Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 322 - 27 August 2013

Tuesday 27 August 2013

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Housing Law News

Private rented sector: the Home Office consultation, on tackling illegal immigration in privately rented accommodation by requiring private landlords to carry out immigration status checks on prospective tenants, closed last week. For the response made by the Residential Landlords' Association, click here. For the response made by the Housing Team at Garden Court Chambers, click here. For the Shelter response, click here. For the expression of concern made by the Chartered Institute of Housing, click here.

Standards for new homes: on 20 August 2013 the UK Government launched a consultation exercise seeking views on the recent review of building regulations and housing standards in England (governing building work for new or converted housing). For the consultation paper, click here. The consultation closes on 22 October 2013.

Access to Social Housing: on 15 August 2013 the House of Commons Library issued an updated version of its helpful briefing note on EU Migrants: entitlement to housing assistance (England). For a copy, click here.

Selling Social Housing: on 22 August 2013 the UK Government published the latest statistics on the sales of social housing stock in England. They show that, in the first quarter of 2013/14, local authorities sold an estimated 2149 dwellings under the Right to Buy scheme - nearly five times the 443 sold in the same quarter of the previous year. For the full statistics, click here.

Complaints about social landlords: the latest issue of the Ombudsman's Casebook (Issue 13, July 2013) from the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales features a number of social housing investigations and early settlements of housing complaints. For a copy, click here.

'Bedroom Tax': several local councils have received Freedom of Information requests inviting disclosure of (a) the number of their tenants affected by the April 2013 housing benefit change and (b) the number of smaller units of social housing available for affected tenants wishing to down-size. For an example of a request and response (from Westminster Council) click here. For a critique of the change, available on the Legal Action Group Housing Law Blog, click here. Information gleaned by an MP in Wales has shown considerable increases in housing association rent arrears in Wales since the change was introduced. For the details, 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.

R (KO) v Lambeth LBC [2013] EWHC (Admin), [2013] All ER (D) 171 (Aug)
20 August 2013

The council was accommodating a failed asylum seeker and her baby in hostel accommodation under Children Act 1989 section 17. The baby (as claimant) sought judicial review of the council's alleged failure to conduct an assessment of whether accommodation should also be provided for another child of the mother (from whom she had been separated since 2009) so that the family could live together. Failure to provide accommodation for the whole family was said to represent a breach by the council of the Article 8 right to respect for family life. Before the claim could be tried, the claimant sought an interim injunction requiring the council to accommodate the whole family. The High Court refused that application. The application sought housing whereas the claim itself was simply for a lawful assessment (under which housing might or might not be provided). Article 8 did not carry a right to a home.

R v Nadine Wilson-Ellis
20 August 2013

The defendant was a barrister and law lecturer at a college in Nottingham. She owned two properties in Nottingham, one of which she had acquired through the right to buy. In 2009 she applied to Bristol Council for housing, without disclosing her ownership of those properties. She was allocated a council maisonette which she sublet. In 2011, she applied to Bristol for a transfer to a bigger property at which point her fraud was detected. At Bristol Crown Court she was sentenced to seven months immediate imprisonment. The judge indicated that the period would have been longer but for her compelling personal circumstances. For details of the prosecution, click here and here.

Penalty directed to Islington Council
20 August 2013

In response to a Freedom of Information request about a housing matter, the Council supplied tables of data. In error, the tables additionally disclosed personal information (names, addresses, household circumstances, etc) relating to all allocations of social housing accommodation to new tenants over the two year period ending on 31 March 2012 (1330 records), all placements of tenants under the Council's Private Sector Opportunities Scheme over the two year period ending on 31 March 2012 (309 records), and all transfers of existing tenants over the two year period ending on 31 March 2012 (736 records). For the unauthorised disclosure of personal data, the Information Commissioner imposed a penalty of £70,000. For the Penalty Notice decision, click here.

Manchester City Council v Edward David Murray
15 August 2013

The defendant was a private landlord. He failed to obtain a licence from the council for an HMO that he rented out. The council provided the application forms and granted extensions of time, but he failed to apply. At the magistrates' court he was fined £10,000 for operating an HMO without a licence, ordered to pay £1,550.83 court costs and a £120 victims of crime surcharge. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Re UK Housing Alliance (North West) Ltd (in administration) [2013] EWHC Ch (Companies Court)
15 August 2013

The company was in business in 2007-2008 buying residential properties from owner-occupiers for full market value. Of the purchase price, 70% was payable on completion and the 30% balance payable, subject to conditions, at the expiry of 10 years. At the same time it entered into assured shorthold tenancies of 10 years with the vendors with the right to a further tenancy at the end of the 10 years. The company had gone into administration and the tenants sought to protect or recover their 30% balances. An attempt to do so by registering notice against the freehold title of their homes at the Land Registry failed (see here for further details). The tenants then contended that the acceptance of their rents by the company administrators meant that the administrators had adopted liability to make the 30% balance payments. The High Court rejected that contention. The balances due were simply debts provable in the administration.

Wandsworth LBC v Jonathan Mason
12 July 2013

The defendant was a secure tenant. He took part in the riots of summer 2011 and was found guilty of looting a bank branch in the council's area. In September 2012, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment. By July 2013 his rent arrears had reached over £5600. The council sought possession in reliance on both the conviction and the arrears. The county court made an outright possession order after a contested hearing. The warrant of possession was executed on 8 August 2013. For details of the proceedings, click here.

