Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 211 - 4 April 2011

Monday 4 April 2011

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The Latest Housing Law News

Housing Cases in the County Court: on 29 March 2011, the UK coalition Government launched a consultation exercise on proposals to reform the handling of cases in the county courts. In relation to Housing cases, the proposals include retaining the £1000 small claims limit for housing disrepair and making the provisions of the pre-action protocols in rent and mortgage possession cases mandatory. The deadline for responses is 30 June 2011. Advisers keen on these proposals may positively wish to file responses in support of them. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Housing and Anti-Social Behaviour: from November 2007 to October 2009 the UK Government piloted a scheme in eight council areas in England for penalising anti-social behaviour by reductions in housing benefit (HB). Over the course of the pilot, no sanctions were imposed. On 29 March 2011 the Department for Work & Pensions published research it commissioned on the pilot. The wider rollout of an HB sanctions scheme was not recommended. For a copy of the findings, click here.

Housing Benefit Changes: on 1 April 2011 four changes to the housing benefit (HB) scheme took effect: (1) there will no longer be a five bedroom Local Housing Allowance rate. Weekly rates will not exceed £250 for a one bedroom property; £290 for a two bedroom property; £340 for a three bedroom property; and £400 for a four bedroom property; (2) the current £15 excess will be removed as soon as the council reviews a current claim; (3) deductions for non-dependants living in households of HB claimants will increase; and (4) disabled people with a long-term health condition who need overnight care or live with someone with similar needs, may now be able to claim HB for a private rented property which has an additional bedroom for a non-resident carer. For more details, click here.

Legal Aid for Housing Cases: on 30 March 2011 the House of Commons Justice Committee published its report on the UK Government's proposals to reform legal aid. The £12m cut in funding for housing cases (almost £1m of which will come from LSC funding to citizens advice bureau) is considered at paragraphs 106-136. For a copy of the report, click here.

Costs Recovery in Housing Cases: the Government has concluded its review of Lord Justice Jackson's proposals for the reform of civil costs and last week it published its responses. These include a decision to move forward with the abolition of right to recover success fees from defendants where claimants are on Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs). CFAs are presently used to fund many housing disrepair claims for those not entitled to legal aid. For more details on this change and the Government's other proposals, click here.

New Code of Guidance on Housing Allocation and Homelessness: on 30 March 2011 the Welsh Assembly Government began a consultation on a new Code to replace the one it issued to Welsh councils in 2003. Responses are needed by 30 June 2011. For a copy of the draft new code, click here.

Regulating mortgages: on 31 March 2011 the European Commission published a working paper on national measures to avoid foreclosure procedures for mortgage payment default. For a copy of the paper, click here. For more details of the EU's latest work on creating an international framework for mortgage regulation, click here. For the response from the Council of Mortgage Lenders, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

Makisi v Birmingham CC, Yosief v Birmingham CC, Nagi v Birimingham CC [2011] EWCA Civ 355
31 March 2011

These three linked homelessness appeals were all concerned with the right of an applicant for homelessness assistance to make "oral representations" to a reviewing officer where a review is being conducted as a result of a 'deficiency or irregularity' in a council's initial decision on the application (under regulation 8 of the 1999 Review Procedure Regulations). The council had decided that the right to make oral representations could be met by allowing applicants to speak to the reviewing officer by telephone (with an on-line interpreter if necessary) unless there were "genuine practical reasons" why any submissions could not be made by telephone. All three appellants asked for face-to-face oral hearings. Their requests were declined. Their appeals to the county courts were dismissed. All parties accepted that the term 'oral representations' is wide enough to embrace representations made both by telephone calls and face-to-face meetings. The real issue was whether the applicant or the council could decide whether there should be a meeting. The Court of Appeal held that the applicants had a right to insist on an oral hearing. It need only be a meeting between the reviewing officer, the applicant and any representative of the applicant. For the full judgment, click here.

Inquiry into the death of David Askew
21 March 2011
Report of investigations

Mr David Askew had been a vulnerable disabled adult living with his elderly mother in social housing. He died following an incident of anti-social behaviour in March 2010. After his death, it emerged that he and his family had suffered harassment and anti-social behaviour over a number of years. Between January 2004 and March 2010 there were 88 reported incidents, involving the family as victims. An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) into the police handling of the complaints found: (1) a lack of consistent identification of, and response to, the vulnerability factors affecting the Askew family; (2) a total failure to recognise and respond to the incidents as 'hate crime'; (3) an apparent lack of coordination and cohesive action between partner agencies; and (4) lack of robust offender management. For more detail on the IPCC findings, click here. On the same day, the Tameside Adult Safeguarding Partnership (TASP) published the findings of its serious case review into the death. It sets out recommendations from which agencies concerned with tackling anti-social behaviour can develop an action plan to enable the lessons learnt to be used to improve the safeguarding and wellbeing of vulnerable adults in the future. For a copy of the Executive Summary of that review click here.

Housing Law Articles

All change for Social Housing
(a review of proposals in the Localism Bill)
L. Phelps
[2011] Spring Issue Evidence p1

Order of merit
(impact on possession proceedings of the Equality Act 2010)
DJ P. Mildred
[2011] 161 New Law Journal p452

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

Housing Law Events

This Week

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

This Month

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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