Lime Legal Conference in London
For the details, click here.

6 May 2011
Housing Disrepair
A LAG training day in London
For the details, click here.

11 May 2011
Defending possession proceedings
A LAG training day in London
For the details, click here.

12 May 2011
Update on Anti-Social Behaviour Claims: Are they Winnable?
A Garden Court Chambers seminar 18:30 to 20:00
For the details, click here.

18 May 2011
Possession and Housing Benefit
An HLPA meeting in London
For the details, click here.

19 May 2011
Social Housing Law & Practice 2011
A Lime Legal Conference in London
For the details, 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.


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