Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 313 - 24 June 2013

Monday 24 June 2013

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****THIS THURSDAY (27 JUNE): Jan Luba QC will be chairing and presenting (with two solicitors) an all-day conference in London on drafting and revising social housing tenancy agreements. For details, click here. ****

Housing Law News

Rent and mortgage default: on 22 June 2013 the Chartered Institute of Housing released the results of an IPSOS Mori survey of people aged 16-75 with monthly rent or mortgage payments. It found that 23% are worried about their ability to pay the rent or mortgage right now; 33% said they were concerned they wouldn't be able to meet their mortgage or rent payments in 12 months' time; and 36% said their concerns about housing costs are causing them a great deal or a fair amount of stress. For the announcement, click here. Research published today (24 June 2013) by a software supplier reveals that three quarters of UK social housing landlords fear potential mass rent arrears and void properties. For more details, click here.

Letting Agents: on 19 June 2013 the House of Commons gave a first reading to a Private Landlords and Letting and Managing Agents (Regulation) Bill. It would establish a mandatory national register of private landlords; introduce regulation of private sector letting agents and managing agents; establish a body to administer the national register and monitor compliance with regulations applying to letting agents and managing agents; and require all tenancy agreements entered into with private landlords to take the form of written agreements. It is a Private Members Bill unlikely to secure government support. Shelter has published a new policy report calling for controls on letting agency fees: Lettings agencies: the price you pay. For a copy, click here. For details of its campaign on letting agent fees, click here.

Youth homelessness: on 21 June 2013 HomelessLink published the report No Excuses which explores the causes of homelessness amongst 16 and 17 year olds, its long-term impact on young adults, and whether they are being effectively looked after and safeguarded by local authorities. It finds widespread failures. For a copy of the report, click here.

Street homelessness: last week the Street to Home Annual report for 2012/2013 was published revealing a significant increase in the number of rough sleepers in London. For a copy, click here.

Housing Policy: today (24 June 2013), the independent Housing Commission established by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) presented its final report. 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.

Cusack v Harrow LBC [2013] UKSC 40
19 June 2013

A building, which had been a house, had a front garden which had been turned into a forecourt. It had a frontage to a road. The owner drove cars from the road across the pavement to park them on the frontage. The council decided to use its powers under the Highways Act 1980 to restrict access from the road in the interests of the safety of pedestrians. The power used by the council carried no right to compensation. The owner complained that the action infringed his right to peaceful enjoyment of his possessions under Article 1 Protocol 1 of the Human Rights Act 1998 Schedule 1. The Supreme Court rejected his case. He had not been deprived of any property amounting to a possession. To the extent that there had been state control imposed on his property it was lawful, not arbitrary, and did not need to carry a right to compensation. For the judgment, click here.

Welwyn Hatfield BC v Strats Estates & Letting Agents Ltd
17 June 2013

The defendant was the agent responsible for letting and management of five houses in multiple occupation owned by private landlords in the council's area. Fire safety issues included: inadequate smoke detection; fire doors to several rooms and areas were defective; a handrail to stairs was not securely fixed to the wall; and some exit doors were a fire safety hazard as they could be kept locked. After a trial, the defendant was found guilty of 13 breaches of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Regulations 2006 .The magistrates' court imposed fines of £16,200 with costs of £25,000. For further details, click here.

Complaint against Daventry DC 12 003 658
10 June 2013

A housing association tenant's disabilities were such that he needed to have one of the ground floor rooms of the home changed into use as a bedroom. He applied to the council for a mandatory disabled facilities grant. The council estimated the cost of the works as exceeding the limit of £30,000 for a mandatory DFG. Instead of providing a discretionary grant for the balance, it pursued a fruitless alternative process causing unnecessary delay. The Local Government Ombudsman recommended an apology, £5000 compensation and completion of the works within five months. For the investigation report, click here.

Complaint against Southwark LBC 12 011 599
5 June 2013

A council tenant needed to leave her home urgently with her family because her son (a former gang member) was in danger of violent assault. The council provided her with temporary accommodation under its personal protection policy. She remained there for 18 months. The Local Government Ombudsman found extensive maladministration. The council had failed to take a homelessness application. It had breached its own policy on risk assessment cases and had failed to make a decision. It had failed to help the family apply for alternative council housing. There had been a failure to keep in touch with the family or keep them informed. The Ombudsman made a raft of recommendations including £2000 compensation. For the investigation report, click here.

