Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 245 - 19 December 2011

Monday 19 December 2011

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*** LAST ISSUE OF 2011 ***

The Latest Housing Law News

Under-occupation of Social Housing: on 14 December 2011 the House of Lords passed an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill to water-down the proposed reductions in housing benefit payments for social housing tenants with spare bedrooms. The amendment (No.12) was moved by Lord Best. For the debate on the amendment, see Lords Debates columns 1285-1308 by clicking here. The amendment will be reconsidered when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.

On the same day, the UK Government announced that an additional £30m would be made available for Discretionary Housing Payments to help some 40,000 households of disabled people and foster carers who will have their housing benefits reduced from April 2013 when the under-occupation cuts take effect in social housing. For that announcement, click here. For more on the likely impact of the proposed benefit cuts for tenants under-occupying social housing, click here.

Access to Social Housing: among the changes to housing law being made by the Localism Act 2011 Part 7 will be the new arrangements to control locally the allocation of the social housing stock and then offer a flexible range of fixed-term tenancies to new tenants. In London, several boroughs are already working-out how to give priorities to those applicants and tenants who are in (or seeking) employment when the changes take effect. For an outline of the Housing into Work Strategy adopted by Wandsworth, click here. For details of plans in Westminster for "a fair housing deal for responsible tenants", issued as part of its consultation paper on a new civic contract with residents, click here.

Letting agents in the private rented sector: on 7 December 2011 the Resolution Foundation published the results of its survey of tenants' experiences in renting private sector accommodation through letting agents. It found that the letting agent market is largely unregulated and does not have transparent charging arrangements. The report makes a series of policy recommendations. For a copy of the report, click here.

Housing & domestic violence: on 14 December 2011 the Home Office launched a consultation on a new definition of 'domestic violence' to be adopted across UK government departments. For the announcement, click here. For the consultation paper, click here. For the impact assessment on the changed definition, click here.

Households at risk of repossession: Shelter has published an updated (December 2011) analysis of the local rates of landlord and mortgage lender possession claims. The report indicates areas of the country in which residents are most likely to face eviction. For the Eviction Risk Monitor report, click here. For an interactive UK map indicating the repossession hot-spots, click here.

Housing & anti-social behaviour: on 15 December 2011 the Department for Education published the latest research on the outcome of participation with family intervention projects and services by households with a history of anti-social behaviour. For a copy of the report, click here. For the Prime Minister's speech on the same date relating to measures to address troubled families, click here. He announced that the UK Government would fund 40% of the cost of providing "a national network of Troubled Family 'Trouble-Shooters' who will be appointed by local councils. Their responsibilities will include making sure the right families are getting the right type of help, that sanctions are in place when needed, and that positive results are being achieved with the troubled families in their area." For more details, click here.

Housing & Human Rights: the UK presently holds the rotating chairmanship of the Council of Europe (CoE), the body with responsibility for the European Convention of Human Rights. On 13 December 2011 the CoE's Commissioner for Human Rights delivered a speech in London entitled British contributions are needed in the global struggle for equality and diversity. For a copy of the speech, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

Tolui v London Rent Assessment Panel [2011] EWHC (Admin), [2011] All ER (D) 126 (Dec)
16 December 2011
Mr Tolui was the landlord of a Rent Act tenant. He applied for registration of a fair rent of £360pw. The current rent was £60pw. A rent officer registered the rent at £62.50pw. The landlord appealed to a Rent Assessment Committee and in January 2010 it fixed a rent of £63.50pw. For its decision, click here. Mr Tolui applied for a judicial review of that decision in April 2010. He ought to have lodged a statutory appeal in the High Court within 28 days of the Committee's decision. He did not lodge that appeal until September 2010. The High Court refused an extension of time. To justify such an extension there would need to have been something in the nature of a manifest error in the Committee's decision. Despite the criticisms made by Mr Tolui of the handling of issues relating to scarcity and improvements, there were no grounds for interfering with the Committee's decision.

R(Milton Keynes) v Secretary of State for Communities [2011] EWCA (Civ) 1575
16 December 2011

Prior to 1 October 2010, when new regulations made by the Secretary of State came into force, planning permission was needed for the change of use of a single dwelling house to a house in multiple occupation (HMO). Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) could thereby control the problems that could arise from HMOs, by either refusing planning permission or by the imposition of planning conditions. Since 1 October 2010, such change of use has been a permitted development and LPAs have no planning controls other than by making directions which will expose them to the risk of liability for compensation to landowners. Milton Keynes and other councils brought a claim for judicial review and sought an order quashing the regulations on the basis that they had not formally been consulted before they were made. The High Court dismissed the claim holding that, in the circumstances, there had been sufficient consultation by the Government in that it had consulted with the representative bodies of local authorities rather than individual councils. The Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal, upholding the reasoning of the judge. For the judgment, click here.

Secretary of State for Work & Pensions v Payne & Cooper [2011] UKSC 60
14 December 2011
The claimants were in receipt of welfare benefits. Both obtained Debt Relief Orders identifying that they owed benefit-related debts. The Benefits Agency sought to recover the debts (which included repayable loans and overpayments) by deductions from current benefits. The claimant sought a judicial review. The Supreme Court decided that the DROs gave rise to a moratorium on collection of all debts identified in the orders, including repayments of benefits. The deductions could not continue to be made. For the judgment, click here.

Bank of Scotland t/a Birmingham Midshires v Breytenbach and Breytenbach [2011] EWHC (Bankruptcy) 106 and 112 of 2011.
30 November 2011

The claimant brought a claim for damages against the defendant solicitors alleging negligence or breach of contract in their handling of a mortgage for the purchase of two flats. Both defendants were bankrupt. Having issued the claim, the claimant sought a retrospective grant of the leave of the court to bring proceedings against a bankrupt: Insolvency Act 1986 section 285(3)(b). There were conflicting authorities about whether leave could be granted retrospectively in order to uphold a claim already started. The Registrar reviewed the authorities and held that the grant of leave could be backdated and in this case should be.

R(TL)[No.2] v Angus Council [2011] CSOH 196
25 November 2011

The claimant, a young Moroccan man, had stowed away on a ship which landed in Scotland. He applied to Angus council for accommodation, claiming to be 15. It undertook an assessment of his age and decided he was over 18. He challenged the assessment by a claim for judicial review and sought a declaration. His claims failed. The judgment contains an extended treatment of how claims relating to age assessments are to be determined in the courts and tribunals in Scotland. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

R v John Johnson-Bowler
Oxford Magistrates' Court
11 November 2011

The defendant, acting as agent for a landlord, evicted a tenant by changing his locks and putting his belongings on the pavement. Despite the attendance of a council tenancy relations officer, the eviction continued. The defendant pleaded guilty to an offence of unlawful eviction contrary to the Prevention from Eviction Act 1977. He was sentenced to 6 weeks imprisonment and 60 hours community service. He was ordered to pay £100 compensation and £500 costs. The custodial sentence was suspended for 12 months. For further details, click here.

Housing Law Articles

The law on Gangbos
L. Whitehead
[2011] 8 December Law Society's Gazette
To read the article, click here.

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2011] December Legal Action p26
For back-copies of articles in this series, click here.

Housing Law Events

3 February 2012
Recent Developments in Housing Law
A Legal Action Group training event in London
For the details, click here.

9 March 2012
Introduction to Housing Law
A Legal Action Group training event in London
For the details, click here.

1 May 2012
Defending Possession Proceedings
A Legal Action Group training 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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