Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 247 - 9 January 2012

Monday 9 January 2012

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The Latest Housing Law News

Social housing allocation in England: on 5 January 2012 the UK government opened a consultation exercise on the content of a draft new Code of Guidance for social housing allocation in England, taking account of the changes to be made to allocation law by the Localism Act 2011. The proposed code would replace all current statutory guidance issued under Housing Act 1996 Part 6. For a copy of the draft, click here. For the ministerial announcement launching the consultation, click here. Responses are invited by 30 March 2012.

Social housing allocation (and homelessness) in Wales: on 12 December 2011 the Welsh Government published the results of its consultation on a new draft Code of Guidance for both social housing allocation and homelessness in Wales. For the summary of responses, click here. The Government has accepted a number of suggestions made in the 34 responses received, including the proposal that an "electronic copy" of the new Code be made available.

Social housing for ex-armed services personnel: on 5 January 2012 the UK government opened a consultation exercise on the content of two new sets of regulations intended to ensure greater preference in social housing allocation for former military personnel in housing need. They would require every local housing authority in England to give additional preference to such applicants in their allocation schemes and would ensure that those applicants could not be caught by any of the residency requirements likely to be imposed by local authorities once the amendments made by the Localism Act 2011 are in force. For the two draft regulations, click here and click here. Responses are invited to housingreform@communities.gsi.gov.uk by 30 March 2012.

Homelessness in Wales: figures released by the Welsh Government on 20 December 2011 indicate that during the July to September quarter of 2011 a total of 1,845 households were accepted as homeless which is up by 15% on the same quarter of 2010 and up by 25% on the same quarter of 2009. For the full statistics on statutory homelessness activity in Wales, click here. The current consultation exercise on the collection of future data on official homelessness in Wales closes on 16 January 2012. For the consultation paper, click here.

Housing and anti-social behaviour: on 16 December 2011 the Chartered Institute of Housing published new guidance for housing staff on the effective handling of anti-social behaviour, giving practical advice on the management of such cases. For a free copy, click here.

Regulation of social landlords in Wales: last month the new Regulatory Framework for housing associations registered in Wales came into force. The scheme of regulation has statutory force under the Housing Act 1996 which now gives regulatory power to Welsh Ministers. For a copy of the new framework document, click here.

Housing policy in Wales: the Minister for Housing in the Welsh Government has published his vision for the future of housing in Wales and invited responses. For a copy of the document, click here. Details on how to respond by the deadline of 17 February 2012 are given at the end of the document.

Right to buy: on 6 January 2012 the IPPR published a paper by Frank Field MP and David Davis MP calling for the re-invigoration of the right to buy and its extension across the social housing sector. For a copy of the paper, click here.

Elderly tenants and owners: on 3 January 2012 the Housing Minister announced arrangements to help older people in England to continue living comfortably in their own homes. The announcement highlights funding for Home Improvement Agencies, Disabled Facilities Grants and the FirstStop programme. For further details, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

Chesterfield BC v Bailey [2011] EW Misc (CC) 18
22 December 2011

Mr and Mrs Bailey were joint council tenants. Their relationship ended. Mr Bailey left and five years later served notice to quit intended to bring the tenancy to an end. After it expired, the council sought possession. The claim was dismissed. The judge decided that the notice to quit was defective. The tenancy agreement required four full weeks' notice expiring at midday on a Monday. The notice was expressed to expire on Monday 4 October 2010. Although the council could prove that it had received the notice on Monday 6 September 2010 it could not show that the notice had been received before 12 noon that day and therefore failed to establish four full weeks' notice. The judge also decided that, even if the notice had been valid, it would not have been proportionate to make a possession order having regard to the defendant's rights under Human Rights Act 1998 Schedule 1 Article 8. For the judgment, click here.

Complaint against Brighton & Hove City Council [10/021/844]
12 December 2011

Following flooding in January 2010, caused by a burst water pipe in his loft, a vulnerable tenant moved out while repair works were undertaken. The works should have been completed by July 2010 but were not finished until late summer 2011 when the tenant returned home. He had stayed with friends for 18 months, sleeping on a sofa. The Local Government Ombudsman decided that there had been maladministration causing serious injustice and recommended £3000 compensation. As a result of the complaint, the council put in place a 14 point action plan to deal with the handling of temporary decants from council properties. For the investigation report, click here.

