Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 263 – 14 May 2012

Monday 14 May 2012

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The Latest Housing Law News

Possession Claims: the latest statistics on mortgage and landlord possession actions in the county courts of England and Wales were released on 10 May 2012 covering the first quarter of 2012. They indicate that the North West of England is the region most affected by mortgage possession claims. The number of landlord possession claims is up slightly across the country. For the full statistics, click here. The Council of Mortgage Lenders reports that repossession activity by its members has remained broadly stable with 9,600 repossessions in the first quarter of 2012, breaking the recent trend of year-on-year increases in repossessions. For its figures, click here. This data led to a restatement by the UK Government of the help available to defaulting homeowners. For a copy of that statement, click here.

Housing & Legal Aid: on 8 May 2012 the Legal Services Commission announced that the tender process for new face-to-face contracts in Housing will open on Monday next, 21 May 2012. The closing date for receipt of PQQ responses will be 12 noon on Monday 18 June 2012. Applicants who are successful at this stage of the tender process will subsequently receive an Invitation to Tender for the contracts available. Parallel processes are being followed for contracts for telephone advice in Housing and for new county court possession day duty scheme contracts. For more details, click here.

UK Government's legislative programme: the Government's legislative programme, set out in the Queen's Speech on 9 May 2012, contains no proposals directly related to housing. Nor is there a Home Office Bill giving effect to changes in the law relating to anti-social behaviour. A new Care & Support Bill will be brought forward in draft to codify the law relating to community care, including the National Assistance Act 1948. For details of all aspects of the programme as set out in the speech, click here.

Social Housing Allocation: even before the changes to allocation law made by the Localism Act 2011 have been brought into force, some local authorities have adopted new allocation schemes reflecting the direction of those changes. For example, from 1 April 2012, South Norfolk DC has adopted a new allocation scheme which will cause the numbers of applicants on the housing register to reduce and to reflect only housing need and the housing demand of customers with a local connection to South Norfolk, as well as achieving cost savings. For a copy of the Cabinet paper explaining the changes, click here. For the new allocation scheme itself, click here.

Money for tackling beds in sheds: on 11 May 2012 the UK Government announced that a £1.8m fund would be allocated to help the worst affected councils flush out those landlords who exploit migrants at their most vulnerable by providing appalling accommodation in sheds and outbuildings. The nine councils receiving the new funding are: Brent, Ealing, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Newham, Peterborough, Redbridge, Slough and Southwark. For the announcement, click here.

Supported Housing & Housing Benefit: the UK Government is still considering the responses submitted to its consultation exercise on the future arrangements for housing benefit in the supported housing sector. Some sense of the likely outcome was given in a meeting between the Government and sector representatives held on 19 March 2012. For a helpful note of that meeting, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

Helena Partnerships Ltd v HMRC [2012] EWCA Civ 569
9 May 2012

The claimant was a registered social landlord and a non-profit making company. In 2001 it changed its memorandum and articles to state that its objects included any activity than might be carried out by a social landlord "for the benefit of the community". In 2002 it took a large scale voluntary transfer of housing stock from St Helens MBC. In 2004 it became a registered charity. The issue on the appeal was whether it had been a charity from 2001 to 2004. The HMRC considered that it had not been and levied a claim for £6m in corporation tax. The claimant appealed unsuccessfully to the First-tier and Upper tribunals. The Court of Appeal dismissed a further appeal. The provision of social housing was not, of itself, sufficient to establish the claimant as a 'charity' and the fact that its activities were said to be carried out 'for the benefit of the community' did not achieve that effect either. The provision of homes to individuals was primarily for their individual benefit. For the judgment, click here.

Harrow LBC v Ayiku [2012] EWHC (Admin) 1200
9 May 2012

Council tax is not normally payable in respect of accommodation occupied only by students. In this case, also living in a house with students was the non-British spouse of one of those students. The local valuation tribunal held that no council tax was payable. The council appealed. The High Court dismissed the appeal. The judge decided that the non-British spouse of a student (residing in a relevant dwelling) who is prevented by the terms of her leave to enter from claiming benefits, but is not prevented by those terms from taking paid employment, is exempt from having to pay Council Tax by virtue of the operation of Class N in the 1992 Order, as amended. All the occupiers therefore qualified for exemption. For the judgment, click here.

R(M) v Croydon LBC [2012] EWCA Civ 595
8 May 2012

The claimant was a refugee from Afghanistan who claimed that he had been born in 1996. Following an assessment, the council decided that he had been born in 1994. The claimant brought a claim for judicial review of that decision. Eventually, the claim was compromised by the council agreeing that the claimant was indeed born in 1996. The parties could not agree about costs and a judge made 'no order for costs'. The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal by the claimant. He was awarded most of the costs. The Court's judgment gives general guidance on the costs payable in settled judicial review cases and urges parties to follow and apply it in reaching their own agreements about the costs to be paid where a claim is compromised. For the judgment, click here.

Murphy and Doran v Secretary of State for Communities [2012] EWHC (Admin) 1198
8 May 2012

The claimants were Irish Travellers occupying sites in the Green Belt in respect of which planning permission had been refused. Those refusals were upheld by inspectors appointed by the Secretary of State. The claimants appealed, contending that the inspectors had been wrong to have had regard to the announcement on 29 August 2010 of the intention to withdraw the then current national planning guidance for gypsy and traveller sites set out in Circular 01/2006. the announcement reflected the policy of the Coalition Government towards the planning process and, as part of that process, for the provision of gypsy and traveller sites. The High Court dismissed the appeals. The criticisms made of the procedure adopted by the Secretary of State and of the substantive decisions his inspectors made in each case (including the reasons given) could not be sustained. For the full judgment, click here.

