Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 258 - 10 April 2012

Tuesday 10 April 2012

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The Latest Housing Law News

New Rules for Tenancy Deposits: from 6 April 2012 the arrangements for tenancy deposit protection in England under the Housing Act 2004 have changed. For a Frequently Asked Questions sheet outlining the changes, click here. For the official revised guide to tenancy deposit protection, click here. For a guide to the changes made by the Localism Act, see the article by Michael Paget and Jan Luba QC in the April issue of Legal Action magazine. For details of David Smith's new book, The Guide to the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, click here.

New Rules on the Right to Buy: on 3 April 2012 the UK Government launched the revamped Right to Buy scheme for social housing tenants in England. The maximum discount has been raised to £75,000 at maximum levels of 70% discount for flats and 60% discount for houses. For the official announcement, click here. For the new Right to Buy Facebook page, click here. A series of new leaflets and factsheets have been published. For access to copies, click here.

Tenancy strategies get teeth: the latest commencement order on the Localism Act provides (at Article 12) that as soon as a local housing authority has published its tenancy strategy it must have regard to that strategy in exercising its housing management functions. The same order brings into force provisions relating to the London Housing Strategy on 3 May 2012. For a copy of the commencement order, click here.

Swopping flexible and affordable tenancies: on 4 April 2012 new rules came into force about the circumstances in which social landlords can decline applications from flexible and affordable rent tenants to swop their homes with other tenants of social housing. Localism Act Schedule 14 contains the rules. For the commencement order bringing it into force, click here.

Housing and Anti-social behaviour: on 5 April 2012 the Home Office published the report, Focus on the victim: Summary report on the ASB call handling trials which summarises the findings of eight police forces which trialled new approaches to handling ASB calls from the public. For a copy of that report, click here.

Social housing fraud: on 29 March 2012 the National Fraud Agency published its Annual Fraud Indicator. The report estimates that housing tenancy fraud costs local authorities in England around £900 million a year. For a copy of the report, click here. On 2 April 2012 the National Fraud Authority launched Fighting Fraud Locally - a strategic approach addressing the need for greater prevention and smarter enforcement. For a copy of the strategy document, click here.

Accessing Private Sector Rentals: a free service for tenants and private landlords supported by all five West Yorkshire local authorities and funded by the Department for Work and Pensions has been established in an effort to keep the private rental market moving despite housing benefit restrictions and to reduce levels of empty properties and evictions. For more details of the scheme, click here.

Gypsies and Travellers: on 4 April 2012 the UK Government published a progress report by the Ministerial working group on tackling inequalities experienced by Gypsies and Travellers. It contains 28 measures that are designed to improve outcomes for Gypsies and Travellers. In respect of accommodation, it contains a commitment to work to build on support for authorised sites through £60 million Traveller Pitch Funding and the New Homes Bonus to match monies raised through council tax. For a copy of the report, click here.

Private Investment in Social Housing: on 4 April 2012 the UK Government launched a consultation exercise seeking views on how to encourage more private investment into the social housing sector through Real Estate Investment Trusts - financing vehicles for those wishing to invest in property. For the consultation paper, click here. The closing date is 27 June 2012.

Energy and Housing: on 2 April 2012 the UK Government introduced an array of changes to the Energy Performance of Buildings Framework designed to make energy information on properties easier to understand. A whole set of associated new guides and notes have been published. They are available by clicking here. For the impact assessment of the changes, click here. The following day, the OFT launched a call for evidence about the operation of the home insulation market having received nearly 3000 complaints about solid and cavity wall insulation over the past year. For the announcement, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

R (Tout a Tout and Heff) v Haringey LBC [2012] EWHC 873 (Admin)
3 April 2012
The council operated a choice-based letting scheme based on points. Homeless households placed in temporary accommodation were encouraged to bid. If they had not bid successfully by the time they reached a 'points threshold' (at which a bid was likely to be successful) they were given two months' further opportunity to bid freely and then the system would auto-bid for them. If they were the highest ranked bidder on an auto-bid, the accommodation would be offered (if suitable) in order to bring the homelessness duty to an end. The claimants, who were owed homelessness duties, sought judicial review of the auto-bid scheme contending that it represented an unlawful departure from the statutory Code of Guidance on Allocations. The High Court dismissed the claim. The scheme afforded a 'choice' to homeless applicants and was not irrational. For the judgment, click here.

