Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 267 - 11 June 2012

Monday 11 June 2012

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The Latest Housing Law News

Social housing fraud: on 25 May 2012 the Welsh Government launched a consultation exercise on whether the law in Wales should be strengthened with greater powers and remedies to tackle social housing fraud. Responses must be submitted by 17 August 2012. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here. In England, a similar consultation exercise concluded on 4 April 2012 and the UK Government's response is awaited. For that consultation paper, click here.

Housing benefit direct to tenants: in 2013, tenants of social housing will have their housing-related benefits paid direct to them rather than to their landlords. Housing Benefit Demonstration Projects will begin this month in six local authority areas (Edinburgh, Southwark, Shropshire, Oxford, Torfaen, and Wakefield) and run from June 2012 for 12 months. These projects will involve directly paying housing benefit to approximately 2000 tenants in each local authority area to: test approaches to helping them manage their own money on a monthly cycle; consider safeguards for landlords; and understand the level of exceptions. For details of this and other recent developments relating to housing benefit see the June 2012 issue of Housing Benefit Direct. For a copy, click here.

Accommodation for Gypsy & Traveller families: at a recent international conference, a group of academics offered a written critique of UK coalition government policy towards gypsy, roma and traveller communities. For a copy, click here.

Under-occupied social housing: the House of Commons Library has produced a useful note on the relationship between under-occupation and the upcoming changes to housing benefit. For a copy, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

Lee v Courtenay Gate Lawns Ltd [2012] UKUT 125 (LC)
6 June 2012

Mr Lee had the long lease of a flat in a block of flats. He went to work in Australia and sub-let his flat in his absence. That was in breach of the terms of the lease which prohibited sub-letting and restricted occupation to the tenant and his family. A Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) decided that Mr Lee was in breach of his lease. He abandoned an appeal against that decision but continued to sublet his flat. Then he applied to the Upper Tribunal for the modification of the lease to allow him to sublet with consent (under Law of Property Act 1925 section 84(12)). He relied on the fact that of the 31 flats in the block, five were capable of being sublet. The Upper Tribunal refused the application. It held that (1) the evidence showed that only one flat was actually sublet, so that the owner-occupied character of the block remained and (2) the ability to prevent an additional flat being sublet was a practical benefit of substantial value to the landlord company whether or not it was able to prevent the subletting of up to five other flats. The applicant was ordered to pay the costs. For the judgment, click here.

Sandwell Council v Sukraj Singh Barham
1 June 2012

The defendant was a private landlord. On inspection of a house he had let, the council found decayed single glazed timber windows, dangerous electrics, no constant supply of hot water or heating, damp and mould growth and loose and uneven paving. It served an improvement notice under Housing Act 2004. The council then prosecuted for non-compliance with the notice. The defendant pleaded guilty at Sandwell Magistrates Court and was fined £4000 with costs of £1723. For further details, click here.

Bubb v Wandsworth LBC
31 May 2012

The Supreme Court has refused an application by a homeless applicant for permission to appeal from the dismissal of an appeal to the Court of Appeal on the question of the extent to which a reviewing officer's decision could be challenged on grounds of error of material fact. For the Court of Appeal's judgment ([2011] EWCA Civ 1285), click here.

Kettel & ors v Bloomfield Ltd [2012] EWHC (Ch), noted on LAWTEL
25 May 2012

The claimants were the tenants of a block of flats. Their leases gave them the right to use designated parking spaces. The landlords decided to build another block of flats on the site of those parking spaces and to offer alternative parking arrangements nearby. The claimants applied for an injunction to prevent the construction work. The High Court rejected a claim that the parking places were part of the 'demise' under the leases but held that the tenants enjoyed easements over them. The landlords could not unilaterally destroy the subject of the easements. An injunction was granted.

Eaglesham Properties Ltd v Jeffrey [2012] UKUT 157 (LC)
24 May 2012

Following a hearing in 2009, a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) was satisfied that the company was in breach of its obligations as landlord of a block of flats and it made an order, on the application of the tenants, for the appointment of a manager "for an interim period of 12 months with effect from 24 June 2009". Because the order was expressed in that way, the tenants applied late in 2010 for an extension of the order for a further period. The LVT allowed that application and the company appealed. The Upper Tribunal allowed the appeal. The management order had lapsed on 24 June 2010 and could not be extended without the tenants having served fresh notices on the landlord under Landlord & Tenant Act 1987 section 22. For the judgment, click here.

Complaint against Southwark LBC [2012] Complaint No 10 000 20
22 May 2012

The complainant was a French national who was a disabled person with two children. She lived in private rented accommodation. In April 2009 her landlord served a valid Housing Act 1988 section 21 notice requiring her to leave and later began proceedings for possession. She approached the council to make a homeless application but was told to "come back when the court had made an order for possession". The court made an order to take effect on 10 September 2009. She went back to the council without success. A council officer admitted that some of its caseworkers "may advise applicants that nothing can be done for them until they have an eviction date" i.e. a bailiff's appointment. The council also decided that the complainant was not eligible for homelessness assistance as she was not a 'worker'. She sought a review and asked for accommodation pending review. The council then provided accommodation and on 30 November 2009 notice was given that the review had succeeded. The ombudsman found extensive maladministration by the council in its handling of the homeless application including: failure to keep proper records; failure to decide whether it was obliged to provide interim accommodation prior to its decision on the application; failure to properly investigate the application; and excessive delay in handling complaints about its poor service. The council agreed to provide additional training to homelessness staff on taking homeless applications, conducting homeless enquiries and offering interim accommodation. It also agreed to pay substantial compensation. For the investigation report, click here.

R(Carson) v Ealing Magistrates Court
[2012] EWHC 1456 (Admin)
4 May 2012

Following complaints from a neighbour, the claimant was arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated harassment. The police granted her bail on condition that she should not return to her home. She was taken-in temporarily by a friend but applied to the court to lift the bail condition. The magistrates twice refused her application. She sought judicial review of that decision. The High Court held that the exclusion of the claimant from her home was disproportionate. She had not been charged or convicted. No violence or criminal damage was alleged. The exclusion was anticipated to continue for several more weeks before the CPS could even decide whether to charge. It was a "very serious matter to exclude a person from their home". The claimant would be allowed to return home but the other bail conditions would remain in place.

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.

Love thy neighbour?
(commentary on Faidi v Elliot Corp)
C. Warenius
[2012] 162 New Law Journal p742

Housing Law Events (Summer 2012)

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

21 June 2012
Housing Law: The Legal Update
A Northern Housing Consortium training event in York
For the 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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