Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 317 - 22 July 2013

Monday 22 July 2013

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Housing Law News

Private rented sector: on 18 July 2013 the House of Commons Communities & Local Government Committee published the report of its inquiry into the private rented sector in England and made numerous recommendations. For the report, click here.

Prosecuting rogue private landlords: on 18 July 2013 the UK Government wrote to every local authority in England inviting them to bid for a share of £3m additional funding to support enforcement activity against rogue private landlords and to raise housing standards in the sector. For the letter, click here. For the ministerial announcement, click here.

Licensing of private landlords: on 17 July 2013 the Selective Licensing (Housing Standards) Bill was presented to the House of Commons. Graham Jones MP brought forward this Private Members Bill to allow local authorities to apply a wider range of selective licensing conditions to private landlords in order to improve housing standards. He explained his concerns in an earlier parliamentary debate. For the debate, click here. For the presentation of the Bill, click here.

Homelessness (1): homeless applicants placed outside their 'home' areas often dispute the placement decision on the basis that changing schools mid-year will adversely affect their child's education. Advisers dealing with such cases could usefully refer to a new report from the RSA showing that moving schools multiple times has a devastating impact on pupil's grades. For the report, click here.

Homelessness (2): while the number of applications for homelessness assistance made to local authorities in England has been increasing, in Scotland the number has been falling. For the latest statistics from Scotland (revised on 17 July 2013), click here.

Legal services for housing cases: following the latest round of legal aid contract bids, there are no suppliers holding contracts to provide housing law advice in the Dorset or Shropshire procurement areas. The Legal Aid Agency has invited prospective suppliers to express an interest to bid to fill those gaps by 29 July 2013. For the details, click here.

Amending Housing Law in England: the UK Government has published a draft Deregulation Bill. It has two provisions relating to Housing law. The first would reduce the qualifying period for the right to buy. The second would abolish the mandatory duty for each council to have a housing strategy. For the Bill, click here.

Amending Housing Law in Wales: the Welsh Government has announced that the next Assembly Session (third year of the current assembly) will consider a Bill to reform the law on renting homes in line with earlier Law Commission proposals. For the announcement of the legislative programme, click here.

Park homes: on 17 July 2013 the Housing Minister for England set out the UK Government's programme for the roll out of the Mobile Homes Act 2013 which is designed of improve the rights of park home residents (both static and mobile). For the ministerial announcement, click here. For the Act, 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.

Brezec v Croatia [2013] ECHR 705
18 July 2013

Ms Brezec worked for a state-owned hotel business. It provided her with the shared use of a flat, in staff quarters, which she then occupied for over 30 years. Later, the company was privatised and the building containing the flat was sold to the private company. It sought possession on the basis that Ms Brezec had no legal right to occupy. The Municipal Court made a possession order. Appeals to the County Court and Constitutional Court were rejected and Ms Brezec moved out. She complained to the European Court of Human Rights that her Article 8 right to respect for her home had been infringed. The Court held that: (1) the flat was her home whether she had the legal right to occupy it or not; (2) the possession order engaged her Article 8 rights whether it was enforced or not; and (3) there had been a violation - because none of the domestic courts had considered the proportionality of her eviction on the facts of the case but had treated the absence of a legal right as decisive. For the judgment, click here.

BDW Trading Ltd v South Anglia Housing Ltd [2013] EWHC B10 (Ch) [2013] All ER (D) 183 (Jul)
17 July 2013

Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 section 20 provides for consultation requirements to apply to "qualifying long term agreements" ("QLTA"), under which costs would be incurred which would form the basis of service charges. A QLTA is defined by section 20ZA as "an agreement entered into, by or on behalf of the landlord or a superior landlord, for a term of more than 12 months". The issue in this case was whether the provisions apply to a long term agreement entered into in relation to buildings which have not yet been constructed, or which are not let at the time of the agreement. The High Court held that consultation requirements did not apply in such circumstances. For the judgment, click here.

