Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 262 – 8 May 2012

Tuesday 8 May 2012

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The Latest Housing Law News

Squatting: the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 received Royal Assent on 1 May 2012. Section 144 creates the new offence of squatting in a residential building. It will be brought into force by ministerial order. For a copy of the Act, click here. For the Impact Assessment on the squatting provision, click here. For the Equality Impact Assessment on the squatting provision, click here.

Housing & Legal Aid: with the passage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, the Legal Services Commission has published details of the contracts it will offer from April 2013 for legal aid work in relation to housing. New contracts for face to face advice in "Housing & Debt" will be available, there will be new contracts for telephone advice in Housing (likely to be let to five providers), and there will be about 35 new contracts for county court possession day services at courts which the LSC schemes are not presently covering. For the details and the timetable for bidding, click here.

Tenancy deposits: the one month 'period of grace' for private landlords to comply with the new arrangements for tenancy deposit protection made by the Localism Act amendments to the Housing Act 2004 expired on 6 May 2012. The new provisions are now fully applicable. For the official FAQ sheet on the new provisions, click here. For a fuller description of the changes see the article by Michael Paget and Jan Luba QC in the April 2012 issue of Legal Action magazine.

Exchanging Social Tenancies: the latest figures from the UK Government, released on 30 April 2012, suggest that the number of online searches for homes via the new Home Swap Direct services websites has reached 5,500 per day. Over one million enquiries have been made since the launch in October 2011. For the official statement, click here. Home Swap Direct brings together four internet-based providers of mutual exchange services (HomeSwapper, House Exchange, Abritas and LHS (Locata)).

Beds in sheds: on 30 April 2012 the UK Government launched a national taskforce, made up of the police, local councils, the UK Border Agency and HM Revenue and Customs, to close down 'beds in sheds' i.e. to stop the unauthorised letting by landlords of accommodation which is not permitted to be used for residential purposes. For the announcement, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

Gordon v Elizabeth Court (Bournemouth) Ltd [2012] EWHC (QB), [2012] All ER (D) 41 (May)
3 May 2012

The claimant had a right under her lease to garage one car in 'the space' provided for that purpose beneath her block of flats. In February 2011, the landlord decided to trial a new parking system whereby spaces were taken on a first-come first-served basis. The claimant sought an injunction preventing the new parking system from being implemented and a declaration that she was entitled to the use of an allocated parking space. The county court dismissed the claim. The High Court allowed an appeal and granted a declaration that the tenant was entitled to the use of an allocated parking space.

Gasimova v Azerbaijan [2012] ECHR 811
Bakhshiyev v Azerbaijan [2012] ECHR 808
3 May 2012

The applicants were the owners or legitimate occupiers of flats in Azerbaijan. Their properties were taken over by people displaced by fighting with the invading Armenian military forces. After the conflict, the applicants applied-for and were granted court orders entitling them to the return of their homes. Although the judgments were final, the orders were never enforced. The European Court of Human Rights found that the state's failure to enforce the judgments amounted to a denial of justice (Article 6) and wrongful interference with the applicants' properties (Article 1 Protocol 1). It made multiple awards of compensation. For the judgments click here and here.

Barking & Dagenham LBC v Bakare [2012] EWCA Civ, [2012] All ER (D) 27 (May)
2 May 2012

The council brought a possession claim against a tenant based on her rent arrears and the anti-social behaviour (ASB) of her son. The judge found that the ASB had been made out but adjourned the case for calculation of the arrears. He granted an ASBO against the son pending the resumed hearing. The son failed to comply with the ASBO and the ASB escalated. At the date of the resumed hearing, the arrears had been resolved but the council sought an outright order. The tenant suggested a suspended order based on a package of measures she had put, or would put, in place to curtail further ASB by her son. The judge granted an outright order. The Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal. The judge had to choose, in the exercise of his discretion, between making an outright or a suspended order. He had been entitled, on the facts, to make the former.

Mago v Bosnia and Herzegovina [2012] ECHR 802
2 May 2012

The applicants were the holders (or successors to the holders) of occupancy rights in respect of flats in blocks of social housing. During the conflict in former Yugoslavia, they were displaced. Later their occupancy rights were cancelled by statute so that the flats could be re-allocated to others in need of accommodation. The European Court of Human Rights held that even though the cancellation of the applicants' rights had been lawful and in the interests of enhancing social justice, there had been an infringement of Article 1 Protocol 1 because there had been no compensation. It awarded damages. Because none of the applicants expressed a wish to return to their former homes, there had been no violation of Article 8. For the judgment click here.

