Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 310 – 20 May 2013

Monday 20 May 2013

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Special Notice
For daily housing law news and updates follow the Editor of this Bulletin (Jan Luba QC) on Twitter @JanLubaQC.

Housing Law News

Housing benefit size criteria in social housing: on 15 May 2013 the Government was asked in the House of Lords whether it had any plans to change the new under-occupancy rules for housing benefit. In reply, the Minister acknowledged a recent case in which a tenant was alleged to have committed suicide as a result of the new rules but indicated that no changes were presently proposed. For the exchanges, click here. A news story suggests housing associations have thousands of tenants who have not fully covered their rent since the new rules were introduced on 1 April 2013. For a copy, click here.

Right to Buy: official figures released on 16 May 2013 indicate that in England last year local authorities sold an estimated 5,942 dwellings under the Right to Buy scheme - more than twice the number sold in 2011/12. In the last quarter of 2012/13 they sold an estimated 2,449 dwellings - more than four times the number sold in the same quarter in the previous year. For the official data, click here. For the UK Government's statement on the figures, click here.

Housing benefit in private rented housing: the first report has just been published of the independent evaluation, commissioned by the Government, of the recent changes to the Local Housing Allowance and Housing Benefit in the private rented sector in the United Kingdom. For a copy of the report, click here.

Private renting and social housing balance: on 14 May 2013 the Housing Minister said in a Parliamentary Written Answer that the latest data from the English Housing Survey indicated that in 2011/12 there were 3.8 million (3,843,000) households in private rented housing and also 3.8 million (3,808,000) households in social rented housing. For that answer, click here and scroll to column 143W.

Direct payment of Housing Benefit: on 16 May 2013 the UK Government announced that the six demonstration projects testing payment of the housing element of Universal Credit (presently housing benefit) direct to tenants would be extended for six months. For the statement, click here. For the latest report on the progress of the projects, click here.

Help for the single homeless: on 13 May 2013 the UK Government allocated up to £800,000 for homelessness charity Crisis to fund schemes to set up new shared tenancies for single homeless people in privately rented accommodation. It also announced a further £230,000 for Crisis to continue its Private Rented Sector Access Programme, which works with landlords to help vulnerable people find privately rented accommodation. For the announcement, click here.

Disposing of social housing: on 7 May 2013, the Homes & Communities Agency released new guidance on the circumstances in which it will consent to the disposal of social housing by councils and housing associations. For a copy of the guidance, click here.

Housing and mental health: the National Housing Federation has just published Dementia: Finding housing solutions. For a copy, click here.

Gypsies and travellers: on 16 May 2013 the UK Government released the latest data from the count of gypsy and traveller caravans in England which took place on or around 17 January 2013. For the publications generated, 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.

Birmingham CC v James [2013] EWCA Civ 552
17 May 2013
The council was granted a gang-related injunction in the county court prohibiting the defendant from entering a prescribed area and from associating with 19 named persons or gathering with them in any public place within the city. It also required him to engage with The Centre for Conflict Transformation in relation to a programme of activities. A power of arrest was attached to the order. The defendant said that he had not committed any act of actual or threatened violence sufficient to justify the order. The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal. He had been among a group which, wearing distinctive colours, had entered the territory of a rival gang in deliberate provocation. The order had been 'necessary' despite the possible alternative of an ASBO. The injunction did not infringe any human rights. For the judgment, click here.

Jumani v Mortgage Express [2013] EWHC (Ch), [2013] All ER (D) 219 (May)
17 May 2013

A lender advanced monies secured by mortgages on a portfolio of buy-to-let residential premises. When mortgage arrears accrued, it appointed receivers to take over the portfolio. The borrowers claimed that they then reached an agreement with the lender that the properties would be returned to their control if the arrears were cleared. The arrears were cleared and the borrowers brought a claim to enforce their agreement. The High Court held that no agreement had been concluded in the terms alleged.

