Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 222 – 20 June 2011

Monday 20 June 2011

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The Latest Housing Law News

Changing housing law: the legislation presently before Parliament which is intended to amend housing law in England & Wales (the Localism Bill) reaches its House of Lords Committee Stage this week. The Government has updated its Plain English Guide to the Bill. The housing provisions are summarised at pages 15-17. For a copy of the updated guide, click here.

A number of organisations will be pressing for amendments in the Lords. For example, the National Housing Federation has been running a campaign to retain the right of social housing tenants to complain direct to an ombudsman, which the Bill would block. For the campaign details, click here. For the campaign briefing paper, click here. For its part, the Government has encouraged local authorities to prepare now to be able to exercise the new powers to discharge homelessness duties into the private sector. For more detail on that, click here.

Housing Law briefing notes: another batch of helpful briefings on housing topics has been published by the House of Commons Library this month. They include: (1) Private sector letting and managing agents: should they be regulated? For a copy, click here. (2) Mortgage Arrears and Repossessions For a copy, click here. (3) Mobile (Park) Homes For a copy, click here.

Housing tribunals: on 6 June 2011 the Residential Property Tribunal Service (RPTS) announced that it will become part of HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) on 1 July 2011. RPTS will keep its branding and logo for the first year after the transfer, and, subject to Parliamentary approval, will then be absorbed into a new Property, Land & Housing Chamber within HMCTS in spring 2012. For more details, click here.

Training for tenants: on 14 June 2011 the Housing Minister announced a £500,000 package to deliver training to 1500 social housing tenants due to sit on tenant panels to be established by social landlords. For the announcement, click here. For the prospectus for organisations to bid to provide the training, click here.

Rights of long leaseholders: on 14 June 2011 the Government launched a consultation on proposals for updating the property value limits which are used to determine whether certain rights are available to residential long leaseholders. These are leaseholders' rights: (1) to remain in properties as assured tenants when leases come to an end and (2) to extend the leases or to purchase the freeholds (enfranchise). For the consultation paper, click here. For the Ministerial statement, click here.

Fire safety in rented housing: on 16 June 2011 the Government announced the appointment of Councillor Mark Healey, Chair of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority, to the Fire Kills campaign as a champion for fire safety in rented homes. He will prompt private landlords to install and maintain smoke alarms and will encourage them to help protect their tenants and their property by fitting long-life smoke alarms like 10-year battery devices or hard-wired systems. For more details, click here.

Victims of domestic violence: on 16 June 2011 the Government published Domestic violence: Assistance for households without dependent children. This study explores the type of assistance provided by local authorities and also other specialist agencies to victims of domestic violence. For a copy, click here.

Energy saving for tenants: on 14 June 2011 the Commons Public Bill Committee on the Energy Bill reached clauses 42-45 which will impose new obligations on the landlords of private rented properties. Amendments debated included a proposal that a landlord in non-compliance should not be able to serve a Housing Act 1988 section 21 notice seeking eviction. For the debate, click here.

Private Sector Rents: on 3 June 2011 the Department for Social Development made an order increasing private sector registered rents in Northern Ireland by 3.75% from 4 July 2011. For a copy of the Order, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

Scullion v Colleys [2011] EWCA Civ 693
17 June 2011

The claimant decided to enter the buy-to-let market and bought a flat in October 2002. He intended to let it for an amount which would enable him to pay the mortgage and outgoings and to obtain some extra income. He also hoped to make a capital profit by selling the flat in due course. Colleys were engaged to value the fiat for the mortgage lender though, in the usual way, the money to pay their fee was provided by the claimant. Colleys produced a valuation which gave the open market value as £353,000 and stated that the flat could be expected to achieve a rental of £2,000pcm. The High Court decided that having regard to appropriate comparables a careful and competent valuer would have valued the property at £300,000 with a permissible "bracket" of between £270,000 and £330,000 and that if he had sought information from local letting agents, a careful and competent valuer would have advised that the flat could only be expected to achieve a rental of about £1,100 pcm, with an upper limit to the bracket of about £1,350 pcm. It found that Colleys had acted negligently in over-stating both the capital value of the flat and the expected rental income. The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal. It held that although the valuations had been negligent, the valuers owed no duty of care to the claimant. For the full judgment, click here.

Coventry City Council v Vassell
[2011] EWHC 1542 (Admin)

17 June 2011
The defendant submitted claims for Job Seekers Allowance, Housing Benefit (HB) and Council Tax Benefit (CTB) at a Benefits Agency (BA) Office. The HB/CTB claim was forwarded to the council and paid. The defendant later became a full time student and notified the BA office. He did not similarly inform the council with the result that HB and CTB were paid. The council brought a prosecution for failure to give prompt notification of a change of circumstances that he knew would affect his entitlement, contrary to section 112(1A) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 as amended. The magistrates acquitted and the council appealed contending that the offence was essentially one of strict liability. The High Court dismissed the appeal. The section was not intended as a strict requirement provision, devoid of mens rea. Parliament intended that a requirement for a mental element should be read in. For the full judgment, click here.

R(Y) v Hillingdon LBC [2011] EWHC (Admin) 1477
15 June 2011

As a very young girl, the claimant was brought to the UK to work as a domestic helper. Many years later, in 2008, she escaped from domestic servitude and slept rough. She was found and referred by the police to social services. She gave her date of birth as 17 February 1993 and was provided with accommodation under the Children Act 1989. In April 2009 the council's social workers assessed her as being an adult aged over 19. She sought judicial review of that assessment. The claim was allowed and a declaration granted that her date of birth was the date she had given. In the course of the judgment, the High Court made a number of observations about the conduct of age assessment court cases. The judge expressed the firm view that there was a burden of proof in such cases and that it lay on the claimant to show that s/he was of an age entitling them to the benefits of the Children Act. For the full judgment, click here.

