Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 297 – 28 January 2013

Monday 28 January 2013

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**********This week: on Friday you could be listening to Garden Court's Bethan Harris and Jan Luba QC - with Andy Gale, Stephen Battersby and Dave Worth - discussing the detail of the new arrangements for accommodating the homeless in the private rented sector. For details, click here.**********

Housing Law News

Under-occupation in social housing: last week a series of Parliamentary Debates were initiated on the impact from April 2013 of the housing benefit size criteria for social housing (the 'bedroom tax'). For the debate concerning the impact in Wales (Westminster Hall, 22 January 2013: Column 65WH) click here. For the debate on the impact for disabled tenants (23 January 2013: Column 96WH) click here. For the debate raising the whole principle of the changes (23 January 2013: Column 105WH), click here.

Legal Aid for Housing Cases: on 22 January 2013 the UK Government made the new regulations which outline the criteria for the grant of legal aid in new Housing cases from 1 April 2013. The specific Housing-related criteria are in regulations 61-63. Cases which do not satisfy these criteria will not be funded. For a copy of the new regulations, click here.

Bed & Breakfast and the Homeless: on 18 January 2013 the Minister for Housing was again asked what steps he is taking to tackle local housing authorities in England who are accommodating homeless families in bed and breakfast for more than the six week maximum. In reply he re-iterated that "Legislation remains in place that prohibits the use of bed and breakfast for families unless in an emergency, and then for no more than six weeks." For the full response (in Hansard, 18 January 2013: Column 957W) click here.

Powers to enter homes: the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 requires Ministers across the UK Government to undertake a full review of powers of entry and examine and consider whether they are still necessary, proportionate and contain sufficient safeguards. The Government has agreed to report progress to Parliament every six months. The first six monthly progress report was published last week. For a copy, click here.

Homes from offices: on 24 January 2013 the Chief Planning Officer wrote to all local planning authorities in England to remind them that permitted development rights for change of use from B1(a) office use to C3 residential purposes will come into force in Spring 2013. Any planning authorities seeking exemption have until 22 February 2013 to apply. For a copy of the letter, click here.

Housing & Anti-social Behaviour: the Law Society has published its response to the Home Affairs Committee's call for written evidence on the draft Anti-social Behaviour Bill. For a copy of the response, which is opposed to the new 'mandatory' grounds for possession, click here. The UK Government has just published The Cost of Troubled Families, a new report to help local authorities and social landlords calculate the costs savings flowing from taking effective measures against anti-social behaviour. For a copy of the report, 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.

Sims v Dacorum BC [2013] EWCA Civ 12
24 January 2013

Mr and Mrs Sims were joint secure tenants of a three bedroom house. When the marriage broke down, Mrs Sims gave notice to quit. After the notice expired, Mr Sims asked the council to grant him a sole tenancy. It declined and claimed possession. In the county court, a judge decided that the council had acted lawfully and reasonably and made an order for possession. She applied the decision in Hammersmith and Fulham LBC v Monk [1992] AC 478 - that a joint periodic tenancy could be unilaterally ended by a notice to quit given by one of two joint tenants, whether the other tenant knew of the giving of notice or not. Mr Sims wanted to argue that the rule in Monk was not compatible with Human Rights Act 1998 Schedule 1 Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol 1. The Court of Appeal held that neither of the two human rights was 'engaged' because Mr Sims had taken, from the outset, a tenancy known to have been capable of termination by the notice of one of the tenants. The giving of such notice could not amount to any interference with his rights. The contrary was described as 'unarguable'. Mr Sims was granted a further stay of the possession order to give him a chance to seek to persuade the Supreme Court to give permission to appeal. For the full judgment, click here.

Pender v DPP [2013] EWHC (Admin), [2013] All ER (D) 173 (Jan)
23 January 2013

Mr Pender had been made subject to an ASBO granted in the magistrates' court. On his appeal to the Crown Court, he argued that no ASBO should have been made because he lacked capacity to understand any of its requirements or comply with them. He relied on medical evidence to that effect. The appeal was dismissed but the High Court allowed a further appeal. The real issue was whether Mr Pender had capacity to comply with the prohibitions in the order. The medical evidence had clearly been that he could not. No adequate reasons had been given in the Crown Court for not accepting that evidence. The ASBO was quashed.

R(Manorgale Ltd) v Thames Magistrates Court [2013] EWHC (Admin), [2013] All ER (D) 130 (Jan)
22 January 2013

The company owned a house. It carried out work to construct two extensions. Hackney Council served an enforcement notice requiring the extensions to be demolished as they had been built without planning permission. It then prosecuted for non-compliance with the notice. The hearing was adjourned to a date on which the company director was not available. His application for a postponement was refused and the magistrates' court convicted the company and imposed the maximum £20,000 fine. The High Court held that the magistrates ought to have agreed to re-open the case so that the director could attend. But there had been no defence available to the alleged breach of the notice. So the conviction stood and only the question of the sentence was remitted.