Magnohard Ltd v Earl Cadogan [2012] EWCA Civ 594
8 May 2012

The claimant was tenant of a building constructed in 1888. When built it had provided six residential units, a housekeepers flat and three small shops. It now comprised seven flats and three retail units. The tenant claimed the right to acquire the freehold. That depended on whether the building was a "house... reasonably so called": Leasehold Reform Act 1967 section 2(1). The judge decided it was not. The Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal. The building had throughout its 120-year life been used to provide substantial self-contained flats and shops. It could not reasonably be called a "house". For the judgment, click here.

Ash-Shahada Housing Association v Ibrahiym [2012] EWHC(Ch) noted on LAWTEL
8 May 2012

The claimant was a housing association managed by a board which delegated operational functions to its chief executive. Following a dispute among board members, the defendants (certain directors and former board members) took over the association's offices and held themselves out as running the association. The claimant sought injunctions to remove them from the offices and to prevent them representing that they spoke for the association. The High Court decided that the association had raised a seriously arguable claim of trespass and interference with business. The balance of convenience favoured the grant and continuance of injunctions.

OM Property Management Ltd Re: 36 Culpepper Close [2012] UKUT 102 (LC)
3 May 2012

A tenant raised numerous objections to service charges levied under his lease. A Leasehold Valuation Tribunal rejected the majority of the points raised but disallowed a sum of over £300 claimed in respect of six letters sent to tenants in default with their service charges, describing them as being in the nature of a penalty. The LVT also decided that the costs of legal representation before the LVT could not be claimed as service charges because the managers had utilised an in-house lawyer rather than instructing an external representative. The Upper Tribunal allowed an appeal. The managers were entitled to use in-house legal services and bill for them at the equivalent of the hourly rate charged in the private sector. The issue for the LVT on the charges for the six letters was whether such charges were recoverable under the lease. Insufficient reasons had been given for disallowing recovery of those charges. For the judgment click here.

R(Okil) v Southwark LBC [2012] EWHC 1202 (Admin)
20 April 2012

The claimant was an asylum seeker from Algeria with mental heath problems. NASS provided him with an offer of 'dispersed' accommodation in Plymouth but he wished to stay in London. His solicitors invited the council to carry out a community care assessment with a view to providing him with accommodation under National Assistance Act 1948 section 21. The council made provision for accommodation pending an assessment. Based on the outcome, it decided that nothing more than NASS accommodation was required. The claimant sought judicial review. The High Court rejected the claim. The assessment had been carried out reasonably and the conclusion reached - that the claimant had no need for care and attention requiring provision of accommodation under the 1948 Act - had been open to the council on the facts.

R (Knowles) v Valuation Office Agency [2012] EWHC (Admin) 1161

27 March 2012
The claimants were gypsies living at a privately owned gypsy caravan site on which they occupied rented pitches. Their housing benefit was set by applying local reference rent levels used for conventional housing. They sought a judicial review, arguing that the benefit system discriminated against gypsies who had to pay higher rents and charges for caravan pitches than non-gypsies were paying for the costs of equivalent conventional housing. The High Court refused permission to apply for judicial review because it was not reasonably arguable that such discrimination was not objectively justified. For the judgment, click here.

R(Dragic) v Wandsworth LBC [2012] EWHC 1241 (Admin)
6 March 2012

The claimant had been owed the main housing duty as a homeless person. He had been offered, but had refused, suitable accommodation. The duty ended. Later, the housing association sought possession of the temporary accommodation he had been occupying He applied again for homelessness assistance. The council decided that he had become homeless intentionally because, had he accepted the suitable accommodation earlier offered, he would not again be facing homelessness. He applied for a review of that decision but was two weeks out of time. The council refused to extend the time limit. The claimant sought judicial review of that decision. The High Court held that the council had made no legal error in refusing to extend time. It could not even be said that the review would have been obviously likely to succeed. Issues of causation, such as why the claimant presently faced homelessness, were matters on which there was scope for reasonable disagreement. The council's decision had not been obviously wrong.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2012] May Legal Action p29
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.

A compassionate ruling
(commentary on R(De Almeida) v Kensington & Chelsea)
D. Renton
[2012] 11 May Inside Housing p31
To read the article, click here.

Wrong move
(commentary on the pressures to relocate housing benefit claimants)
N. Morah
[2012] 11 May Inside Housing p31
To read the article, click here.

The right to justice
(commentary on the cuts to legal aid)
J. Bishop
[2012] 4 May Inside Housing p17
To read the article, click here.

Warrants: the final battleground in possession claims
J. Luba and D. Malone
[2012] 15 Journal of Housing Law p48

Life after Pinnock and Powell
D. Cowan and C. Hunter
[2012] 15 Journal of Housing Law p58

Empty homes: strategy or sticking plaster?
C. Baker
[2012] 15 Journal of Housing Law p45

The new housing benefit cap is unrealistic
J. Parkinson
[2012] 156 Solicitors Journal No.18 p12

The revised tenancy deposit rules will create a minefield
DJ R. Jordan
[2012] 156 Solicitors Journal No.18 p19

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.

29 June 2012
Homelessness: Law & Practice
A Lime Legal training event 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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