Soor v Redbridge LBC [2013] EWHC 1239 (Admin)

16 May 2013
The appellants were the joint owners of an HMO. The council decided that they were liable to pay council tax on the property. The appellants said that the property had been let as a whole to joint tenants and that those tenants were liable for the council tax. Alternatively, one owner said that he had played no active part in ownership of the property and the other disclaimed any beneficial interest in its value. A valuation tribunal dismissed their appeal. The High Court dismissed a further appeal. The tribunal had been entitled to say it was not satisfied that the tenancy agreements were genuine. Liability for council tax was established simply by the appellants being the joint registered owners of the freehold. For the judgment, click here.

Hotak v Southwark LBC [2013] EWCA Civ 515
15 May 2013

The council decided that the claimant, a single man, did not have a priority need because any vulnerability he might otherwise have had could be dealt with by the provision of personal support and assistance from his brother (with whom he had lived and who was also homeless but ineligible for assistance). That decision was upheld on review and an appeal to the county court was dismissed. The Court of Appeal dismissed a second appeal. The reviewing officer was not required to make an assessment of vulnerability in isolation from the applicant's known personal circumstances. For the judgment, click here.

Cussens v Realreed Ltd [2013] EWHC 1229 (Ch)

15 May 2013
A landlord wanted to establish that the tenant under a long lease was in breach of a covenant of the lease, in order to then serve a forfeiture notice. The landlord could have applied to a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) for such a finding but instead sought a declaration in the county court. The declaration was granted with costs. The High Court dismissed the tenant's appeal. The county court had jurisdiction to grant declarations relating to land. Unlike the LVT, it had a costs jurisdiction and there was no error in the costs order. For the judgment, click here.

Brown v Island Homes HA Ltd [2013] UKUT 153 (LC)

13 May 2013
In a dispute over service charges that was being heard at a leasehold valuation tribunal (LVT), the tenants called a fellow tenant Mr Lee (who was an accountant) to give evidence based on the landlord's service charge accounts. The LVT decided most points in the landlord's favour. The tenants appealed to the Upper Tribunal contending that on 12 matters the LVT ought to have accepted Mr Lee's evidence. The appeal was allowed. Of the 12 points considered by the Upper Tribunal, the landlord succeeded on four, conceded two and lost the remaining six. It was ordered to pay costs of £950. For the judgment, click here.

Triplerose Ltd v Grantglen Ltd [2013] UKUT 204 (LC)

7 May 2013
The parties were engaged in a dispute over service charges. The tenant took the point that no service charge was due unless and until a demand was served giving the name of the landlord: Landlord & Tenant Act 1987 section 47. The demands were made in the name of "Cane Developments, Paul Marsh and Holly Marsh" instead of "Cane Developments, Grantglen Limited and Holly Marsh." Paul Marsh was a director of Grantglen. The LVT decided that the error had caused no prejudice and that the demand was valid. The Upper Tribunal allowed an appeal. The statutory requirement to name the landlord had not been met. The notice was invalid. No question of prejudice arose. For the judgment, click here.

McGuire v Rose [2013] EWCA Civ 429
25 April 2013

Mr McGuire was made bankrupt in 1996. He owned several properties. The defendant, his trustee in bankruptcy, sold them to realise monies for the creditors. Mr McGuire brought an action contending that the properties had been sold at undervalue. He said that the sales had been based on negligent valuations of the properties but he adduced no expert evidence and his claims were dismissed. On an appeal, he sought permission to rely on fresh evidence. That application was refused. In the absence of such evidence, the application for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal was itself dismissed. For the judgment, click here.

Leeds CC v Craig Parkin
19 April 2013

The defendant was a private landlord. In April 2011 he was found guilty on charges of failing to licence two properties within a designated Selective Licensing Area and was fined £1500 with £2300 costs. The council then served improvement notices to secure remedial work at the properties but they were ignored. The defendant pleaded guilty to 12 offences at Leeds Magistrates Court and was fined a total of £5854.55. For details of the prosecution, click here.

