Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 273 - 23 July 2012

Monday 23 July 2012

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The Latest Housing Law News

Social housing allocation: the drip-drip of legal changes to the system of housing allocations in England continued last week with the laying of a new set of Allocation of Housing Regulations. They were laid on 19 July 2012 and come into force on 24 August 2012. They limit the powers of local authorities to impose local connection requirements on allocation schemes that would otherwise impact on current or former members of the armed forces and their families. For the regulations, click here. For a memorandum explaining them, click here.

Homelessness and housing allocations: on 16 July 2012 new regulations came into effect to change legal provisions relating to eligibility for housing assistance for some EU nationals and their families. Among other changes, they give effect to the decisions in Ibrahim v Harrow LBC and Teixeira v Lambeth LBC. For the regulations, click here. For a correction to them, click here. For a memorandum explaining them, click here.

Homelessness and private renting: on 26 July 2012 (this Thursday) the consultation closes on the proposed regulations stipulating minimum standards for discharge of the main homelessness duty into the private rented sector. For the consultation paper, click here. The consultation paper also invites comments on how councils can be best prevented from placing such households outside their own areas. On 12 June 2012 the Housing Minister said "Guidance is already in place, which I am strengthening, to make it clear that local connections are critical and that people should never be shipped hundreds of miles away." For that statement, click here.

Promoting the Right to Buy: today the UK Government launched a new drive to promote take-up of the right to buy since the discounts increased on 1 April 2012. Measures include a dedicated call centre on 0300 123 0913 and a new website. The ministerial press statement records that since the changes came into effect on 1 April there has already been a dramatic increase in RTB claims: between April and June this year Wandsworth Council received 141 applications, compared to just 13 during the same period in 2011 and Birmingham City Council, received 463 applications in the same three months, compared to 219 during the same period in 2011. For more details, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

Fuller digests of most of the cases noted each week in this Bulletin appear in an online indexed and searchable database edited by Jan Luba QC and called the Case Law Digest. For details of that service, click here.

Konodyba v Kensington & Chelsea RLBC [2012] EWCA Civ 982
20 July 2012

The appellant was a Polish national and a private rented sector tenant. When asked to leave, she made a homelessness application. The council decided that she was not eligible for assistance because although an EU national she was not exercising treaty rights as a worker or self-employed person. She asserted that she normally worked but because of illness was temporarily unable to do so. The reviewing officer decided that her condition was such that her prospects of becoming self-employed in the foreseeable future were not realistic. A county court judge dismissed her appeal. She brought a further appeal on the grounds that in deciding that she was "unlikely to be able to work in the foreseeable future" the reviewing officer he had applied the wrong test; he should have asked whether she had permanently exited the job market. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. It held that if a person is unlikely to be able to work in the foreseeable future there are no realistic prospects of them being able to return to work. The reviewing officer had made no error of law. (The judgment also deals with the rule that a point pursued to the Court of Appeal on one homelessness application cannot be resurrected by the same applicant on the same facts on their next homelessness application). For the judgment, click here.

Windsor & Maidenhead BC v Smith [2012] EWCA Civ 997
18 July 2012

Ms Smith lived in a caravan on a site which only had planning consent for agricultural use. In 2009 the council obtained an injunction restraining her from bringing "any further caravans" onto the land. Ms Smith obtained a converted portacabin on wheels and placed it next to her caravan. The new unit provided shower facilities and was also used to dry and iron clothes. The council applied for committal for breach of the injunction. The judge held that there had been no breach because the new unit was not a 'caravan'. The Court of Appeal dismissed the council's further appeal. In the context of the circumstances in which the injunction had been granted, 'caravan' was to be interpreted as applying only to the types of structures already on site. For the judgment, click here.

Leicestershire Fire Service v Robert Price
12 July 2012

The defendant's company, Launch Padz Developments, began converting a building into 75 single and communal student flats. The facilities were considered unsafe by fire service inspectors, who issued a prohibition notice preventing anyone living in the property until the problems were rectified. In breach of the notice, students began to move into occupation. The fire authority prosecuted for three offences under the Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order for breach of the notice. The defendant pleaded guilty but magistrates considered the matter so serious that they committed him to the Crown Court for sentence. He was given a nine month jail sentence suspended for 12 months at Leicester Crown Court. He was also was ordered to pay a sum of £25,000 with £15,000 costs, to be paid within four months, or serve six months imprisonment in default. For more details, click here.

