Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 277 – 20 August 2012

Monday 20 August 2012

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The Latest Housing Law News

Homelessness: on 16 August 2012 the UK Government published the latest statistics on homelessness prevention in England. They show that, in 2011-12, 174,800 cases of homelessness prevention were estimated to have taken place outside the statutory homelessness framework, an increase of 7% on the previous year. The most common action taken was the use of landlord incentive schemes to secure private rented sector accommodation (27,600 cases). For the full statistics, click here. The Government also published an Evidence review of the costs of homelessness. For a copy of the review report, click here.

Housing Allocation & Homelessness: on 13 August 2012 the Welsh Government published the new statutory Code of Guidance for local housing authorities in Wales. It came into effect immediately. For a copy of the guidance, click here. Although the code is only directly applicable to councils, the Welsh Government has issued Circular RSL 003/12 inviting all housing associations in Wales to take account of it. For a copy of the Circular, click here.

Rough sleeping: on 16 August 2012 the UK Government published the second report from the Ministerial Working Group on Homelessness, Making Every Contact Count. The Housing Minister said that it would give councils, charities, health services and the police a blueprint to work together to ensure that families and vulnerable people at risk of homelessness are offered help early, no matter who they turn to first. For the ministerial statement, click here. For the report itself, click here.

New home construction: on 13 August 2012 the UK Government announced an initiative to stimulate development of housing on over 1000 sites that are subject to "section 106" planning agreements between local authorities and developers, by allowing the developers to re-open old (pre-April 2010) section 106 agreements. For the announcement, click here. For the consultation paper, click here. Responses should be made by 8 October 2012. For the impact assessment of the proposals, 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.

Searle v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2012] EWHC 2269 (Admin)
16 August 2012

The claimants were Romany gypsies who had bought agricultural land with stabling for their horses. They moved their mobile homes onto the land and lived in them without planning permission. The council issued enforcement notices requiring removal of the mobile homes. The claimants' appeal to a planning inspector was dismissed. The High Court dismissed a further appeal because the inspector had made no error of law but the judge said that "It is clear that the Council must pursue the problem of finding alternative and suitable sites for the Claimants and other travellers with much more vigour than it has done to date." For the judgment, click here.

Health & Safety Executive v David Francis MacDonald
15 August 2012

The defendant was a private landlord. His tenant, her partner and their young daughter inhaled large quantities of carbon monoxide leaking from a faulty gas boiler in the flat. They were saved from further harm after a carbon monoxide alarm sounded in a flat above but they needed hospital treatment. The defendant pleaded guilty to failing to ensure a gas fitting was in safe condition and failure to carry out an annual inspection. At Westminster Magistrates' Court he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, ordered to carry out 200 hours' community service and ordered to pay £8,211 in costs. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Vaddaram v East Lindsey District Council [2012] UKUT 194 (LC)
13 August 2012

The council served a prohibition notice and an improvement notice in respect of a flat on the basis that there was inadequate means of escape from any fire and there was an increased risk of fire as the tenant had to use portable electric heaters. The landlord's appeal against the prohibition order was dismissed by a Residential Property Tribunal. He appealed on the grounds that he had undertaken further works, the premises met Building Regulations requirements, and the LACORS guidance on fire safety (which had not been before the Tribunal) was satisfied. The Upper Tribunal conducted a rehearing and allowed the appeal with costs. The LACORS guidance was highly material and should have been put before the Tribunal by the council. For the judgment, click here.

Portsmouth City Council v JL Homes Ltd
10 August 2012

Following receipt of complaints from students renting a house from the defendant company, a council inspection found: one bedroom was too small to be used as sleeping accommodation; three bedsit rooms were too small to be used for sleeping and cooking; the cooking facilities were sub-standard; and the three bedsits and the cooking facilities could only be reached by an outside metal staircase. On a prosecution brought by the council, the company denied failing to comply with two housing prohibition orders and failing to provide the council with a copy of a tenancy agreement. It was found guilty at the magistrates' court on all three counts and fined £3,000 for each offence with costs of almost £3,000
It appealed against one conviction for failing to comply with a housing prohibition order, the conviction for failing to provide the tenancy agreement, and all three fines. Portsmouth Crown Court dismissed the appeals and upheld the convictions and fines. Costs were increased to £4,500. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Basildon District Council v Rita Limbani
10 August 2012

The defendant had applied to the council for housing. It nominated her to a housing association and she was granted a tenancy. The council later discovered that in her application she had not declared that she owned a property that was registered in her name, that she paid the mortgage on it, and that she had rented it out to tenants. It brought two charges under the Fraud Act 2006 and a further charge under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981. After a trial, the defendant was convicted at Basildon Magistrates' Court and sentenced to eight months imprisonment. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Procurator Fiscal v Jamie Paul Marshall
9 July 2012

Midlothian council was granted an ASBO prohibiting the defendant from being out of his home address from 9pm to 7am each night. The order was to run for three years. On prosecutions for six breaches of the ASBO, the defendant initially pleaded guilty but was allowed to change his plea when a point was raised as to whether the ASBO was of such duration as to amount to an infringement of his human rights. The trial was adjourned several times. The defendant was represented by a solicitor entitled to be paid a fixed fee from legal aid (£535). The solicitor had already undertaken £1800 worth of work and withdrew. No other solicitor could be found. The court held that the non-availability of legal representation, caused by the inability to increase the fixed fee to deal with exceptional cases, prevented the defendant having a fair trial and it dismissed the charges. For the judgment, click here.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2012] August Legal Action 23
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.

Deja vu (Tenancy deposit cases)
J. Davies
[2012] 162 New Law Journal p1071
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.

16 November 2012
SHLA Annual Conference
the 7th Annual Conference of SHLA in London
For the details, click here.

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

21-22 November 2012
New Approaches to Allocations, Lettings & Homelessness Conference 2012
A two-day Chartered Institute of Housing conference in Nottingham
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.

11 December 2012
Housing Law Conference
Annual conference of HLPA in London
For the details, click here.

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