Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 248 - 16 January 2012

Monday 16 January 2012

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The Latest Housing Law News

Increasing evictions: on 12 January 2012 the UK Government issued the latest county court statistics revealing very significant increases in eviction rates. In the third quarter of 2011,16,600 repossessions of properties were made by county court bailiffs, a 20% increase on the third quarter of 2010. 7,300 of the properties were recovered on behalf of mortgage lenders, 23% more than in the third quarter of 2010. For the full statistical report, click here. The Government has also published a new set of National Standards for Enforcement Agents which apply, among others, to bailiffs. For a copy, click here.

Social housing fraud in England: on 11 January 2012 the UK government opened a consultation exercise on proposals to amend the law relating to fraudulent use of social housing. The paper deals with subletting, key-selling and with deception used to achieve tenancy succession. As well as proposing criminal offences which a local housing authority could prosecute, it proposes amendments to housing law relating to the security of tenure of absentee secure and assured tenants. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here. For the ministerial announcement launching the consultation, click here. Responses are invited by 4 April 2012.

Housing laws in England: on 12 January 2012 the UK Government launched a short consultation on whether any housing regulations imposing obligations on landlords in the private or social housing sectors should be repealed or replaced. For the announcement, click here. For the Housing page of what is called the Red Tape Challenge, click here. The site lists most current regulations and invites views on those that might be withdrawn. Advisers keen to keep certain provisions may wish to respond accordingly.

Quality of housing in Wales: on 13 January 2012 the Auditor General for Wales reported that the Welsh Government's aim that all social housing in Wales would achieve the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) by the end of 2012 will not be met for some considerable time. His report points to weaknesses in leadership around the WHQS and finds that the Welsh Government has not acted swiftly enough to support and monitor progress. For a copy of the report, click here.

Gypsy & Traveller Sites in England: on 7 January 2012 the Communities Minister announced the distribution of £60m funding for social landlords and local authorities to provide new authorised pitches and better facilities for travellers on official sites in 2012/13. For the announcement, click here. For details of the distribution of the funds, click here.

Definition of "affordable" social housing: to help social landlords to comply with the standards set by the Regulator of Social Housing when assessing the 'market rent' to be incorporated into the calculation of an Affordable Rent , a guidance note has been produced by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. For a copy of the new guidance note, click here.

Housing benefit: the January 2012 edition of Housing Benefit Direct has just been distributed. For a copy, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

Kinnear v Whittaker [2011] EWCA Civ 1609
21 December 2011

Mr Kinnear bought a property from Ms Whittaker and entered into a written tenancy agreement enabling her to remain in occupation at a rent of £1pm. The purchase was funded by a mortgage. Mr Kinnear defaulted on the mortgage and the lenders appointed receivers. In his name they brought a claim for possession. Ms Whittaker defended on the basis that the tenancy agreement did not represent the true agreement between the parties which had been that she could remain in the house for the rest of her life. The judge decided that the defence did not pass the CPR 55.8 threshold (claim genuinely disputed on grounds which appear to be substantial) and granted possession. The High Court allowed an appeal and ordered a trial. The Court of Appeal refused permission to appeal from that decision. There were no grounds for impugning the decision that the claim and defence should be tried.

Rooney v Secretary of State for Communities [2011] EWCA Civ 1556

16 November 2011
The claimant applied for planning permission to station caravans for four gypsy families on his land. The council refused permission. That decision was upheld on appeal by a planning inspector. The claimant appealed to the High Court taking the point that in a different case, decided a month earlier, the same inspector had granted such permission on broadly similar facts bearing in mind the Article 8 rights of the gypsy families. The High Court dismissed the appeal and the claimant appealed to the Court of Appeal. It held that: (1) there was material justifying the inspector in reaching different decisions in the two cases; and (2) the High Court judge on an appeal was not required to conduct a fresh examination of any interference with the Article 8 rights of occupiers. That was a matter for the inspector. For the judgment, click here.

Health & Safety Executive v Khalid Hussein
Walsall Magistrates Court, November 2011

The defendant landlord let out a property to tenants. In January 2011 the gas boiler broke down. In March 2011 the HSE served an improvement notice requiring him to produce a gas safety certificate for the gas installations in the house by May 2011. He did not comply. The gas engineer who eventually installed a new boiler in October 2011 found the gas cooker to be dangerous and had to isolate it. No safety certificate was produced until October 2011. Mr Hussein pleaded guilty to breaching section 33(1)(g) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 12974 and regulation 36(3)(a) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. He was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,000. For more details, click here.

Bernard v Meisuria [2011] EWCA Civ 1382
2 November 2011

The claimants had been tenants of the defendant private landlord. They brought a claim for compensation for the landlord's breach of his obligations to repair their drains. Their case was that rats had entered from the broken drains and that the rats and fleas had infested the house. At trial, a judge awarded them damages of £2000 (see [2011] January Legal Action 21). The landlord sought permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal on the basis that the expert evidence could not have enabled the judge to find the claim proved on the balance of probabilities. Permission to appeal was refused. The judge had assessed the evidence and reached a conclusion which there was no real prospect of upsetting on an appeal.

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.

Of mice and clients
(a day in the life of a legal aid housing solicitor)
R. Conway
[2012] 9 January Solicitors Journal p19
For a copy of the article, click here.

Tenancy deposits
DJ R. Pates
[2011] 109 Law Society Gazette issue 1 p16
For a copy of the article, click here.

The Localism Act 2011: will it lead to fair allocation of social housing to local people in most need?
T. Baldwin
[2012] 15 Journal of Housing Law 16

Housing associations: diversification and profit
C. Handy
[2012] 15 Journal of Housing Law 12

Overcrowding and under-occupation: two sides of the same coin?
C. Hunter
[2012] 15 Journal of Housing Law 1

An overview of the housing benefit scheme (Part 1)
S. Madge-Wyld and S. Smith
[2012] 15 Journal of Housing Law 5

Caught out
(disputed succession claims in social housing)
S. Darlington and N. Lawlor
[2012] 13 January Inside Housing
For a copy of the article, 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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