HSE v Hammersmith & Fulham LBC
11 July 2012

The HSE became concerned that the council had not been undertaking annual gas safety checks in respect of all its rented accommodation (including private sector leased properties). The council gave the HSE a list of 297 properties where annual safety checks had 'slipped'. The HSE inspected 20 of those and all were found to contain gas cookers or boilers that should have been checked at least every 12 months. The local authority pleaded guilty to nine breaches of Regulation 36(3)(a) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 in relation to lapsed checks, with a further 14 breaches taken into consideration. Westminster Magistrates' Court fined the council £83,600 and ordered it to pay costs of £15,553. For further details, click here.

Hannon v Hillingdon Homes Ltd [2012] EWHC 1437 (QB)
9 July 2012
The tenant of a council house removed the bannister and handrail on one side of the internal staircase in the house. Some years later, the claimant, a workman for one of the council's contractors, lost his footing on the staircase and in the absence of the handrail fell and sustained injury. The council later reinstated the handrail and bannisters and recharged the tenant for the cost of the work. It denied liability for the injury. Its first defence was that the stairs without bannisters were so obviously dangerous that any reasonable workman would have refused to work in the house. When that failed, it argued that the duty of care imposed by section 4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972 did not apply because either (1) the bannisters and handrail were not part of the "structure" or (2) the council had been under no duty to repair them (by replacing them) because they had been removed by the tenant and/or (3) they had had no notice of the defect. The High Court found the council liable. The bannisters were part of the structure, the obligation to repair was owed, and there had been sufficient home visits by council staff and agents to the property so that the council was deemed to know, or ought to have known, of the defect. For the judgment, click here.

Kirkham v Link Housing Group Ltd [2012] CSIH 58
4 July 2012

The claimant was a tenant of the housing association. She tripped on the raised edge of a paving slab which was one of a series forming a path from the front door of her house to the pavement. Until she fell, neither she nor the landlord had known that the path needed repair. She claimed damages for breach of her tenancy agreement or for breach of the duty of care in the Occupiers' Liability Act. A judge dismissed the claim. The Court of Session dismissed her appeal. There had been no breach of the tenancy agreement because the path was not a common part and liability to repair therefore only arose once the landlord had knowledge of the need for repair. The claim for breach of duty of care failed because the tenant had not led evidence of the reasonable standard of care practiced by other landlords which would demonstrate that her landlord had failed to match that standard. For the judgment, click here.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2012] June Legal Action p33
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.

Landlords in the dock: prosecuting to protect tenants
E. Fitzpatrick and J. Luba
[2012] July Legal Action p44

Home, Meaning and identity: Learning from the English Model of Home Ownership
S. Bright and N. Hopkins
[2012] 28 Housing, Theory & Society 377

Intimate details
(commentary on Amicus Horizon v Mabbott and Brand)
S. Pearson
[2012] Inside Housing, 20 July 2012, p30.
To read the article, click here

Housing Law Events

Autumn 2012

12 September 2012
Recent developments in housing law
A LAG training event in London
For the details, click here.

12 September 2012
Dealing with the housing possession duty desk
An evening seminar in London for HLPA members
For the details, click here.

13 September 2012
Homeless children in Need: Local authorities' duties
A LAG training event in London
For the details, click here.

19 September 2012
Homelessness Update
An evening meeting in London of HLPA
For the details, click here.

20 September 2012
Succession, Mutual Exchange & the Localism Act
An evening meeting in London of SHLA
For the details, click here.

25 September 2012
Localism Act: an update for housing practitioners
A LAG training event in London
For the details, click here.

27 September 2012
Housing Mental Capacity and Disability Discrimination
An evening seminar at Garden Court Chambers
For the details, click here.

28 September 2012
Social Housing Allocation
A Lime Legal Conference in London
For the details, click here.

17 October 2012
How to quantify damages in disrepair cases
An evening seminar in London for HLPA members
For the details, click here.

18 October 2012
Using Mediation to Resolve Housing Disputes
An evening seminar at Garden Court Chambers
For the details, click here.

21 November 2012
Housing Law Update
An evening meeting in London of HLPA
For the details, click here.

22 November 2012
Gypsies and travellers: An Update
An evening seminar at Garden Court Chambers
For the details, click here.

5 December 2012
After the possession order: set aside or appeal?
An evening seminar in London for HLPA members
For the details, click here.

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