R(R) v Croydon LBC [2011] EWHC (Admin) 1473
14 June 2011

The claimant arrived in the UK in May 2008 and claimed asylum. He said that he was only 15. The Border Agency (UKBA) referred him to the council which assessed his age as over 18 and referred him back to the UKBA which accommodated him. In October 2008 he sought judicial review of his assessment. The claim was stayed to await the outcome of other test cases on age assessment. In December 2010 the council conducted another age assessment which concluded that he was "an adult 18+". The High Court heard evidence, including expert evidence, over two days. The only firm assessment it could make was that the council had been right to decide he was 18 in December 2010. A declaration was granted that he is now 18 years and 5 months old. The judgment contains an interesting treatment of the evidence of the paediatricians Dr Diana Birch and Dr Colin Stern. For the full judgment, click here.

Crown Estate Commissioners v Peabody Trust [2011] EWHC 1467 (Ch)
10 June 2011

Several housing estates in London were owned by the Crown and managed by the Crown Estate Commissioners. The tenants were protected by the Rent Act 1977. The estates were sold to the Peabody Trust. It claimed that the tenancies all thereupon became assured tenancies. The High Court granted a declaration that Peabody were right. Although the Housing Act 1988 had not intended to take away rights of sitting tenants it had done nothing to prevent landlords selling their properties to others.
Section 38 dealt specifically with the effect of sales by public bodies to private sector providers and under section 38(5)(d) the Crown was a public body for the purposes of the Act. Peabody was a private body. The tenants had lost Rent Act status both in respect of security of tenure and rent registration and become assured tenants.

Whittaker v Kinnear [2011] EWHC 1479 (QB)
10 June 2011

Under a sale and rent-back arrangement Mr Kinnear bought Mrs Whittaker's property for £750,000 and granted her a one year fixed term tenancy at a rent of £1 per month. The purchase had been funded by mortgage. On default, the lender appointed receivers. They gave notice to Mrs Whittaker to leave and sought possession. She claimed that she had been promised that she could continue to live in the house as long as she wanted and relied on a proprietary estoppel. The judge rejected that defence at a preliminary hearing and granted possession. The High Court allowed an appeal and held that the proprietary estoppel defence in a case involving a sale of land had survived the enactment of Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989 section 2. The claim was remitted for a trial on the facts. For the full judgment, click here.

Rooney v Secretary of State for Communities [2011] EWCA Civ 685
23 May 2011

A planning inspector refused Mr Rooney planning permission to station his caravans on Green Belt land in Surrey. A High Court Judge dismissed an appeal against that decision. Mr Rooney argued that his rights under Article 8 had not been properly dealt with by the inspector or the judge and that a higher degree of judicial scrutiny was required in planning appeals raising Article 8 points after Pinnock. The Court of Appeal decided that as "the implications of Pinnock are still being worked out" it would be right to adjourn the application for permission to appeal to a full court, on notice to the Secretary of State.

Home from Home Letting Services Ltd v Corrigan [2011] EWCA Civ 687
18 May 2011

In 1993 Mr Corrigan engaged letting agents to find a tenant for his house. The terms were that the agent would be paid a fee of 10% of the rent for the first year and 8% of the rent if the tenant remained thereafter. The agents found tenants who entered into a one year tenancy. On expiry that was renewed. It was renewed annually thereafter. In 2003 Mr Corrigan decided that he no longer needed agents and ceased to pay the 8% due. On a claim for the unpaid sums, a district judge held that the agreement was terminable at will. The agents successfully appealed to a circuit judge who held that the agreement remained binding as long as the tenants remained in occupation. The Court of Appeal refused Mr Corrigan permission to appeal against that decision. The agreement had been made before the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 came into effect and it was in clear terms as to what the agents had to do and what Mr Corrigan had to pay.

Housing Law Articles

Recent Developments in Housing Law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2011] June Legal Action p22
For back-copies of articles in this series, click here.

Is there a "human rights defence" to a possession claim brought by a private landlord?
J. Luba
[2011] 15 Landlord & Tenant Review p79

Service charges - mob rule?
D. Dovar
[2011] 15 Landlord & Tenant Review p88

Tenancy deposits: better late than never
J. Morgan
[2011] Conveyancer & Property Lawyer p240

Housing Law Events

June 2011: this week

20 June 2011
Homelessness & Allocations
A Legal Action Group Training Event in London
For the details, click here.

22 June 2011
Homelessness Reviews & Appeals
An HLPA evening seminar in London
For the details, click here.

23 June 2011
Housing and Anti Social Behaviour 2011
A Jordan Publishing Conference in London
For the details, click here.

June 2011: next week

29 June 2011
Housing: the Legal Update 2011
A Northern Housing Consortium Conference in York
For the details, click here.

July 2011:

14 July 2011
Emergency Homeless Applications: When to get a judge on the phone
A Garden Court Chambers seminar 18:30 to 20:00
For the details, click here.

14 July 2011
Introduction to Housing Law
A Legal Action Group Training Event in London
For the details, click here.

20 July 2011
Bringing Disrepair Claims
An HLPA meeting 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.
To access the free downloadable update to several chapters of the current edition of the book to take account of recent cases such as Pinnock and Powell, 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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