Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 305 –8 April 2013

Monday 8 April 2013

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Housing Law News

Housing Benefit social sector size criteria: the criteria have been applied to council and housing association tenants since 1 April 2013. The National Housing Federation has published The Bedroom Tax: Some Home Truths suggesting that the criteria could have "serious, unintended consequences" for tenants affected. For a copy, click here. Shelter has a series of information pages for affected tenants and a "bedroom tax checker tool" available by clicking here. For a similar checker from the CAB service, click here.

New Housing Law Advice Service: on 1 April 2013 the Legal Aid Agency launched the new Civil Legal Advice (CLA) service for members of the public eligible for legal aid. Advice on housing law matters is available by telephone on Monday to Friday (9am to 8pm) and Saturdays (9am to 12.30pm) by calling 0845 345 4345. Call- back and email services are also available. For more details of the CLA service, click here. Those seeking assistance with mortgage repossession matters must go through the CLA service in order to be eligible for legal aid help with their cases. The Legal Aid Agency has produced a special leaflet about how to get help for those with a debt putting their home at risk. For a copy, click here.

New Housing Ombudsman arrangements: on 1 April 2013 jurisdiction over social housing management matters in respect of council housing in England was transferred to the Housing Ombudsman by the coming into force of most of sections 180-182 of the Localism Act 2011. For the commencement order, which contains transitional provisions, click here. The UK Government has not brought into force the part of section 180 which would make ombudsman awards enforceable in court. For the new look Housing Ombudsman website, click here.

Social housing fraud: on 3 April 2013 the UK Government released £9.5million to 62 local authorities in England to assist with their efforts to tackle fraud in the social housing sector, particularly unlawful subletting. The announcement included an indication that the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 will be brought into force this summer. For the announcement, click here. For the allocations to the 62 councils, click here. For the subsequent Government response to media coverage of social housing fraud, click here.

Internet access in social housing: on 4 April 2013 the UK Government launched the Digital Deal designed to get more households in social housing on-line. One aspect is a pot of £400,000 match-funding available to social landlords. Bidding closes on 3 June 2013. for more details of the initiative, click here.

Gypsies & Travellers: Amnesty International has just published a new report on the need to respect the rights of Roma peoples in the countries of the EU. For a copy, click here.

Mobile Homes: on 26 March 2013 the Mobile Homes Act 2013 received Royal Assent. The Act will come into force in stages. It seeks to improve the rights of residents in mobile home parks. For a copy of the Act, click here.

Home purchase: the Help to Buy scheme in England began on 1 April 2013 and will run until 31 March 2016 (or until available funding is exhausted). The scheme makes new build homes available to all home buyers (not just first time buyers) who wish buy a new home but may be constrained in doing so - for example as a result of deposit requirements - but who could otherwise be expected to sustain a mortgage. Up to a maximum of 20% of the purchase price is available to the buyer through an equity loan funded by the Government through the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) and paid direct to the builder. The HCA has published the Help to Buy Buyer's Guide. For a copy, 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.

Report of the Inquiry into Astonbrook Housing Association Ltd
28 March 2013

The association was a charity set up to provide housing and support services to refugees and asylum seekers. It had provided accommodation and related services to some 3,500 asylum seekers in over 1,000 rented properties. An inquiry by the Charity Commission found that there had been systematic and repeated fraud involving some of its staff and trustees, including the misuse and misappropriation of a substantial amount of the charity's funds. There had been serious and systematic mismanagement and misconduct by the trustees in the administration of the charity. Over 1,800 fraudulent payments had been made totalling some £1.8 million. For the full inquiry report, click here.