B v Moldova [2013] ECHR 684
16 July 2013

Mrs B was a victim of domestic violence from her husband. After she divorced him, they continued to live in the same flat but separately. His violence continued. She applied to the civil courts for his exclusion. An order was made by the local court and upheld on appeal but the Supreme Court reversed that decision. The violence again continued. Mrs B applied again for her ex-husband's exclusion - but the courts treated themselves as bound by the Supreme Court judgment. The European Court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of both Articles 3 and 8. The state had failed in its positive duty to provide effective protection for the victims of domestic violence. For the judgment, click here.

Siemens Hearing Instruments Ltd v Friends Life Ltd [2013] EWHC (Ch) [2013] All ER (D) 188 (Jul)
12 July 2013

A tenant gave written notice to end a tenancy. The lease required that the notice must "be expressed to be given under section 24(2) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954" but the notice did not mention the Act. The landlord said it was invalid. The High Court held that the notice was valid. The judgment contains a useful modern restatement of the principles used to determine whether a technical defect in a notice, in a landlord and tenant case, renders it invalid. For the judgment, click here.

Doncaster MBC v Winstanley [2013] EWHC (QB) [2013] All ER (D) 131 (Jul)
8 July 2013

The council served an enforcement notice to stop the defendant using his land for residential and commercial purposes in breach of planning controls. He failed to comply and in January 20013 was prosecuted, pleaded guilty and was fined £25,000. In April 2013 the council obtained an injunction requiring him to clear the site by 17 May 2013. He failed to do so. The council applied to commit him for contempt. The High Court imposed a 12 month sentence, suspended only if the site was cleared within the next 28 days.

Complaint against Bristol City Council Complaint No.12 015 826
4 July 2013

A single woman applied to the council as homeless. She said she was sleeping rough and took medication for her depression. The council thought she may not be eligible but it did not issue her with a written decision on her application. The Local Government Ombudsman found that this was not a one-off. Instead, the council "is actively focussing its resources on homeless applications from households with children and away from applications from single people or childless couples. The Council is aware that it is failing to meet its statutory duty." The council agreed to apologise, provide a written decision, pay £200 compensation and review its procedures. For the investigation report, click here.

Sandwell Council v Trafalgar Court Property Ltd
1 July 2013

The defendant was the freeholder of eight blocks of private-rented flats in poor repair. The council served two improvement notices (which required the company to repair dilapidated and dangerous stairs, walkways and porches in the communal areas of the blocks) and a further abatement notice. The company failed to comply. Sandwell Magistrates' Court imposed the maximum £5,000 fine for each offence and £1,690 in costs. The company had previously been fined £45,900 in April 2013 for similar offences. For more details of the prosecutions, click here.

Reading Borough Council v Mahinder Pal Ananad
27 June 2013

The defendant was the landlord of a basement flat. The only light came from a pane of glass in the front door and a small adjacent window, with the outlook being concrete steps and a brick wall. The council served a prohibition notice to prevent it being let, given the lack of natural light. The notice was breached when the defendant let the flat. Reading Magistrates Court imposed a £1200 fine with costs of £603. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Horwitz v Bath & NE Somerset Council [2013] EWCA Civ 839
26 June 2013

Mrs Horwitz was disabled. She needed support and lived with her daughter. Following an attack by her daughter, she was moved on an emergency basis to a nursing home. She applied to the council as homeless. It decided that she was not 'homeless' because she was living at the nursing home. A judge dismissed an appeal. The Court of Appeal granted permission to bring a second appeal on the ground that it was arguable that nursing provision made on an emergency basis did not constitute "accommodation". To follow the progress of the appeal, click here.