Dobson and others v Thames Water Utilities Ltd [2011] EWHC 3253 (TCC)
8 December 2011

The claimants were 1350 residents living in the vicinity of a sewage treatment works operated by the defendant. They sought compensation for the nuisance caused by unpleasant odours and by mosquitoes. Those claimants who were tenants or owners succeeded in their claims brought on grounds of nuisance and were awarded damages. The other claimants, mainly the children and partners of the tenants and owners, brought claims under Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998 section 6 on the basis that there had been a breach of their rights under Article 8. The judge extended the limitation period for those claims from one year to six years and held that there had been a breach of Article 8. However, he decided that, on the facts, it was not just to award damages. The passages dealing with the HRA claims start at para [1036] of the judgment which can be obtained by clicking here.

Health & Safety Executive v Long
City of London Magistrates' Court, December 2011

Mr Long of Elgin Road, Croydon let out a property in the same street. Five of its residents were admitted to hospital suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. An HSE investigation found that there was no landlord's gas safety certificate. The gas hob, boiler and flue had not been inspected by a qualified gas engineer and the carbon monoxide was coming from a gas boiler in the cellar. Gas engineers found a taped-up air vent in the cellar. Mr Long pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 36(3)(a) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. He was fined a total of £24,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,000. For more details, click here.

Hurst v United Kingdom [2011] ECHR 2080
29 November 2011

The applicant's son had been a council tenant. Another tenant on the same estate, Mr Reid, was the subject of repeated complaints to the council and the police about his violent and threatening behaviour. The council brought possession proceedings and the applicant's son gave evidence in support of that claim. On the day that a possession order was made, Mr Reid killed the applicant's son. She was advised that she had no remedy in English law for any failure by the council or the police to protect her son and she complained to the European Court of Human Rights. The following questions were posed by the Court for the parties: (1) Did the relevant public agents know or ought they to have known of the existence of a real and immediate risk to the applicant's son's life and did they fail to take measures within the scope of their powers which, judged reasonably, might have been expected to avoid that risk? (2) Was the applicant's right of access to court for the determination of her civil rights disproportionately restricted having regard to the availability to her of any civil remedy in damages against the police and/or the local authority? Following the exchange of submissions on those questions, the case was compromised. For the judgment posing the questions, click here. For the final decision, dismissing the case in the light of the compromise, click here.

Sharif v Camden LBC [2011] UKSC 2011/0117
22 November 2011

The Supreme Court has granted the council permission to appeal against a Court of Appeal decision ([2011] EWCA Civ 463) relating to homelessness duties. The Court of Appeal had decided that in performing the main housing duty a local authority had to provide accommodation for the applicant "together with" other household members and that that duty could not be performed by spitting the household into neighbouring self-contained properties.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2012] January Legal Action p19
For back-copies of articles in this series, click here.

How to get an Article 8 case past the first hearing
Garden Court North Chambers Housing Team
[2011] 28 Housing Team Legal Bulletin p1
For a copy, click here.

The Localism Act 2011: allocation of social housing accommodation
T. Baldwin and J. Luba
[2012] January Legal Action 23

A red letter day for a tenant
(commentary on Saxon Weald v Chadwick)
K. Anders
[2011] 8 December Local Government Lawyer
For a copy, 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.

22 February 2012
Possession: Public Law and the Equality Act
An evening housing seminar at Garden Court Chambers.
For more details, click here.

8 March 2012
Anti-social Behaviour Update
An evening housing seminar at Garden Court Chambers.
For more details, click here.

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

19 April 2012
Homelessness and Allocation after the Localism Act
An evening housing seminar at Garden Court Chambers.
For more details, click here.

25 April 2012
Doing Your Duty: How to Keep your Client's Home when on the Duty Possession Scheme
(Free for representatives on the housing possession day duty schemes)
An evening housing seminar at Garden Court Chambers.
For more details, click here.

1 May 2012
Defending Possession Proceedings
A Legal Action Group training event in London
For the details, click here.

22 May 2012
Housing Disrepair
A Legal Action Group training event in London
For the details, click here.

24 May 2012
New Forms of Tenancy and Using the Ombudsman After the Localism Act
An evening housing seminar at Garden Court Chambers.
For more details, click here.

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