Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 250 - 6 February 2012

Monday 6 February 2012

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The Latest Housing Law News

National Housing Strategy for England: on 1 February 2012 the Housing Minister made a written statement to Parliament outlining the steps taken towards implementation of the national housing strategy which was published last November. For the strategy itself, click here. For the ministerial statement on progress, click here.

Living in non-residential accommodation: over the past 3 months the London Fire Brigade has issued 8 prohibition notices to prevent occupation of dangerous premises, including garden sheds, which were being used for residential accommodation. Called to a fire in an office building, the Brigade's inspection of the premises revealed seventeen rooms with over 50 people living in them. For more details of the Brigade's work to tackle unsuitable and dangerous premises being used as living accommodation, click here.

New Homes Bonus: on 1 February 2012 the UK Government made the New Homes Bonus Scheme Grant Determination 2012/13. It sets out the amount that will be distributed to each local authority in England over the coming financial year to reflect work in creating new homes or bringing empty homes back into use. For a copy of the Determination, and of the Annex which sets out the amounts per authority, click here.

Filling Empty Homes: of the 780,000 empty homes in England, some 280,000 have not been occupied for over 6 months. Local groups are encouraged to apply for a share of a £100m grant fund designed to enable such properties to be brought back into use. The deadline for applications is 17 April 2012. For the guidance notes and application form, click here. For details of the recent ministerial launch of the initiative, click here. For a guidance pack, click here.

Extending Leaseholders' Rights: on 1 February 2012 the UK Government published its response to the consultation exercise on updating leasehold value limits, which was launched on 14 June 2011. The consultation paper contained proposals for updating the monetary limits that determine the availability of rights for long leaseholders to remain in their properties at the end of their lease and to extend their leases or buy the freehold (enfranchisement) of their leasehold house on particular terms. For a copy of the Government's response to views received, click here.

Regulation of Social Housing in England: on 3 February 2012 the Chief Executive of the Tenant Services Authority wrote to all social housing providers in England updating them on progress towards the establishment of the new regulatory regime from 1 April 2012. For a copy of the letter, click here. It particularly reminds social landlords that the current consultation on new regulatory standards closes this week (on 10 February). For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Meeting Housing Demand: the Local Government Association and the Homes & Communities Agency have jointly published a guide for local authority councillors on how to successfully plan to address housing need in their areas. For a copy of "Meeting local housing need: A guide for elected members", click here.

Homelessness, housing needs and lettings: is the title of Chapter 5 of the UK Housing Review 2011/2012. Although the review itself costs £45, a revised version of Chapter 5 is available to download for free by clicking here.

Finance for Council Housing: on 1 February 2012 the UK Government wrote to all local authorities in England to explain the next steps in the transition to self-financing of council housing (following the abolition of Housing Revenue Accounts). For a copy of the letter, click here. For the formal determinations made in respect of 2011/12, click here. For a copy of the Government's response to the consultation exercise `which had foreshadowed these changes, click here.

Property Fraud: on 1 February 2012 the Land Registry launched a new initiative designed to help property owners prevent the loss of their premises by fraud. The properties most vulnerable to fraud are usually empty, tenanted or mortgage-free. Individuals at a higher risk of fraud include absentee owners, buy to let landlords, the elderly not living in their properties (because they may be in long term hospital or residential care), and where a relationship has broken down. For details of the new initiative, click here. For the Land Registry guide to avoiding fraud, click here.

Rough sleeping: No Second Night Out (NSNO) is a pilot project that aims to ensure that new rough sleepers do not spend a second night on the streets. The organisation Homeless Link has published an evaluation of the first six months of the project, from 1 April to 30 September 2011. It explores the use of the NSNO assessment hub, early outcomes for its clients, the strengths of the project, challenges it has faced, and potential areas for improvement. It also explores lessons for replication. For a copy of the report, click here.

Welfare reforms and housing associations: a review has been published by the Consortium of Associations in the South East of the likely impact on housing associations of UK Government's welfare benefit reforms. For a copy of the review, click here.

Building safe and secure homes: on 31 January 2012 the UK Government launched a major consultation exercise covering most aspects of the current Building Regulations - that set standards for the construction and conversion of homes - and of the whole building control process. The consultation ends on 27 April 2012. For the full details, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

Leeds CC v Price [2012] EWCA Civ 59
2 February 2012

The council owned land on which travellers unlawfully camped. The council brought possession proceedings which culminated in an order for possession being upheld by the House of Lords. The council was awarded its costs and sought to recover them from the Legal Services Commission. It obtained an assessment for over £84,000 from the House of Lords' Taxing Officer and then a declaration to enforce those costs. The High Court set aside the declaration as the assessment had been obtained irregularly, in breach of the normal procedures for claiming and assessing costs which might be payable by the LSC. The Court of Appeal dismissed the council's appeal. For the judgment, click here.