Dixon v Haringey LBC [2013] EWCA Civ 1050
10 July 2013

The appellant was homeless. He was separated from wife. Their disabled adult child lived with her. The council owed the appellant the main housing duty and offered him a one-bedroom property. The appellant claimed it was not "suitable" as he had staying contact visits from his son on weekends and during holidays. His appeal to the county court was dismissed. The Court of Appeal refused permission to bring a second appeal. There were no real prospects of success on the appeal and the issue of principle, as to whether in such circumstances a child might reasonably be expected to live with a parent, had already been settled by the House of Lords in the Holmes-Moorhouse case.

Greater Manchester Police v Berryman [2013] EWCA Civ 1081
9 July 2013

The police were granted an interim gang injunction against the defendant. The order was breached and the defendant was committed to prison. Following his release, the police were granted a full gang injunction for the maximum two year period by a county court judge. The defendant applied for permission to appeal, contending that the two years had to be reduced to take into account the period of the interim order. The Court of Appeal refused permission. Interim and full gang injunctions were granted under separate and different powers. The two years ran from the making of the full order. Given the defendant's age (24) and previous history of offending (including theft, public order, firearms, shotguns, offensive weapons and offences against the person) an order for the maximum period was not arguably excessive.

HC v Hull City Council [2013] UKUT 0330 (AAC)
9 July 2013

The claimant received housing benefit. She completed a change of circumstances form notifying the council of her receipt of tax credits. Housing benefit continued in payment, until the award was revised. A question arose as to whether a delay in acting on information received might amount to "official error" by the council so as to make recovery of the overpayment more difficult. The first tier tribunal allowed seven days for processing. The Upper Tribunal set aside that decision as the evidence showed receipt of the information by the decision-maker on the day it was delivered. The judgment gives guidance on how delay might constitute "official error" in other cases. For a copy, click here.

AT v Westminster City Council [2013] UKUT 0321 (AAC)
5 July 2013

A tenant was serving a long term of imprisonment and could not pay his rent. His wife could not make a claim for housing benefit because of her immigration status. A benefit claim was made by their four year old child on the basis that, unless benefit was paid to her, the rent would not be paid and she would lose her home. The council rejected the claim. The Upper Tribunal upheld that decision. The claimant could not fulfil the statutory requirement for a housing benefit claim because she did not have a national insurance number. For the judgment, click here.

Isse v Haringey LBC [2013] EWCA Civ 1049
14 May 2013

The appellant lived and worked in the UK and rented a small private flat. His wife and their children lived in Egypt. The wife gave up that accommodation and came to the UK. The appellant was then homeless because the flat was too small to accommodate the wife and children. The council decided that he had become homeless intentionally. The county court dismissed an appeal. The Court of Appeal granted permission to bring a second appeal. There was a real prospect of success in establishing either that the appellant himself had not occupied (and could therefore not have 'ceased to occupy') the home in Egypt or that (if he had) it was not reasonable for him to continue to occupy it because he was not permitted to work in Egypt.

Kinsley v Tendering District Council [2013] EWHC 1597 (Admin)
17 April 2013

The claimant had planning permission to convert a street front property from offices into flats. Work began, but on 19 March 2013 the council gave notice under section 78 of the Building Act 1984 that it intended to deal with the perceived dangerous state of the property by removing infill or block work, said not conform to current building regulations, which it assessed as posing a serious risk to users of the public footpath. Such a notice carries no right of appeal. The claimant sought an injunction preventing the council from acting on that notice. The High Court decided that whilst it might have jurisdiction to grant such an injunction (e.g. if a council were seeking to exercise its powers under section 78 improperly or for some ulterior purpose) the present claimant could not establish that there was a serious issue to be tried - that the council was abusing its powers - and an injunction was refused.

Engleman v London & Quadrant Housing Trust Ltd and the Academy of Plumbing Ltd
22 March 2013

A tenant of the Trust reported a leak into her flat. The Trust's managing agent called in a plumber from Academy of Plumbing Ltd (the company). The next day the tenant was injured when the ceiling of her flat collapsed on her, possibly because the leak had not been properly fixed. She brought a claim for personal injury damages against the Trust and the company. That was settled when the company offered £10,000 and agreed to pay the costs. On the claim for costs, all costs were disallowed by the Principal Costs Officer because the conditional fee agreement (CFA) that the tenant had entered into with her solicitors only covered the claim against the Trust. The Costs Master dismissed an appeal. The terms of the CFA, together with the absence of any arrangement between solicitor and client for payment the costs of pursuing a claim against the company, meant that no costs were payable by the company.

Housing Law Articles

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

When the clocks strike 13 (The Bedroom Tax Judicial Review)
A. O'Byrne
[2013] Inside Housing 23 August
To read the article, click here.

Changing Priorities (Reviewing housing allocation schemes)
J. Hulley
[2013] Inside Housing 23 August
To read the article, click here.

Hidden Danger (risks of rough sleeping)
H. Spurr
[2013] Inside Housing 23 August
To read the article, click here.

Housing Management via Housing Benefit? Really?
A. Arden and A. Cafferkey
[2013] LAG Housing Law Blog 22 August
For a copy of the article, click here.

Housing Law Books

Housing Allocation and Homelessness (Third Edition) by Liz Davies and Jan Luba QC. 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.

Homelessness and Allocations
8 October 2013
A LAG training event in London
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 (speakers include Jan Luba QC)
For more details, click here.

Allocations Conference
17 October 2013
A Lime Legal conference in London (speakers include Jan Luba QC and Liz Davies)
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
Details expected at the end of August.

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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