Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 319 – 5 August 2013

Monday 5 August 2013

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Housing Law News

Housing costs and welfare benefits: the House of Commons Library has updated several of its helpful free briefing notes on issues around rent, other housing costs and benefits. For Under-occupation of social housing: Housing Benefit entitlement, click here. For Measures to reduce Housing Benefit expenditure - an overview, click here. For Paying Housing Benefit direct to tenants in social rented housing, click here. For Rent setting for social housing tenancies, click here. For The Household Benefit Cap, click here. Tenants and homeowners could usefully be provided with copies of the free and straightforward DWP guide: Housing (and heating) costs. For copies, click here.

Discretionary Housing Payments: on 30 July 2013 (the day of the High Court judgment on the 'bedroom tax' challenges, see below) the UK Government announced a further £35m funding for DHPs comprising: £10m transitional payments distributed to all councils; £5m DHP funding for the least densely populated areas in the country; and a new £20m discretionary housing payment fund. For more details, click here.

Homelessness: the UK Government has decided to provide financial help to those local housing authorities in England most frequently breaching the prohibition on use of bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless households. On 1 August 2013 it made a total of £1.9m available to seven of those councils: Barking and Dagenham, Croydon, Hounslow, Crawley, Birmingham, Redbridge and Westminster. For the details, click here.

Tenancy Deposits: on 31 July 2013 the major national private landlord organisations issued an amended version of their helpful free guidance note Likely Implications of the Tenancy Deposit Protection Case Superstrike Ltd v Marino Rodrigues. For a copy, click here.

Social Housing Complaints Procedures: on 31 July 2013 the Chartered Institute of Housing published How to... work with tenant panels to resolve complaints. For a free copy, click here. A new organisation, Tenant Central, has been established to provide free training for tenants and their representatives. Its programme includes complaints handling and tenants panels. For more details, click here.

Private renting: in the absence of compulsory minimum standards for private letting, the Mayor of London has published a voluntary code for landlords and letting/managing agents. For a copy of the London Rental Standard, click here. For more about how it is intended to be applied, click here. The RICS has also issued for consultation a draft of the third edition of the Service Charge Residential Management Code. For a copy and details of the consultation exercise, click here. The deadline for responses is 30 August 2013.

Local authority enforcement of housing standards: the UK Government has announced its intention to introduce a new statutory Regulators' Code with effect from Spring 2014. It has been published now, in order to enable those who regulate the activities of others to bring their policies, practices and procedures into line with the new guidance. For a copy of the Code, click here. For its announcement, 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.

Secretary of State for Transport v Blake and Secretary of State for Defence v Nicholas [2013] EWHC (Ch) noted on LAWTEL
31 July 2013

The respective Secretaries of State sought possession of the defendants' homes. Each defendant had been lawfully occupying, but their rights to occupy had been ended. They defended the claims on the basis that: the decisions to evict them had been made unlawfully; the making of possession orders would infringe their Article 8 rights to respect for their homes; and they were entitled to a declaration of incompatibility in relation to statutory provisions exempting occupiers of Crown properties from security of tenure. The High Court made possession orders. The decisions to evict had been taken reasonably. Eviction would not be disproportionate on the facts. A declaration would be refused because the Government was already examining removal of the exemption from security.

R (Kebede) v Newcastle CC [2013] EWCA Civ 960
31 July 2013

The claimants had been accommodated under Children Act 1989 section 20. They wanted to go to university but did not meet conditions for ordinary student grants or loans. They applied to the council for funding on the basis that it had a duty towards them as 'former relevant children' under section 23C(4)(b). The council declined to award funding given its strained resources. The High Court quashed the decision and the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal. The duty was a mandatory statutory duty in respect of which the council's financial position was irrelevant. For the judgment, click here.

Redcar & Cleveland BC v B [2013] EWCA Civ 960
31 July 2013

Parents were no longer able to look after their daughter, aged two. She needed alternative accommodation. The council would have been under a Children Act 1989 section 20 duty to accommodate her, but the parents objected (see section 20(7)). She went to live with her grandparents. A question arose as to whether she had been a 'looked after' child. The Court of Appeal decided that the question ought to have been posed in judicial review proceedings not in county court family proceedings. The answer, on the facts, was that the parental objection had prevented the council from coming under a section 20 duty so that the child had never become 'looked after', even though assistance had been given under section 17. For the judgment, click here.

