Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 225 - 11 July 2011

Monday 11 July 2011

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The Latest Housing Law News

New directions for social housing: on 7 July 2011 the Housing Minister announced the publication of a consultation paper on new draft Directions to be issued under section 197 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to the Social Housing Regulator for England. These directions will direct the Regulator on tenure, mutual exchange, tenant involvement and empowerment, rents and quality of accommodation. They will replace all those directions issued to the Regulator by the last government. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here. The consultation closes on 29 September 2011.

Tenant Cashback Scheme: the proposed new directions (see above) include a revised Tenant Involvement Standard which gives opportunities to tenants, with the agreement of landlords, to be involved in the management of housing repair and maintenance services, and to share in any savings made. The Government is calling this a Tenant Cashback scheme for social housing tenants in England. On 7 July 2011 it published an Impact Assessment of the proposals. For a copy, click here.

Housing Cases in Court: on 30 June 2011 the Ministry of Justice issued the Judicial and Court Statistics for England & Wales for 2010. They indicate that county court bailiffs made 54,000 repossessions of property in 2010 - more than 1000 homes per week. Although the number of claims for mortgage possession had declined, claims for possession by private landlords had increased 16% compared to 2009. For the full report, click here.

Immediate eviction for domestic violence: on 30 June 2011 a 12-month pilot scheme for use of Domestic Protection Orders (DVPOs) and Notices, to stop perpetrators from contacting victims or returning to their homes for up to 28 days, was launched in the areas covered by Greater Manchester, West Mercia and Wiltshire police. Interim guidance has been prepared as to how the scheme will operate. For a copy, click here. After the 12 month pilot period, there will be an evaluation against a number of success criteria. The Government has announced that a decision to roll out the DVPO scheme nationally will only be taken once the evaluation is complete. For the announcement, click here. The Criminal Defence Service (General) (No. 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2001 provide that for the purposes of legal aid, proceedings relating the notices and DVPOs under the Crime and Security Act 2010 are to be regarded as criminal proceedings. For the regulations, click here. For the Legal Services Commission briefing note, click here.

Failure to apply homelessness legislation: on 6 July 2011 the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) published a report on the serious mistakes some councils in England make when dealing with people with housing difficulties. The report notes that the LGO receives more than 300 complaints every year where people claim to have been denied access to help or interim accommodation for no legitimate reason when homeless. For a copy of the report, click here.

Street Homelessness: on 6 July 2011 the Government published the first report from the Ministerial Working Group working to tackle street homelessness. It sets out six joint commitments to give local people the tools to tackle rough sleeping and put an end to second nights out on the street. For a copy, click here. In a linked statement the Housing Minister announced that the 'No Second Night Out' scheme, which has been operating in London since January 2011, is to be rolled-out nationwide. The scheme is based on a 24-hour helpline and website that the public, the emergency services and homeless people can use to report and refer rough sleepers, with an outreach worker dispatched to contact the person as quickly as possible. The roll-out will be funded by a new £20m Homelessness Transition Fund to be made available over three years for the voluntary sector. The fund will be administered by Homeless Link. For a copy of the announcement, click here.

Housing Conditions in the Private Sector: a new study has been published of the extent of Local Authority enforcement of the Housing Act 2004, Housing Health and Safety Rating System in England. It was prepared by Dr Stephen Battersby for Alison Seabeck MP, Shadow Housing Minister & Karen Buck MP, Shadow Work and Pensions Minister. For a copy, click here.

Protection for private rented sector tenants: the Property Ombudsman (PO) is introducing new Codes of Practice for those lettings agents and managing agents who participate in the PO scheme. The new Lettings Code issued by the PO takes effect from 1 August 2011. For a copy, click here. For more about the PO scheme, click here.

Housing data: on 5 July 2011 a mass on new statistical information was released on housing in England. The state of the housing stock itself is reviewed in the English Housing Survey Housing Stock Report 2009. Among other findings, it reports that there has only been a modest improvement in the proportion of the stock with problems of damp (from 10% to 8%), primarily because the incidence of serious condensation and mould has not changed from 4 per cent of all dwellings. For a copy, click here. The English Housing Survey Household Report 2009-10 deals with the circumstances of occupiers. It found that over two-thirds (68%) of new households formed in 2008-09 and 2009-10 were living in the private rented sector. For the full report, click here.The report Public attitudes to housing in England: Report based on the results from the British Social Attitudes survey summarises public opinion across a wide range of housing issues and subjects. For a copy, click here. An overview of the whole batch of statistics is given in the English Housing Survey Bulletin: Issue 4. For a copy, click here.

Squatting: the organisation SQUASH (Squatters Action for Secure Homes) is holding a further meeting on 13 July 2011 at the House of Commons to discuss strategies around the imminent announcement of the criminalisation of squatting. For more details, click here.

 

The Latest Housing Case Law

R (Babakandi) v Westminster CC [2011] EWHC (Admin) 1756
6 July 2011

The claimant was a council tenant who had applied for a transfer because of overcrowding. He was placed in band B of the council's allocation scheme, with priority points, but was suspended from bidding for properties because he had rent arrears. He sought judicial review, claiming that the council's scheme was unlawful in several respects, particularly because of the inflexible rule that arrears would lead to suspension. The High Court dismissed the claim. The council's scheme was not unfair, it was transparent, and there had been no inflexible fettering of discretion. For the judgment, click here.

Ganley v Jones [2011] EWCA Civ 754
6 July 2011

This was a claim for possession of agricultural land. Miss Ganley was debarred from defending (for breach of an 'unless' order) and a possession order was made. Notice of appeal was filed over 20 months late. One of the points taken in the appeal was that the claim had been issued and pursued at a time when Miss Ganley was mentally incapacitated by depression and so was in need of a litigation friend. Permission to extend time to appeal was refused but the judgment contains a useful description at [9] - [22] of the provisions and procedures determining whether and when a litigation friend is needed. For the judgment, click here.