Genesis Housing Association v Ismail [2012] EWHC (QB), noted on LAWTEL
26 April 2012

The association served section 21 notices on the defendants who were assured shorthold tenants. The district judge made possession orders. The tenants brought a claim for judicial review of the decision to seek their eviction but permission for that claim was refused on the basis that the association was not a 'public authority' and that the service of the section 21 notices had been proportionate. The tenants then sought permission to appeal the possession orders to enable them to raise Article 8 defences to the possession claims. The High Court upheld the refusal of permission to appeal. The Article 8 point had not been raised before the district judge so it could not be the subject of an appeal. In any event, the tenants were estopped from raising the Article 8 defence by the dismissal of their judicial review claim.

Lewisham LBC v Mary Christine Obanokho
Woolwich Magistrates Court
18 April 2012

The defendant came to the UK from Nigeria in 1996 on a six months visitor's visa but overstayed. She later bought a 'British passport' for £500 containing a false date of birth. She used it as identification to apply to the council for social housing and was subsequently given temporary accommodation by a housing association. She pleaded guilty to offences under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 for using a false passport to obtain social housing and was sentenced to 8 months imprisonment. The association is seeking possession of the home. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Olympic Delivery Authority v Persons Unknown [No.2] [2012] EWHC 1114 (Ch)
18 April 2012

The ODA successfully obtained a renewal until October 2012 of a High Court injunction (see HLB 261) to prevent protestors blocking access roads and abusing contractors in relation to a site on which it was constructing basketball training pitches. The judge said: "The ODA has rights as exclusive licensee of the land in question under Article 1 of the First Protocol.... As I observed in my judgment on 4 April 2012, the protestors' rights under Articles 10 and 11 are not unqualified rights. They must give way, where it is necessary and proportionate to do so, to the Convention rights of others, and specifically in the present case, of the ODA. The form of injunction sought by the ODA and which I granted on the last occasion does not, in and of itself, prevent or inhibit lawful and peaceful protest. It does not prevent or inhibit the protestors who wish to protest about the matters I have described from doing so in ways which do not interfere with the ODA's enjoyment of its rights in respect of the land." For the judgment, click here.

Solitaire Property Management Co Ltd v Holden [2012] UKUT 86 (LC)
12 April 2012

Long leases of over 100 flats provided that the service charges would be payable on an interim basis on account of a final demand and that there would be a reserve fund. The landlords' agents levied the interim charges but made no final demands. The tenants disputed the charges. A Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) held that: in the absence of a final demand no service charges were payable; that the reserve fund provisions were unfair and contrary to human rights; that it should not follow a High Court decision with which it did not agree; and that the landlord should pay the costs. The Upper Tribunal set aside almost all the orders of the LVT. It had been wrong to review the reserve fund, wrong not to follow binding authority, and in error of law as to the effect of failure to render a demand for final service charges. For the judgment, click here.

Hounslow LBC v Islam [2012] EWCA Civ 584
3 April 2012

The claimant sought to execute a warrant for possession of a property let to Mr Islam. The judge found that the flat had been sub-let, that over £1200 was owed to the council in rent arrears, that the tenancy had been granted following a false representation by the tenant (that he had had no other accommodation) and that accordingly the eviction should proceed. The Court of Appeal dismissed an application by the tenant for permission to appeal. The judge had been entitled to draw inferences from the facts he had found on the issues of false representation and subletting. In any event, the arrears alone (given the history) would have justified the order.

Housing Law Articles

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

Broken promises?
(commentary on the sale and rent back arrangements)
D. Gatty
[2012] 162 New Law Journal p563

Housing Law Events (Spring/Summer 2012)

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.

13 June 2012
Homeless Cases: Has the Duty been Discharged?
An evening housing seminar from HLPA
For more details, click here.

27 June 2012
Social Housing Tenancy Agreements
A Lime Legal training event in London
For the details, click here.

28 June 2012
Anti-Social Behaviour
A SHLA evening seminar in London
For the details, click here.

18 July 2012
Outside the Housing Acts: No recourse and Community Care
An evening meeting in London of HLPA
For the details, click here.

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