R (MA & Others) v Secretary of State for Work & Pensions [2013] EWHC (Admin) 2213
30 July 2013
The claimants sought judicial review of the regulations extending the Housing Benefit size criteria to the social housing sector, on the basis that the regulations had the effect of discriminating against disabled people in need of the use of an additional room and that the decision to make them had been reached in contravention of the general equality duty in Equality Act 2010 section 149. The Divisional Court dismissed the claims. Such discrimination as had occurred had been justified by the explicit and stated policy objectives of the Government. There had been no failure to have regard to the equality duty. For the judgment, click here.

Francis v Brent LBC [2013] EWCA Civ 912
29 July 2013

Ms Francis was a secure tenant. In 1991, that tenancy was ended by an outright possession order granted for rent arrears. The order was never enforced. Ms Francis was a 'tolerated trespasser'. In May 2005 she was moved to temporary alternative accommodation while major works were undertaken at her home. She was granted a secure tenancy of the alternative accommodation under an agreement which also referred to her as the secure tenant of her former home. In 2010, when the works were complete, the council refused to allow her to return and let her former home to a new tenant. She sought a declaration that she still held the tenancy of the former home. A judge dismissed her claim but the Court of Appeal allowed her appeal and granted the declaration. The only proper construction of the May 2005 agreement was one which recognised her as the secure tenant of her former home. For the judgment, click here.

Lloyd v Lewisham LBC [2013] EWCA Civ 923
29 July 2013

Ms Lloyd had been receiving Housing Benefit (HB). The council discovered that she had also received £15,000pa from her former employers. It ended her HB award and sought to recover a significant overpayment. Ms Lloyd had been entitled to the annual payment, under her former contract of employment, as compensation for earnings lost as a result of injury at work. She claimed that the payments were exempt from treatment as 'income' by Schedule 15 para 14(1)(e) of the HB Regulations 2006. The First-tier and Upper Tribunals both dismissed her appeals. The Court of Appeal dismissed a further appeal. Paragraph (1)(e) could only apply to payments made under an agreement reached after an injury. Ms Lloyd has been made the payments under her employment contract. That was made prior to the injury. For the judgment, click here.

Lee v Lasrado [2013] EWHC 2302 (QB), [2013] All ER (D) 371 (Jul)
26 July 2013

The claimant was a private tenant. Following harassment and eviction, she brought a claim for an injunction and damages against the defendant, her landlord. The injunction was served on the defendant. He did not comply and a committal application was made. At a later hearing, for the assessment of damages, the claimant was awarded £24,600. The defendant appealed, contending that he was only the landlord's agent and that the true property owner was his wife. In the alternative, he said that the damages were excessive. The High Court dismissed the appeal. The evidence, that he had been the landlord, was overwhelming. The award of damages had been made within the appropriate range.

Cates v Grimason [2013] EWHC (QB) 2304
26 July 2013

The claimant granted the defendant a 125 year lease of a flat. The lease began in June 2006 and the defendant paid £100,000 cash for it. The defendant then failed to pay any of the ground rent (£150pa) or the service charges as they fell due. The claimant forfeit the lease for non-payment of the ground rent and obtained and executed a possession order, in proceedings which the defendant did not defend. He also obtained a money judgment for unpaid service charges. He then sold the flat for another £100,000. The defendant sought the setting aside of the proceedings for non-service of the claim. The judge found the claim had been properly served. He also refused an application to set aside the orders. They defendant had delayed in applying to set aside, had no good reason for not attending trial and (because she had delayed for more than six months and lost the right to obtain relief from forfeiture) had no defence to the claim. The High Court dismissed an appeal. The 'windfall' to the landlord did not infringe the defendant's human rights. For the judgment, click here.

Royal Berkshire Fire Authority v Bellforce Developments Ltd and Gurpartap Singh Bhullar
25 July 2013

The defendants were the private landlords of an HMO and both had control and responsibility for fire safety matters. An inspection by the authority revealed serious breaches of fire safety regulations. Magistrates committed the defendants for trial to the Crown Court where they changed their pleas to guilty in respect of multiple breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. HHJ Grainger fined Bellforce £13,500 and Bhullar £6,750. They were ordered to pay costs of £21,732.62. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Redbridge LBC v Amarjit Sanger and ARJ Investments Ltd
23 July 2013