R (AE) v Croydon LBC [2011] EWHC (Admin), [2011] All ER (D) 31 (Jul)
1 July 2011

The claimant arrived in the UK in September 2009. He claimed asylum and gave his age as 14 and his date of birth as 3 September 1995. The council carried out a series of age assessments to determine his actual age and what accommodation and other services he was entitled to. The final assessment concluded that he was two years older than claimed and was born in September 1993. The High Court allowed a judicial review of that assessment and, after a trial, decided that his correct date of birth was 3 September 1994.

R v Gentoo Group Ltd
Newcastle Crown Court
30 June 2011

On a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), arising from the death of a tenant in his home, the defendant social landlords pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5 (1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations1999 by failing to make effective maintenance arrangements for solid fuel heaters in the homes they rented. The tenant had died after his heater became blocked, sending smoke back into his room. The landlords (formerly Sunderland Housing Company) were fined £40,000 with £25,000 costs. For more details, click here.

Charles Terence Estates Ltd v Cornwall Council [2011] EWHC 1683 (QBD)
28 June 2011

The company sued the council for unpaid rent in respect of accommodation it had let to the council for use by homeless persons. The council denied liability under the agreements which had been made by two previous district councils for the area in which it was the new unitary authority. The agreements were alleged to be invalid because they (1) had been entered into for the improper purpose of taking advantage of the housing benefit scheme or (2) were beyond the authority of the councils to have entered into or (3) had been made under mistake of fact or law. A trial was fixed to commence on 11 July 2011. On 13 June 2011 the council applied for permission to rely on expert valuation evidence of the open market rents of the properties that were subject to the agreements. The High Court rejected that application because the evidence was not reasonably required to resolve the issues of liability and there was no justification for the delay in making the application. The consequences of refusing the application were outweighed by the likely consequence of allowing it i.e. the adjournment of the trial. For the judgment, click here.

Bristol City Council v Digs (Bristol) Ltd
Bristol Magistrates Court
22 June 2011

Digs (Bristol) Ltd is one of the largest property letting agents operating in Bristol and specializes in student accommodation. It manages over 100 properties across the city. On a prosecution brought by the council, it pleaded guilty to breaching section 72(1) of the Housing Act 2004 for not licensing a property at 105 Whiteladies Road, Clifton. It was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,549.78 plus a £15 victim surcharge. The council has said that the implications of the conviction are that the company and its directors will no longer considered to be "fit and proper persons" under the Housing Act 2004 and that the tenants could now make an application to the Residential Property Tribunal for a Rent Repayment Order. For more details, click here.

R v Chyna Gray and others
Croydon Crown Court
21 June 2011

The three defendants were the landlords of a young couple. After violence and abuse from the defendants, the tenants moved out. As they packed their belongings into their car they were attacked by Chyna Gray. When one of them returned the following day to collect the rest of their belongings she was tied up, assaulted and threatened with death by the three defendants. Later, the three assaulted the other tenant - kicking him in the head, beating him with bottles and (one of them) stabbing him with a scalpel. On guilty pleas, sentences of imprisonment totalling more than eight years were imposed. For more details, click here.

R (F) v Lambeth LBC [2011] EWHC 1754 (Admin)
17 June 2011

The claimant arrived in the UK in May 2009. He claimed asylum and gave his age as 14. The council carried out an initial assessment and decided he was 16. After issue of a claim for judicial review, the council agreed to make a full age assessment to determine his actual age and what accommodation and other services he was entitled to. There was a long delay. The full assessment eventually confirmed the initial assessment of 16 and decided that he was now 18. On the unusual facts of the case, the High Court rejected an application for permission to seek a judicial review of the new assessment. It had been made after consideration of reports from Dr Birch and Dr Stern and with input from teachers and social workers who had dealt with the claimant for two years. Applying the test for permission set out in R(FZ) v Croydon LBC [2011] EWCA Civ 59, the claim had no realistic prospect of success.

R (Peat) v Hyndburn BC [2011] EWHC 1739 (Admin)
25 May 2011

The council, exercising its powers under Housing Act 2004 Part 3, decided to designate part of its district for selective licensing of private rented properties. The decision was taken in March 2010 and was confirmed by the Secretary of State. The new scheme began operation on 10 October 2010. In November 2010, six landlords of properties in the area sought judicial review of the designation. In April 2011 permission to seek judicial review was granted and objections based on delay were rejected. At the full hearing in May 2011 the High Court made an order quashing the designation. It found that there had been a failure sufficiently to comply with the council's obligations to consult as set out in section 80(9) of the Act.

 

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.

Funding and costs - is there a way forward?
C. Hunter
[2011] 14 Journal of Housing Law 75

A new public right of way?
(considers whether social landlords are public bodies)
P. Heath
[2011] 8 July Inside Housing
For a copy of the article, click here.

Legal aid reforms - the housing implications
S. Stephens
[2011] 14 Journal of Housing Law 90

 

Housing Law Events

This Week

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.

July 2011

20 July 2011
Bringing Disrepair Claims
An HLPA meeting in London
For the details, click here.

Autumn 2011

21 September 2011
Tenancy Agreements Conference 2011
A Chartered Institute of Housing event in London
For the details, click here.

29 September 2011
Preventing Homelessness and Helping Homeowners at Risk National Conference 2011
A Lime Legal Event in London
For the details, click here.

5 October 2011
Social Housing Allocations Conference
A Lime Legal Event in London
For the details, click here.

1 December 2011
Residential Landlord & Tenant Update 2011
A Professional Conferences event 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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