R (ES) v Barking & Dagenham LBC [2013] EWHC 691 (Admin)
27 March 2013

The claimant had come to the UK in 2009 from Albania. She had claimed asylum but that claim had been rejected. In 2012 she and her two year old son were living with a family friend. The council carried out a 'child in need' assessment in September 2012. It found that the child was not a child in need as he was being well looked-after and there was no reason why he could not travel to Albania with his mother. The council agreed to pay for the tickets. The family friend later asked the mother and son to leave and she approached the council again. The council decided (mistakenly) that it could not assist under Children Act 1989 section 17 because the mother was an asylum seeker. The family were sheltered by a charity and representations continued to be made to the council. It declined to re-assess. Eventually, the UKBA agreed to provide "section 4" support for the family. It arranged a double bed for the mother and son in a bedroom shared with six other people. An application for judicial review was made and an interim order was granted requiring the council to provide suitable accommodation. At the full hearing, the High Court found that, prior to section 4 support, the council had mistakenly believed that it could not assist because it wrongly thought that the UKBA should have been providing support. When "section 4" support was offered and the nature of what had been provided had been made known to the council, the child's needs should have been re-assessed and that had not happened. For the judgment, click here.

Westminster CC v Kelly-Louise Goatley
26 March 2013

The defendant had been a Westminster council tenant since 2000. Following a call to the Council's Fraud Hotline, investigators found that she had since sub-let her flat on at least two occasions through an estate agent. She had charged more than £1,400-a-month in rent, had been paid a total of £37,370 and had made a profit of £23,743. For offences under the Fraud Act 2006, she was sentenced in July 2012 at Southwark Crown Court to imprisonment for nine months, suspended for two years, ordered carry out 140 hours of community service and required to pay £2000 costs. The council later secured an order under the Proceeds of Crime Act for defendant to pay £10,000 in respect of the profits made from the sub-letting. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Kim v Chasewood Park Residents Ltd [2013] EWCA Civ 239
26 March 2013

Chasewood Park was a development of 97 flats held on long leases from a head lessee. In 2006 the head lessee told the resident's association that it was interested in selling. The association canvassed opinions of the tenants of the flats and then set up a company which acquired the head lessee's interest. It continued to charge and collect the ground rents. One of the tenants claimed that it was estopped from doing so because it had represented in the pre-acquisition letters that if it acquired the premises no more ground rent would be charged. The Court of Appeal held that the claim of a representation sufficient to constitute promissory estoppel was not made out and that an assertion of reliance upon it failed. For the full judgment, click here.

Health & Safety Executive v Sima Yaqub
25 March 2013

The defendant was the private landlady. She let a house in Sheffield to a family. An HSE's investigation found that (1) she never provided her tenant with a landlord's gas safety record; (2) she used an unregistered gas fitter to install a boiler, leaving it in a dangerous condition; (3) she ignored a warning notice from the National Grid after they capped the gas supply to the appliance; (4) she sent the same unregistered fitter back to reconnect the boiler without fixing the faults; (4) she allowed the family to use the boiler for several weeks after it was illegally reconnected until it was capped off for a second time and again classed as dangerous; (5) she ignored repeated warnings from HSE to check the safety of the boiler; and (6) she failed to provide information to HSE to identify the unregistered fitter despite numerous requests. At Sheffield Magistrates' Court she pleaded guilty to five offences under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, was fined a total of £17,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £6,916. For full details of the prosecution, click here.

Galovic v Croatia [2013] Application No 54388/09
5 March 2013

The applicant was a private sector tenant. Her landlord brought a possession claim on a ground for possession which was available if: (1) the landlord intends to move into the flat or install his or her children, parents or dependants therein; and (2) the tenant owns a suitable habitable flat in the same municipality or township where the flat in which he or she lives is located. The domestic courts held that the second limb could be satisfied if any member of the tenant's household held a flat in the same area. Because the landlord was able to establish the first limb and because the tenant's son owned a house locally, a possession order was made. The applicant complained to the European Court of Human Rights. It was common ground that the court's possession order made in proceedings between private landlord and tenant was interference by the state with the tenant's Article 8 rights. However, the Court held that the domestic courts had weighed the applicant's interests against those of her landlord and had struck a fair balance between those competing interests. Article 8(2) was satisfied. It followed that the application was inadmissible. For the judgment, click here.

Cannock Chase DC v Baden Bishop
27 February 2013

The defendant was the private landlord of an HMO in Cannock. The council's inspection found that the property had an unsafe cooker switch/socket, unsafe light fittings, unsafe shower switch, exposed wires on lights, a number of sub-standard fire doors and loose stair coverings. The defendant pleaded guilty to six offences under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations (England) 2006 at Stafford Magistrates' Court. He was fined a total of £8,700 and costs of £490. For details on the prosecution, click here.