Macattram v Camden LBC [2012] EWHC (Admin) noted on LAWTEL CO/5055/2010
2 April 2012

The council took a lease of the claimant's house for three years, to provide accommodation for homeless families. When the term expired, the house was empty but the lease continued as a periodic tenancy. Later, the council stopped paying the rent and offered a surrender of the tenancy by returning the keys to the claimant. A question arose about liability for council tax. A tribunal held that the claimant had been liable from the expiry of the fixed term. The High Court dismissed an appeal from that decision. The periodic tenancy that was deemed to have arisen on expiry of the fixed term had only been a mere monthly tenancy. That meant the claimant was liable for the council tax.

Anas v Arora [2012] EWHC (QB) noted on LAWTEL
2 April 2012

The claimant landlord served a Housing Act 1988 section 21 notice and obtained a possession order against an assured shorthold tenant under the accelerated procedure. On an appeal from that order, a judge held that the section 21 notice had been valid and the order correctly made. The tenant sought permission to bring a second appeal. That application was refused in January 2012 (see [2012] EWCA Civ 102). The tenant then sought to press an appeal to the High Court against an earlier dismissal of an application for a stay of execution of the possession order. He said that he proposed to bring a claim for relief from forfeiture. The High Court ruled that the application had become academic and that the tenant's repeated attempts to delay or prevent possession would have to stop. It imposed a civil restraint order.

Du Plessis v Fontgary Leisure Parks Ltd [2012] EWCA Civ 409
2 April 2012

The claimant entered into a 10 year licence agreement to place her caravan on a pitch in the company's holiday caravan park. The licence provided for a review of the pitch fee and that the fee could be reviewed taking into account a number of specified matters and "any other relevant factor". The claimant contended that the clause was an unfair term under the 1999 Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations. A judge dismissed that claim and she appealed. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. The term was not unfair. The words used were part of a carefully balanced review procedure which, if not lawfully operated, could be challenged in the courts. For the judgment, click here.

R v SAI Property Investments Ltd t/a IPS Property Services (and others)
Reading Magistrates Court
30 March 2012

The defendant was a private letting agency. One of its directors contacted a council officer and asked for personal data about some of the agency's tenants. Without the council's authority, the officer obtained the data held on the council's housing benefit database and supplied it to the agency. It was used by the defendant to help it recover debts from the tenants. The defendant, the director and the council officer were all prosecuted for offences contrary to the Data Protection Act 1998. All were convicted, fined and ordered to pay costs and victim surcharges. The Information Commissioner called for more 'deterrent punishments', including custody, to be available to the courts. For more details, click here.

Octavia Housing v Winter [2012] EWCA Civ 436
29 March 2012

The claimant landlord issued a rent arrears possession claim in July 2008. The tenant counterclaimed for damages for disrepair. After a delay of over two years, the case was heard by a district judge on 3 February 2011. The counterclaim was dismissed and judgment entered for arrears of over £1380. The judge made a suspended possession order. A circuit judge dismissed an appeal. The tenant sought permission to bring a second appeal to the Court of Appeal. Permission was refused. The proposed appeal turned on issues of fact about evidence relating to the arrears. It would raise no issue of practice or principle.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2012] March Legal Action p20
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.

Starter tenancies survive
A. Lewis and D. Skinner
[2012] 29 March Local Government Lawyer
To read the article, click here.

Setting aside a possession order: the difference social housing makes?
D. Cowan
[2012] Conveyancer & Property Lawyer p104

The Bruton tenancy: a matter of relativity
N. Roberts
[2012] Conveyancer & Property Lawyer p87

The harassment minefield
(commentary on Kiss v Braintree)
M. Lake
[2012] 5 April Inside Housing p30
To read the article, click here.

Harm's Way
(commentary on the new community impact statements)
S. Pearson
[2012] 5 April Inside Housing p30
To read the article, click here.

Neglected procedures in cases of missing landlords
(commentary on use of acquisition and management orders)
J. Driscoll
[2012] 16 Landlord & Tenant Review p50

Tenancy Deposits: restoring Parliamentary intention
P. McKeown
[2012] 16 Landlord & Tenant Review p58

Preventing a forest of aerials
S. Highmore
[2012] 16 Landlord & Tenant Review p68

Housing Law Events (Spring 2012)

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.

26 April 2012
Tenancy Fraud
An evening housing seminar from SHLA
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.

17 May 2012
Localism Act & Social Housing
An evening meeting in Leeds of Yorkshire Housing Law Practitioners (with Jan Luba QC)
For more details: click here.

18 May 2012
Gypsy & Traveller Law Update
A Legal Action Group training event in Birmingham
For the details, click here.

22 May 2012
Social Housing Law & Practice
A Lime Legal 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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