Leeds City Council v HRKS Ltd and Kulwinder Kaur Parmar
26 July 2013

The company was the landlord of two houses in Leeds. The second defendant was the company director. At one house there were huge amounts of rubbish lying loose in the garden. The council served notice, under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1948 section 4, requiring all waste to be removed. When no action was taken, the council cleared the garden and started proceedings. At the other house, a severely overgrown hedge was causing an obstruction of the street. The council gave notice under Town and Country Planning Act 1990 section 215 requiring all litter and waste to be removed and the vegetation cut back. Again, it had to do the work in default and prosecuted. The magistrates' court imposed the maximum fine of £1000 for each offence a victim surcharge of £100 and costs totalling £1,227.79. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Pathfield Estates Ltd v Haringey LBC [2013] EWHC 2053 (Admin)
26 June 2013

The council found that a house had been converted from two flats to five flats without planning consent. It served an enforcement notice requiring the house to be restored to two flats. The owner complied with the notice. Later, it carried out works to convert the house again for use as five flats. The council prosecuted under the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 section 181(5) and a magistrates' court convicted. The High Court allowed the owner's appeal. The terms of the section could not be met on the facts. The council should have prosecuted, if at all, under section 179(2).

Cardiff City Council v Topaz Property Co Ltd
25 June 2013

The defendant was a private landlord of an HMO. Following enforcement action taken by the council, it pleaded guilty to five offences under the HMO Regulations (failure to maintain the fire alarm and maintain structural fire protection; dangerous electrics; failed to maintain the handrail to the access stairs; failure to maintain the windows in the property; and failure to maintain the kitchens in the property in good order). Cardiff Magistrates' Court imposed a fine of £15,000 with £4660 costs and a victim surcharge of £120. (This followed earlier proceedings against the company relating to 20 similar offences - in which fines of £27,000 were imposed and costs of £25,000 were awarded). For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Edem v Basingstoke & Deane BC [2013] EWCA Civ 854
20 June 2013

The claimant was a private landlord. His letting agents advised that the condition of his property was such that they could not market it to tenants unless works were carried out. The council awarded a Class C exemption from council tax while it remained empty. The claimant appealed and sought a Class A exemption on the basis that major works were being carried out to make the premises habitable. A valuation tribunal dismissed his appeal. The High Court rejected an appeal from that decision. The Court of Appeal dismissed an application for permission to bring a second appeal. The assessment of the nature and extent of the works was a fact finding exercise for the valuation tribunal, which it had lawfully undertaken.

Redbridge LBC v Teslim Olawale Kuti
14 June 2013

The defendant was a private landlord of an HMO. A fire at the property revealed that the premises had no fire alarm, fire fighting equipment or fire doors. The council prosecuted for breach of the HMO regulations (and served a prohibition notice to prevent use of a 'bed in shed' unit). Havering Magistrates' Court imposed a fine of £5,000 with £1,100 costs. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Redbridge LBC v Harprit Singh Saroa and Pritpal Kaur Saroa
14 June 2013

The defendants were private landlords of an HMO, for which they had no licence. The council brought a prosecution for failing to license the HMO and for failing to produce documents on request. Havering Magistrates' Court imposed fines of £2500 each with £1,400 costs. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2013] July Legal Action 20
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.
To read the current article, click here.

Housing benefit law update 2013
B. Harris and D. Rutledge
[2013] July Legal Action 12
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.
To read the current article, click here.

Help for council tax payers - Part 1: appeals about reductions
C. O'Donnell and J. Luba
[2013] July Legal Action 20
To read the article, click here.

What is meant by the term "vulnerable" in the Housing Act 1996
J. Meers
[2013] The Student Journal of Law Issue 3
For a copy of the article, click here.

Protecting the vulnerable
S. Madge-Wyld
[2013] Inside Housing 19 July
For a copy of the article, click here.

Fund for yourself
G. Peaker
[2013] Inside Housing 19 July
For a copy of the article, click here.

The scope of section 117 after-care and accommodation
L. Parkhill
[2013] Local Government Lawyer 4 July
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

This Month

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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