Northumberland & Durham Property Trust Ltd v Ouaha [2013] EWCA Civ 291
22 February 2013

A Rent Act tenant died in November 2010. His son, then aged 16, had lived with him. The son's mother, the defendant, did not live with them but claimed that she had succeeded to the tenancy as surviving 'spouse' under Rent Act 1977 Schedule 1 para 2(1). A judge rejected that claim on the basis that the tenant and the defendant had not been 'married' in a sense that would have been recognised under matrimonial legislation. The Court of Appeal granted permission to appeal. It was at least arguable that 'spouse' had a wider meaning when used in the Rent Act. The full appeal will be heard later this year. To follow the progress of the appeal, click here.

Kingston Upon Thames LBC v Sysben Shadrawy
31 January 2013

The defendant was the private landlord of an HMO let to seven students. A council inspection found the property in disrepair with rotten windows, missing stair rails, exposed wiring and penetrating damp. The defendant was charged with offences including failing to provide fire doors, smoke alarms and emergency lights following non-compliance with Housing Act improvement notices and the HMO management regulations. At Richmond Magistrates' Court he pleaded guilty and was fined £3,500 with £1,720 costs. For full details of the prosecution, click here.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2013] March Legal Action 18
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.

Joint tenancies and human rights: where are we now?
J. Luba
[2013] 17 Landlord & Tenant Review 46

A hard case makes good law for a change (Souglides v Tweedie)
D. Holland
[2013] 17 Landlord & Tenant Review 35

The meaning of qualifying works: the threshold question (Phillips v Francis)
J. Upton
[2013] 17 Landlord & Tenant Review 60

Qualifying works: assessing the Chancellor's contribution (Phillips v Francis)
R. Crozier
[2013] 17 Landlord & Tenant Review 64

Beware of Lodger's Rights
P. Hayes
[2013] Inside Housing 5 April
For a copy, click here.

Accept Track Changes? (raising the small claims track limit for disrepair damages claims)
A. Byles & B. McCormack
[2013] 35 Housing Team Legal Bulletin March issue
For a copy, click here.

Turfed out (illegal eviction in the private sector)
M. Pooler
[2013] Inside Housing 28 March
For a copy, click here.

Repairs wars: a new hope (commentary on Daejan v Benson)
J. Bates
[2013] Inside Housing 28 March
For a copy, click here.

The cost of it all (commentary on Phillips v Francis)
S. Hall
[2013] Inside Housing 28 March
For a copy, click here.

Anti-squatting law should be repealed
[2013] 25 March The Guardian
For a copy, click here.

Notices to Quit and undue influence (commentary on Birmingham CC v Beech)
J. Manning
[2013] Local Government Lawyer 20 March
For a copy, click here.

Talking tough (commentary on proposals to control, access to social housing for non-UK nationals)
M. Hutchings
[2013] Local Government Lawyer 27 March
For a copy, click here.

Article 8 and possession claims - yet again! (commentary on Thurrock BC v West)
S. Gerlis
[2013] Busy Solicitors' Digest 22 March

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

25 April 2013
Leasehold Revisited: case law update
A SHLA Meeting in London
For the details, click here.

15 May 2013
Using the Equality Act
A HLPA Members Meeting in London
For the details, click here.

22 May 2013
Social Housing law & Practice
A Lime Legal training conference in London (speakers include Jan Luba QC)
For the details, click here.

22 May 2013
Housing Disrepair
A LAG training event in London (speakers include Beatrice Prevatt)
For the details, click here.

23 May 2013
Practical Tips for Possession: The View from the Housing Possession Duty Desk and Exceptional Funding under LASPO
A Garden Court Evening Seminar (speakers include James Bowen + Connor Johnston)
For the details, click here.

19 June 2013
Housing Law: the Legal Update 2013
A Northern Housing Consortium Conference in York (speakers include Liz Davies and Jan Luba QC)
For the details click here.

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