International Gospel Church v Cope [2013] EWCA Civ 539
18 April 2013

A landlord agreed with an assured shorthold tenant that it would waive any shortfall between his housing benefit (HB) and his contractual rent. After the fixed term expired, the landlord gave notice of a rent increase. That was referred to a rent assessment committee (RAC) which fixed the market rent. The landlord then claimed it was entitled to the rent in full from that date. The Court of Appeal, dealing with an application for permission to appeal, held that if there had been a limit in the original contract to the amount paid by HB, that term had fallen-in when the contract expired and did not apply to the statutory periodic tenancy. The effect of Housing Act 1988 section 14 was that the rent payable was the rent fixed by the RAC.

Safdar v Falkirk Council
28 March 2013

Residents who lived above a shop complained to the council that they were being disturbed by the noise of the shop's metal shutters being opened in the early morning. The council issued an abatement notice under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which prohibited the shutters being opened earlier than 8am. The owners appealed. The court dismissed the appeal. The council sought its costs. The court decided that, applying the same rule as in England, if a council successfully resisted an appeal it should normally recover its costs. For the judgment, click here.

Solihull MBC v Burton [2013] EWHC 971(QB)
26 March 2013

The defendants had moved their caravans onto green-field land for residential use. They were refused planning permission. That decision was upheld by an Inspector and by the High Court. The council applied for an injunction to remove them. By consent, an order was made requiring them to vacate within 12 months. Before that period elapsed, they applied to extend the permitted time because they had nowhere else to go and the interests of the children on site needed to be considered. In the alternative, they asked that at least two pitches be permitted to be retained for the most vulnerable applicants. The High Court refused the applications. The applications were made too late. An already generous period had been secured by consent. A further delay of one month would be allowed, but only to take account of adverse weather conditions. For the judgment, click here.

First Plus Financial Group PLC v Pervez [2013] ScotSC 27
22 March 2013

A lender had a secured loan over a borrower's home and brought a claim to enforce the security and obtain possession. The defence took the point that there had been a failure to comply with statutory pre-action requirements. The court dismissed the claim because the lender had failed to comply with paragraph 2(4) of the Applications by Creditors (Pre-Action Requirements) (Scotland) Order 2010. Specifically, the pleadings disclosed failure to provide by service "as soon as is reasonably practicable upon the [defender] entering into default", the mandatory statutory information required by section 24A(2)(b) of the 1970 Act and section 5B(2)(b) of the 1894 Act. For the judgment, click here.

Hull CC v Matthew Money
8 March 2013

The defendant was a private landlord of two flats. The council's officers identified inadequate heating, electrical faults, dampness, disrepair to rainwater gutters, external doors and windows, and inadequate fire precautions. It served improvement notices under Housing Act 2004 Part 1. The defendant failed to comply. The defendant was convicted in his absence at Hull Magistrates Court and fined £2000 with £950 costs. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2013] April Legal Action 41
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.

All is forgiven: bring back the fair rent
A. Arden
[2013] LAG Housing Law Blog 10 May
To read this, click here.

Data scheme flags up fraud
K. Younde
[2013] Inside Housing 10 May
For a copy, click here.

The full wait of the law (commentary on Southend v Armour)
J. Hulley and S. Strelitz
[2013] Inside Housing 17 May
For a copy, 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

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

23 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 John Beckley + Connor Johnston)
For the details, click here.

Next Month

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.

21 June 2013
Homelessness Conference 2013
A Lime Legal training conference in London (speakers include Liz Davies and Jan Luba QC)
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.

Later this year

3 July 2013
Recent Developments in Housing Law
A LAG training event in London
For the details, click here.

27 July 2013
Allocations: the New World
A HLPA Members Meeting in London
For the details, click here.


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