Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 306 –15 April 2013

Monday 15 April 2013

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Housing Law News

Housing Benefit reductions from today: in four London Boroughs (Bromley, Croydon, Enfield and Haringey) the overall benefit cap will apply from today (15 April 2013) and will be achieved by reducing housing benefit where that is necessary to keep household income within the cap of £500pw (couples and single parents) or £350 (single people). For the 'benefit cap calculator', click here. For the Impact Assessment of the number of households who will lose some or all of their income, click here. For an updated set of FAQs on the cap, click here. All remaining Local Authorities will begin to apply the cap from 15 July 2013 and all households identified as being appropriate to be capped will have been capped by the end of September 2013. The National Policy Institute has issued a briefing reviewing the cumulative effect of the benefit cap and other welfare reforms. For a copy, click here.

Housing Law reform - at last: in light of the Welsh Government's adoption of its Renting Homes proposals (for a simple two-type tenancy system) the Law Commission has reviewed and revised its proposals to take account of changes in the law since 2006, ahead of the adoption of its draft bill in Wales. The update published on 9 April 2013 considers Article 8 and possession claims as well as the law on housing and anti-social behaviour. For a copy of the new report, click here.

Regulating social landlords: on 9 April 2013 the statutory regulator for England - the Regulatory Committee of the Homes & Communities Agency - launched a preliminary discussion on proposals to reform the standards and principles set out in the Regulatory Framework for social housing in England. The discussion will be followed by a formal consultation later this year. For the discussion paper, click here.

Homelessness and local authorities: on 9 April 2013 the UK Government announced that it had given £1.3m to establish a National Practitioner Support Service Team (to be hosted by Winchester City Council) and £700,000 to the National Homelessness Advice Service. Together they will provide training, information and technical support to front-line homelessness staff of local housing authorities as part of the "Gold Standard" initiative to drive up service standards in provision for the homeless in England. For more details of the service, which starts on 1 May 2013, click here. https://goldstandard.practitionersupport.org For the ministerial announcement of the scheme, click here.

Placing the homeless in the private sector: the charity Shelter has published a new guide for councillors and council officers on using the new powers to place homeless households in England in the private rented sector. 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.

Obiorah v Lewisham LBC [2013] EWCA Civ 325
12 April 2013
The council had owed the appellant the main homelessness duty (Housing Act 1996 section 193) since 2004. It had provided her with temporary accommodation in performance of that duty and had made a series of offers of permanent accommodation under its allocation scheme. Those offers had been withdrawn and a further offer would be made. Meanwhile, the council offered alternative temporary accommodation. The appellant rejected that offer contending that she should be made an offer of permanent accommodation. A reviewing officer decided that the offer had been 'suitable' and a judge dismissed an appeal. The Court of Appeal dismissed a second appeal. The appellant could not establish a 'legitimate expectation' of a permanent offer rather than further temporary accommodation and there had been no unfairness or failure to comply with regulations in the review process. For the judgment, click here.

Stevens v Secretary of State for Communities [2013] EWHC 792 (Admin)
10 April 2013

The claimant was a gypsy. She and her family converted a plot of land in the Green Belt into a private caravan site for their mobile homes. She sought retrospective planning permission or at least temporary planning consent. Permission and consent were refused. An inspector dismissed an appeal. The claimant appealed to the High Court on the ground that the inspector had failed to apply the ZH Tanzania approach to the significance of the interests of the children in assessing the proportionality of refusing planning permission. The High Court dismissed the appeal but gave a judgment spelling-out how proportionality issues should be approached by planners, inspectors and courts when children are involved. For the judgment, click here.

Sanneh v Secretary of State for Work & Pensions [2013] EWHC 793 (Admin)
10 April 2013

The claimant was a Gambian national who had overstayed in the UK after expiry of her student visa. She was the sole carer of her young daughter, a UK national. She was being provided with accommodation and support by a council using its powers under Children Act 1989 s17. She had been refused mainstream welfare benefits and had appealed against those decisions. She sought judicial review of the refusal to make her interim awards of those benefits. She claimed that refusal of interim awards would infringe the Zambrano principles for the protection of carers of UK nationals. The High Court dismissed the claim. The support that the claimant was receiving under the Children Act and that fact that she was free to take employment avoided any such infringement. For the judgment, click here.

