Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 274 - 30 July 2012

Monday 30 July 2012

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The Latest Housing Law News

Housing complaints and the Ombudsmen: the House of Commons Select Committee on Communities and Local Government has been reviewing the performance of the ombudsmen who investigate housing complaints. On 17 July 2012 it published a report on the work of the Local Government Ombudsmen (LGO) and issued a statement that the LGO has been taking far too long to determine some cases. For a copy of the report, click here. On 23 July 2012 the Committee invited submissions from interested parties on the work and activities of the Housing Ombudsman. Any such submissions should be lodged by 6 September 2012. For the invitation to submit evidence, click here.

Empty Homes: on 27 July 2012 the UK Government issued a Council Tax Information Letter on the future of council tax discount on empty homes. It provides clarification on the proposed discounts for properties that are unoccupied and unfurnished, basically allowing councils complete discretion on whether to provide discounts and at what level and for what period. Councils will also be able to impose an Empty Homes Premium of up to 50% for homes left empty for more than two years. For a copy of the letter, click here.

Homelessness in England: the latest UK Parliamentary Debate on Homelessness in England was held in Westminster Hall on 12 June 2012. To read that debate, 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.

Alexander v Freshwater Properties Ltd [2012] EWCA Civ 1048
27 July 2012

The front door to a block of flats had a self-closing device. It did not work properly and a notice had been posted to the door asking that those leaving should pull it shut. A handle was available for that purpose on the outside of the door. A builder removed the handle to clean it. The claimant caught her fingers in the door when closing it and sued the landlord and the builder for compensation for personal injury. A judge decided that the landlord was 25% liable and the builder 75%. The Court of Appeal adjusted the proportions to 50/50. The landlord had known of both the failure of the self-closing device and the removal of the handle but had failed to take reasonable alternative measures to allow the door to be closed safely. For the judgment, click here.

Solihull MBC v Hickin [2012] UKSC 39
25 July 2012

Mr and Mrs Hickin were joint secure council tenants. They separated. Mr Hickin left. Mrs Hickin remained in the house with her daughter. Years later, Mrs Hickin died. The daughter claimed that she had succeeded to her mother's secure tenancy. The council considered that Mr Hickin was still the tenant of the property. Because he was not living there, it was not a 'secure' tenancy. It ended his tenancy by notice to quit and then brought a possession claim against the daughter. A district judge made a possession order. On appeal, a circuit judge held that the daughter had succeeded and dismissed the possession claim. The Court of Appeal held that there could be no statutory succession to a secure joint tenancy. The daughter appealed. The Supreme Court (by a majority of 3:2) dismissed her appeal. It decided that when one joint tenant dies the tenancy becomes a tenancy held solely by the remaining tenant by survivorship. In this case, that was Mr Hickin. It was irrelevant that he was no longer in occupation. His tenancy had been terminated by the notice to quit. For the judgment, click here.

HSE v Mohammed Jamil
20 July 2012

A self-employed builder undertook building work as part of which he enclosed the flue ventilating a boiler. The carbon monoxide generated by the boiler caused the deaths of an elderly couple residing in the house. At the Old Bailey, the defendant builder pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 8(1) of the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998. He was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £25,452 in costs, in addition to a 12 month community order requiring him to undertake 150 hours of community service. For further details of the prosecution, click here.

Harrow Community Support Ltd v Secretary of State for Defence [2012] EWHC 1921
20 July 2012

The claimant was the residents' association of a block of flats in East London. The defendant proposed to place missile launchers on the roof of the block as part of security measures for the Olympic Games. The claimant applied for permission to seek a judicial review based on: failure to consult; failure to comply with the public sector equality duty; and breach of human rights. The High Court refused permission on the grounds that the claim was unarguable and had not been pursued promptly. For the judgment, click here.

Liverpool CC v Anwar Kassim [2012] UKUT 169 (LC)
11 July 2012

The council served a prohibition notice to prevent the use of residential accommodation on the grounds that the heating system provided could not prevent an HHSRS hazard arising from 'cold'. The landlord successfully appealed to a Residential Property Tribunal which held that the affordability of the heating system to a tenant was not a relevant consideration. The Upper Tribunal (UT) set aside that decision and remitted the case for rehearing. The council applied for its costs. The UT made no order as to costs. For the judgment, click here.

Hillingdon LBC v Jam al Uddin
3 July 2012
The defendant was a private landlord. He was prosecuted by the council for two offences. First, he had rented out a garden shed as living accommodation in breach of an enforcement notice. Second, he had failed to comply with the conditions of an HMO licence on another of his properties. Uxbridge Magistrates' Court imposed fines of £6000 and £5400 respectively. He was ordered to pay costs of £3377. For more details on the prosecutions, click here.

Hillingdon LBC v Rupa Sodha
3 July 2012

The defendant was a private landlord. He was prosecuted by the council for breach of planning controls by converting a house into seven self-contained flats and by renting a shed as living accommodation. Uxbridge Magistrates' Court imposed a fine of £3500. The defendant was ordered to pay costs of £2079. For more details on the prosecution, click here.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2012] June Legal Action 33
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.

Article 8 defences - separating the wheat from the chaff
(commentary on Corby v Scott and West Kent v Haycraft)
K. Lees
[2012] 16 Landlord & Tenant Review 148

Olympic Nimbyism - keeping the guns at bay
(commentary on leaseholders' rights in relation to placement of missiles on blocks of flats)
S. Highmore
[2012] 16 Landlord & Tenant Review 135

Can a block of flats be a house?
(commentary on Magnohard v Cadogan)
S. Rolton
[2012] 16 Landlord & Tenant Review 160

Denial of landlord's title: a feudal relic?
M. Pawlowski
[2012] 16 Landlord & Tenant Review 143

Behind closed doors
(commentary on Hannon v Hillingdon Homes)
C. Nugent
[2012] Inside Housing, 27 July 2012, 27.
To read the article, click here.

Landlords in the dock: prosecuting to protect tenants
E. Fitzpatrick and J. Luba
[2012] July Legal Action 44

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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