Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 311 – 28 May 2013

Tuesday 28 May 2013

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Housing Law News

Housing law reform: following-up its policy commitment to adopt the Law Commission's proposed reforms of the law on rented housing the Welsh Government has published a white paper: Renting Homes - a better way for Wales. For a copy, click here. For a summary, click here. Consultation on the proposals closes on 16 August 2013. For details of public meetings to discuss the proposals, click here.

Private rented sector: the Labour Party has today (28 May 2013) published the outcome of its policy review on the private rented sector. For a copy, click here. For the Shadow Housing Minister's announcement, click here. Meanwhile, Shelter is continuing to develop its 'Evict Rogue Landlords' campaign. For the details, click here.

Residents on park home sites: today (28 May 2013) mobile home owners and other residents on about 2000 park home sites in England gain increased rights with the commencement of the Mobile Homes Act 2013. For the Act, click here. For the new selling and gifting processes for mobile homes, click here. For the savings provisions, click here. A new Park Homes Advice Line, run by the Leasehold Advisory Service, is now available for residents on 0207 383 9800. For the ministerial announcement on the changes, click here.

Housing benefit size criteria in social housing: Shelter Cymru has published a review of the best and worst of social landlord practice on the new 'bedroom tax'. For a copy, click here. It also has a bedroom tax appeal toolkit for tenants. For that, click here.

Rough sleeping: the UK Government has published the minutes of the latest meeting of the inter-departmental working party on measures to tackle the homelessness of rough sleepers in England. For a copy, click here.

Updates on Housing Law: for daily housing law news and updates follow the Editor of this Bulletin (Jan Luba QC) on Twitter @JanLubaQC.

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.

Optima Community HA v Ker [2013] EWCA Civ 579
24 May 2013

The claimant granted the defendant an assured shorthold tenancy and an option to buy under its Flexibuy scheme. The defendant fell into rent arrears. The claimant served a section 21 notice and claimed possession. The judge made a possession order and gave a money judgment for the rent arrears. The tenant appealed, contending that the order infringed her human rights, that the arrangement was a 'sham' and that she was entitled to recover at least a proportion of the rent as it had been a part-deposit towards the purchase. The Court of Appeal dismissed her appeal. The orders made were not disproportionate, no sham was made out, and the arrangements between the parties did not require treatment of the rent as part-payment for purchase. For the judgment, click here.

Gavin v Community HA Ltd [2013] EWCA Civ 580
24 May 2013

The claimants had been granted long leases of commercial premises imposing repairing obligations on the tenants and including a scheme of insurance against loss caused by damage to the leased property. Defects in parts of the building retained by the landlord caused repeated damage to the tenanted parts and significant loss. The tenants sued the landlords for damages but recovered only £100. The Court of Appeal dismissed their appeal and allowed the landlord's cross-appeal against the £100 award. In light of the terms of the lease, there was no warrant for the implication of any term requiring the landlord to keep the rest of the building in repair or to prevent disrepair in it from causing loss to the tenant. For the judgment, click here.

Turner v Chief Land Registrar [2013] EWHC (Ch) 1382
24 May 2013

The claimant was a gypsy squatting on a plot of unregistered land which he had planning consent to develop into a private caravan site. He was anxious that an application might be made by someone else for registration of the land and he applied to register a caution against first registration. The application was refused. The High Court decided that the application had been correctly rejected. The claimant already had an estate in the land by virtue of his occupation which was "in fee simple absolute in possession". A person holding that estate could not register a caution. The insecurity that the possibility of an application by another person might bring could not amount to an infringement of Article 8. For the judgment, click here.

Delaney v Secretary of State for Communities [2013] EWCA Civ 585
23 May 2013

The claimant was a traveller who lived on land that he owned in the Green Belt. The council refused planning permission and the claimant appealed. An inspector dismissed his appeal as did the High Court. The claimant contended that he ought at least to be given temporary planning consent because the council's planned provision for official traveller sites could not satisfy his needs or meet local need generally. The Court of Appeal dismissed a further appeal. The inspector had taken into account the council's breach of duty and its consequences and implications for the claimant. He gave significant weight to the council's breach of statutory duty. However, it did not outweigh the other material considerations going against a further temporary permission. For the judgment, click here.