Cavendish Square Investments Ltd v Moule [2012] EWHC (Admin). Noted on LAWTEL
31 January 2012

A Rent Assessment Committee registered the rent payable by a Rent Act protected tenant at a fixed sum. The tenancy agreement required the tenant to pay a share (10/24ths) of the landlord's costs of complying with its obligations relating to the property. The High Court upheld the landlord's contention that this meant that the rent was variable for the purposes of Rent Act 1977 section 71(4) and remitted the case for re-determination.

Attorney General v Singer [2012] EWHC (Admin). Noted on LAWTEL
24 January 2012

The tenant of a flat, and her husband, brought numerous proceedings in the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT), the county court and the magistrates court arising from service charge disputes with the management company responsible for her block of flats. Their claims rarely had a legal basis and many could be described as without merit or repetitious. The High Court held that the LVT was a 'court' for the purposes of the Senior Courts Act 1981 section 42. It made an 'all proceedings' order under that section, debarring the defendants from taking legal proceedings without first obtaining the permission of a court.

Cook & others v Mortgage Business and others [2011] EWCA Civ 17
24 January 2012

Mortgage lenders brought claims for possession and obtained possession orders in respect of a number of homes. The appellants were the occupiers who had sold their homes to purchasers but had remained in possession as tenants of the purchasers. The sale prices had either been at a discounted rate or had involved the sellers paying the purchasers part of the purchase price. The schemes had been designed to enable homeowners in difficulties to remain in occupation of their homes but they had not been formally set out in written contracts. The purchasers had bought with mortgages but had defaulted and disappeared. The defendants argued that the lenders were bound by their tenancies. The Court of Appeal rejected their arguments and upheld the possession orders. The sale, purchase and mortgage had all been completed on the same day in each case. There had been no moment in time when the tenancies could have bound the lenders. For the judgment, click here.

Mortgage Express v Butcher [2012] EWCA Civ 18
24 January 2012

Mr Martin sold his home to Mr Butcher for £210,000 (substantially less than its market price). Mr Butcher promised Mr Martin he could remain living in the property, after the purchase, for the rest of his life. Mr Butcher raised a mortgage of £300,000 secured on the property but was later made bankrupt and disappeared. The mortgage lender brought a claim for possession. The judge found that Butcher had dealt fraudulently with both Mr Martin and the lender but that Mr Martin's equitable right to remain for life bound the lender and refused possession. The lender told Mr Martin it would not appeal but, well after the time limit for appeal had passed, changed its mind and sought permission to appeal out of time in light of the test case mentioned above. The Court of Appeal held that it would be unjust to extend time and refused permission to appeal. For the judgment, click here.

JB v Director of Public Prosecutions [2012] EWHC (Admin) 72
24 January 2012

The defendant was a teenager subject to an ASBO. He was prosecuted for breach of that order arising from an incident in which he caused a sandbag to fall from a multi storey car park onto a bus travelling below. The defendant accepted that he had been smoking drugs before the incident but claimed he had not intended to push the bag or cause damage and that it had simply slipped. He was convicted and given a custodial sentence. His appeal was dismissed but the Divisional Court's judgment contains important guidance on the extent of the 'mental element' involved in an offence of breaching an ASBO. For the judgment, click here.

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.

"Yeah but, no but"
(commentary on Pinnock and Powell in the Supreme Court)
D. Cowan and C. Hunter
[2012] 75 Modern Law Review p78

Hard Times
(preventing execution of possession warrants)
M. Robinson
[2012] 149 Adviser p17

Mexfield: a missed opportunity?
J. Bignell
[2012] 16 Landlord & Tenant Review p1

Uncertainty of term - orthodoxy side-stepped in favour of a just result
(commentary on Mexfield)
M. Pawlowski
[2012] 16 Landlord & Tenant Review p16

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.

23 February 2012
Tenure Reform under the Localism Act: Law & Practice
An evening meeting in London of SHLA
For the details, click here.

27 February 2012
Advocacy Training for Housing Cases
An evening seminar in London arranged by HLPA
For the 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.

21 March 2012
Homeless Children
An evening meeting in London of HLPA
For the details, click here.

18 April 2012
How to Defend Subletting Cases
An evening seminar in London arranged by HLPA
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.

16 May 2012
Possession Claims: The Old and The New
An evening meeting in London of HLPA
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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