The defendants were the private landlords of five HMOs. Mr Sangar was a director of the company. Council officers found that there were unsafe gas and electrical installations and the properties had been poorly converted to HMOs without planning or building control consent. They were not licensed and were very poorly managed. The properties also lacked adequate means of escape from fire and adequate fire alarms had not been installed. At Snaresbrook Crown Court, the defendants pleaded guilty to a total of 75 offences under Housing Act 2004. Fines and confiscation orders of £39,300 were imposed. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Norwich CC v Timothy Harber
10 July 2013

The defendant was the private landlord of an HMO comprising six bedsits. A council officer found that there was no fire detection equipment, no fixed heating and a number of badly damaged fire doors. The defendant pleaded guilty to five offences under the Housing Act 2004. At Norwich Magistrates' Court he was fined £2,940, plus a victim surcharge of £120, and costs of £343.80. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Norwich CC v Rodney Martins
10 July 2013

The defendant was the private landlord of two houses. The first was being used as an HMO with eight tenants. All tenants shared one kitchen and one bathroom. The council served a prohibition order limiting the occupation of the house to five people and notices requiring fire safety improvements. Subsequent inspections found up to 10 tenants at the property. The council prosecuted for breach of the prohibition order. The second property was also being used as an HMO, with six adults and a child living there. All occupiers shared one kitchen and one bathroom. In addition to overcrowding, the house had no fire detection equipment and no door on the kitchen. The escape route was being used as storage space and had a door that was locked with a key. The council prosecuted for multiple breaches of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Regulations 2006. The defendant pleaded guilty to all the offences at Norwich Magistrates Court. He was fined £4,800 plus a £120 victim surcharge and £4,000 costs. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Welwyn Hatfield BC v Zubera Laskar
8 July 2013

The defendant was the private landlady of an HMO. She had failed to apply for the required licence to operate an HMO. The means of fire detection, fire alarm, and emergency lighting at the house were insufficient. Fire doors to several rooms were found to be defective, some exit doors were a fire safety hazard as they could be kept locked, and flammable items were stored in the escape route. The defendant pleaded guilty to contravening Housing Act 2004 section 72 (failure to obtain a licence) and was fined £2000. For each of the eight breaches of the HMO Regulations 2006, she was fined £250. Together with victim surcharges and costs of £1000, the total payable was £5200. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Haringey LBC v Andreas Ioannou and Alibra Ltd
3 July 2013

The defendants were the private landlords of an HMO which they were operating without a licence. They had failed to heed warnings to apply, until after the council had brought a prosecution. Tottenham Magistrates' Court imposed a fine of £3000 on Mr Ioannou and of £1000 on the company. The council was awarded costs of £1725. For 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.

Notice served by joint tenant (Dacorum BC v Sims)
S. Gerlis
[2013] Busy Solicitors Digest 4 June

Landlord & Tenant Update (tenancy deposits and prescribed information)
T. Shepperson
[2013] 157 Solicitors Journal No.30 p23

Knowing where to begin - the last day of the period in section 21 notices
K. Lees
[2013] 17 Landlord & Tenant Review 129

Tenancy deposit - landlord's failure to provide prescribed information: Ayannuga v Swindells
R. Standing
[2013] 17 Landlord & Tenant Review 134

Rent in advance is not a tenancy deposit: Johnson v Old
J. S. del Ceno
[2013] 17 Landlord & Tenant Review 137

Developments in Civil Committal Procedure
T. Conlan
[2013] 16 Journal of Housing Law 63

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 Autumn

Housing money claims: disrepair, deposits and unlawful evictions
18 September 2013
A HLPA Members evening seminar
For more details, click here.

Changes to housing benefit and the introduction of universal credit
26 September 2013
A Garden Court Chambers evening seminar for advisers
For more details, click here.

How to Operate a Skilful and Lawful Tenancy Strategy and Allocation Scheme
10 October 2013
A White Paper conference in London
For more details, click here.

Equitable interests and TOLATA
24 October 2013
A Garden Court Chambers evening seminar for advisers
For more details, click here.

SHLA Annual Housing Conference
25 October 2013
A conference in London for SHLA members
For more details, click here.

What next for Article 8
7 November 2013
A Garden Court Chambers evening seminar for advisers
For more details, click here.

Allocations, lettings and homelessness
19-20 November 2013
A Chartered Institute of Housing conference (speakers include Liz Davies)
For more details, click here.

Housing law update
20 November 2013
A HLPA Members evening seminar
For more details, click here.

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