Health & Safety Executive v Lewisham Homes Ltd
23 May 2013

The defendant was an ALMO which had taken over a major London borough council's housing stock. A worker attended a block of its flats to take a meter reading. On opening the caretaker's cupboard door, she fell into an unprotected flood pit, constructed below the block, and was injured. The ALMO had not inspected and assessed the block, had not known the flood pit existed, and had therefore taken no precautions to avoid injury. On a prosecution, it pleaded guilty to breach of Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 section 3. Westminster Magistrates Court imposed at £20,000 fine with £5,804 costs. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Mohammed v Islington LBC [2013] EWCA Civ noted on LAWTEL
21 May 2013

The council decided on a review that although the applicant was prone to fainting several times a day, she did not have a priority need because she was not 'vulnerable' i.e. less well able to fend for herself than other homeless people such that she was likely to suffer injury. A judge quashed that decision because the reviewing officer had failed to address:(1) whether being street homeless would affect the factors that mitigated the frequency or severity of her fainting attacks; and (2) the effect the fainting would have on her in the short and long term if she was street homeless. The Court of Appeal dismissed a further appeal by the council. The judge had been right.

R(A)v Croydon LBC [2013] EWHC (Admin) [2013] All ER (D) 298 (May)

21 May 2013
The council decided that the claimant was not a child but an adult and declined to accommodate him under the Children Act 1989. The claimant brought a claim for judicial review. The council failed to comply with directions given in the proceedings or deal with correspondence from the claimant's solicitors and the UKBA. A few days before trial, the council conceded that the claimant was a child. The council was ordered to pay the costs of all parties from the date of the directions which had not been complied with.

R(IA)v Westminster CC [2013] EWHC 1273 (Admin)

20 May 2013
The applicant faced eviction from his private rented sector accommodation because of the benefit cap on his housing benefit. He was a single man and a refugee from Iran where he had suffered imprisonment and torture. He went to the council offices to apply as homeless with a letter from his GP describing his depression, panic attacks, insomnia and knee and back pain. The letter described him as requiring help and "support with his daily needs". At the end of a short interview that day, the council officer printed off a letter composed during the interview notifying a decision that he did not have a priority need. The applicant applied for a review and asked for accommodation pending review. That was refused. He sought judicial review. The High Court granted permission to apply for judicial review both of the adverse decision on priority need and of the refusal of accommodation. It also granted an injunction pending trial of the claim. For the judgment, click here.

Cyron Housing Co-op Ltd v Sterling [2013] EWHC (QB) noted on LAWTEL
10 May 2013

The landlord was a fully mutual housing co-op. It served notice to quit on a tenant and sought possession of her home. The tenant took a point that the notice was invalid because it had not been served in keeping with the terms of the tenancy agreement. The co-op satisfied the judge that the tenancy was void for uncertainty and that possession had to be granted. The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal. Following the Supreme Court decision in Mexfield, the tenancy was not void. The possession claim would need to be re-heard and the defence on invalidity of the notice considered.

Hammersmith & Fulham LBC v Elizabeth Johnson
7 May 2013

The defendant was a private landlady. The council decided that conditions in her rented property were so dangerous that it made a prohibition order under the Housing Act 2004. In breach of the order, the defendant continued to let the property. Hammersmith Magistrates Court convicted her in her absence for breach of the notice. She was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay the council's costs of £1,298. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Murphy v Slough BC [2013] EWCA Civ 569
17 April 2013

The council decided on a review that the applicant had become homeless intentionally. Her assured shorthold tenancy had expired and her landlady had served a section 21 notice and recovered possession. The landlady said that she had done so on account of rent arrears. The applicant said that the arrears could be set off against damages she was owed for disrepair. The council was satisfied that the landlady had been given no notice of the alleged disrepair. A judge dismissed an appeal from that decision. The Court of Appeal refused permission for a second appeal. The law on the discretion of a council as to what enquiries it was reasonable to pursue was well settled. The proposed appeal raised no important point of practice or procedure.

R(Cooley) v Police Service for Northern Ireland [2013] NIQB 31
14 March 2013

The applicants were homeowners in a recognised sectarian interface area in Belfast which had seen serious sectarian disorder and violence. Each suffered criminal damage to their property and repeated sectarian abuse and threats. They applied under the Scheme for the Purchase of Evacuated Dwellings (SPED). Their applications were unsuccessful because the PSNI refused to issue a Chief Constable's Certificate certifying they were at risk of death or serious injury (whether physical or psychological) if they continued to reside in their homes. A challenge to that decision by judicial review failed. The SPED scheme imposed a specific eligibility threshold which the PSNI were entitled to decide had not been met. For the judgment, 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.

After Daejan: why bother consulting leaseholders?
J. Bates
[2013] May Legal Action 38

Help yourself (rent deposit claims in the county court)
M. Robinson
[2013] 157 Adviser 21

Weapon of mass eviction (use of Ground 8)
M. Hilditch
[2013] Inside Housing 17 May
For a copy, click here.

Hold it together (amending the Anti-social Behaviour Bill)
J. Plant
[2013] Inside Housing 24 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

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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