Meah v GE Money Home Finance Ltd [2012] EWHC 20 (Ch)
18 January 2013

Mr Meah defaulted on his mortgage. A possession order was made and the property was repossessed. The lender offered it for sale at £185,000 but within days higher offers were received and the asking price was increased to £245,000. It was sold for £221,500. The purchaser immediately obtained planning permission to convert the property from a single dwelling into five flats. Mr Meah claimed that the lender had breached its duty to secure a sale at true market value. Given the development potential, he said that was £325,000. The High Court dismissed his claim. Although the criticism of the initial offer price might have been justified, a true market value had been reached. Mr Meah had failed to establish the higher price claimed or any breach of the lender's duty. For the judgment, click here.

Doncaster MBC v AC [2012] EWHC 45 (QB)
18 January 2013

A gypsy bought a plot of land in the Green Belt. He constructed six pitches on the land and sold them off to other gypsies. The land was then occupied by some eight families of the owners, each living in their mobile homes. No planning permission had been sought. A retrospective planning application was made and refused. The council issued an enforcement notice and applied for an injunction requiring the occupiers to leave and for the land to be restored to its original state. The families defended the claim on the basis that the grant of the injunction would infringe human rights. If any injunction was to be made, they argued it should be deferred until the outcome of a planning application for temporary planning consent or until the end of the summer school term in 2013. The judge granted an order requiring the families to leave by 28 February 2013 and for the land to be restored by 31 May 2013. For the judgment, click here.

Complaint against Kettering BC [11011766]
16 January 2013

The complainant applied for accommodation under the council's choice-based allocation scheme and was allocated priority Band B. In response to a bid, the council nominated him for a housing association property which suited his needs and he agreed to take it. The association operated an additional letting criterion that it would not let to an applicant who was a property owner. No such criteria appeared in the allocation scheme. The complainant owned his home, so the association refused to rent him the property he had agreed to take. The council accepted the association's position. When the complainant sought a review, the council said it could not hold a review because the decision had been made under the association's policy. When the matter was raised with the Local Government Ombudsman, both the council and the association agreed they had acted wrongly. The Ombudsman found maladministration because the council had: (1) lacked a clear understanding of its arrangements for nominations and consequent housing association lettings; and (2) simply accepted the association's withdrawal of the tenancy. The refusal of a review had compounded those errors. Recommendations included £3,800 compensation, a direct let and a review of both staff training and the content of nomination agreements made with local housing associations. For the investigation report, click here.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2013] January Legal Action 37
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.

The public sector equality duty, homelessness and Pieretti principles
A. Moore
[2013] 16 January Local Government Lawyer
To read the article, click here.

The Role of Social Housing
A. Arden
[2013] 16 Journal of Housing Law 1

Social Housing Mergers and the Office of Fair Trading
M. London and C. Handy
[2013] 16 Journal of Housing Law 8

Who Guards the Guardians
C. Hunter and G. Peaker
[2013] 16 Journal of Housing Law 13

Preparing for action
(summary of the proposed changes in the draft Anti-social Behaviour Bill)
P. Lloyd
[2013] 25 January Inside Housing 29
To read the article, click here.

Keeping watch
(summary of the new rules on use of surveillance by social landlords)
D. Hall
[2013] 25 January Inside Housing 29
To read the article, click here.

Housing Law Books

Housing Allocation and Homelessness (Third Edition) by Liz Davies and Jan Luba QC was published recently. For information on how to get the book, click here.

Housing Law Events

This week

30 January 2013
Mortgage Possession Cases
A HLPA intermediate evening seminar
For the details, click here.

1 February 2013
Using the Private Rented Sector for the Homeless
Conference in London from Lime Legal (speakers include Bethan Harris and Jan Luba QC)
For the details, click here.

Later this Spring

7 February 2013
Welfare Reform: Law & Practice
A Social Housing Law Association evening seminar
For the details, click here.

11 February 2013
How to Quantify Damages in Disrepair Cases
A HLPA intermediate evening seminar (speakers include Beatrice Prevatt)
For the details, click here.

13 February 2013
Latest Developments in EU Law for Housing and Social Assistance for Migrants and their Children
A Garden Court evening seminar
For the details, click here.

6 March 2013
Asylum support: Current Issues and Judicial Review challenges
An ILPA seminar in London (speakers include Adrian Berry)
For the details, click here.

13 March 2013
Public Sector Housing Law Conference
Annual conference in London from Jordan Publishing (speakers include Liz Davies and Jan Luba QC)
For the details, click here.

20 March 2013
Impact of Welfare Benefit Reform
A HLPA Members Meeting in London
For the details, click here.

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