Brusse and Garabito v Jahani Ltd [2013] EUECJ C-488/11
30 May 2013

The company granted the claimants a joint tenancy of residential accommodation. It used the standard terms drawn up by a professional association. The terms provided for penalties and interest to be payable in the event of rent arrears. The tenants defaulted and the company sued for the rent, the interest and the late payment penalties. The tenants took the point that the provisions for interest and penalties were 'unfair' because they exceeded any loss that might actually be suffered by the company. The European Court of Justice held that the EU Directive on unfair contractual terms applied to agreements between professional landlords and residential tenants. Moreover, a national court is required of its own motion to consider whether any disputed tenancy terms are fair and to annul any unfair terms. The court cannot simply reduce the amount of interest payable or the penalty due under the unfair terms. They must be ruled invalid. For the judgment, click here.

Maksymenko and Gerasymenko v Ukraine [2013] ECHR 439
16 May 2013

In 2004 the applicants jointly bought a hostel comprising residential accommodation from the creditors of an insolvent company .They decided to obtain vacant possession and live in the building themselves. They gave the residents notice to leave. In 2006 the Court of Appeal declared that the hostel had been a state asset which ought never to have come into the possession of the insolvent company and ought not to have been sold to the applicants. It transferred the hostel to the local council without compensation to the applicants. The European Court of Human Rights upheld a complaint that Article 1 Protocol 1 had been infringed. It awarded the applicants a refund of the purchase price they had paid and interest. For the judgment, click here.

Newport Council v Mahmood Hassan and others
13 May 2013

The council brought prosecutions in respect of failure to licence two HMOs and failure to comply with the HMO management regulations in them. At Abergavenny magistrates' court Mahmood Hassan pleaded guilty to three offences of managing both properties as HMOs when they were not licensed. He also admitted two offences of failing to maintain fire escapes at one of the properties and keeping all parts safe and in working order. He was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay costs of £8,000. Mohammed Zishan Ali Hassan pleaded guilty to managing the one of the properties when it was not licensed. He was fined £4,000 with costs of £4,000. Topaz Property Company Limited pleaded guilty to two offences of managing both properties as HMOs when they were not licensed and to 10 offences under the HMO management regulations. It was fined £11,000 with costs of £11,000.Lainebridge Trading Limited pleaded guilty to one offence of managing one property as an unlicensed HMO. It was fined £3,000 with costs of £2,000. For more details, click here.

Croydon LBC v Ace Management
7 May 2013

The council brought a prosecution on discovery of an unlicensed HMO following a fire. An investigation by the council found that, while the property was not licensed to have more than one household, it was occupied by more than five unrelated tenants sharing cooking and bathing facilities. Croydon Magistrates Court ordered the agent to pay a fine of £12,000 and court costs of £2,375. For more details, click here.

Camden LBC v Bakyaraj Selva
3 May 2013

The defendant was a private landlord letting an HMO in a flat above his shop. A council inspection found inadequate fire safety, fire exits blocked by debris and fire doors that didn't close properly. Damp was evident throughout the property and a grease-coated kitchen had a plastic container with sink waste dripping into it. The defendant pleaded guilty to nine breaches of the HMO regulations. At Highbury Corner magistrates' court he was fined £10,450 and £2784 costs. For the details, click here.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2013] June Legal Action 31
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.

The low-down on damages for unlawful eviction
J. Driscoll
[2013] 1325 Estates Gazette 107

From pillar to post (young homeless people)
E. Twinch
[2013] Inside Housing 21 June
To read the article, click here.

No right to shut the door (young homeless people)
J. Gallagher
[2013] Inside Housing 21 June
To read the article, click here.

What is a flat?
N. Rees
[2013] 157 Solicitors Journal Issue 24 Prop Supp 11
For a copy, click here.

Track changes update
M. Cleghorn
[2013] 36 Housing Team Legal Bulletin (Farden Court North)
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 Month

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

27 June 2013
Advocacy at a Mediation: Your Questions Answered
A Garden Court Seminar on the role of advocates at mediation (speakers include Beatrice Prevatt).
For the details, click here.

Later this summer

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

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

24 July 2013
Welfare reforms: navigating the changes in the welfare system
A one-day conference in London for front-line staff and managers
For the details, click here.

 

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