Willis v Derwentside DC [2013] EWHC 793 (Admin)
10 April 2013

The claimants were homeowners. Near their house were old mine workings on land owned by the council. From one vent, large quantities of stythe gas were escaping. The claimants were evacuated from their house from July to December 2006 while remedial work was undertaken and the vent was capped. They brought a claim for damages in the tort of nuisance on the grounds that the council had not taken reasonable steps to abate the nuisance. The High Court upheld the claim because "a response to the nuisance ...in the form of commissioning and paying for a remedial scheme, but without either obtaining a certificate of its satisfactory completion, or committing to its monitoring and maintenance in accordance with the recommendations of its designer, falls short of the taking of reasonable steps to abate the nuisance." For the full judgment, click here.

Leeds CC v Farideh Poorsheiki
26 March 2013

The defendant was a private landlady. On inspection of her property, council officers found a number of serious breaches of housing legislation. The property appeared to have been neglected for some time, with internal doors smashed and disrepair to the external fabric. The council brought a prosecution for five offences relating to fire safety. The defendant failed to appear at Leeds Magistrates Court, was convicted and was fined £9066. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Oxford CC v Imran Ali
22 March 2013

The defendant was a private landlord of an HMO. On inspection of his property, council officers found no notices displayed with the landlord's details, kitchen tiles broken, the cooker located in an unsafe place (as there was no sufficient work surface either side for hot pans) and a damaged door frame to the ground floor bathroom. They also found lose wires on the first and second floor landing, the rear garden was full of debris and rubbish and the stair carpet was worn and loosely fitted. The defendant pleaded guilty at Oxford Magistrates' Court to nine offences contrary to the HMO regulations and was fined £2,350 with £200 costs. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Stokes v United Kingdom Application 65919/10
19 March 2013

The applicant was an Irish traveller. She complained to the European Court that her rights under Articles 6 and 8 had been infringed in possession proceedings brought by Brent Council because (1) she had not been given a full explanation of why possession had been sought against her and (2) the county court had not considered the proportionality of making a possession order. The Court of Appeal refused permission to appeal against a possession order (for that judgment, click here). The UK Government offered 2000 euros compensation plus costs. The Court was satisfied as to that settlement and struck the case from its lists.

Birmingham CC v Tahir Nasim and Khurum Eusaff Choudhry
14 March 2013

The defendants bought a house as a business venture and rented it out to tenants. They did not apply for an HMO licence or comply with minimum HMO standards. A ceiling in the house was in danger of collapsing, there were inoperable smoke alarms and the property had inadequate fire precautions. They pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates' Court to failing to hold an HMO licence and to seven breaches of the HMO Management Regulations. They were each fined £4000 each, a victim surcharge of £15 was made and they were ordered to pay costs of £1,026 (totalling £5,041 each). For 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

Beware this tall tale (commentary on El-Dinnaoui v Westminster Council)
D. Wilson
[2013] Inside Housing 12 April
For a copy, click here.

The Long Game (commentary on Daejan v Benson)
D. Gatty
[2013] 163 New Law Journal Issue No.7555 p13
For a copy, click here.

Strasbourg triggers another Article 8 dialogue
S. Nield
[2013] Conveyancer & Property Lawyer 148

Acting on Housing Fraud
D. Underwood and L. Glenister
[2013] 157 Solicitors Journal Issue No.14 p10
For a copy of 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

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.

20 May 2013
Homeless Children - safety net or freefall?
A Shelter Children's Legal Service Conference
For the details, Email: Londonlegaladmin@shelter.org.uk

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.

20 June 2013
Defending Possession Proceedings
A LAG training event in London
For the details, click here.

27 June 2013
Social Housing Tenancy Agreements
A Lime Legal training conference in London (speakers include Jan Luba QC)
For the details, click here.

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