Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 324 - 10 September 2013

Tuesday 10 September 2013

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Housing Law News

Homelessness in England: on 5 September 2013 the homelessness statistics for England for the first quarter of 2013/14 were published. They show that: (1) 13,460 applicants were accepted as owed a main homelessness duty, 5% higher than during the same quarter of 2012; (2) 56,210 households were in temporary accommodation on 30 June 2013, 9% higher than at the same date in 2012; and (3) 760 households had been in B&B style accommodation for more than six weeks, a 10% increase since the end of the same quarter last year. For the full figures, click here.

Empty homes: on 2 September 2013 the Empty Homes Loans Fund was launched. The Fund is a joint initiative between the charity Empty Homes, the Ecology Building Society, central government and 39 participating local authorities. The scheme will provide loans of up to £15,000 to owners of empty properties to help bring them back into affordable use. For more details, click here.

Judicial review in housing cases: on 6 September 2013 the UK Government launched a further consultation exercise on proposals to reform access to, and practice and procedure in, judicial review claims. Responses should be made by 1 November 2013. For the consultation paper, click here.

Legal aid in housing cases: on 5 September 2013 the UK Government announced that there had been 16,000 responses to its consultation on Transforming Legal Aid. In light of them, the Government has both announced its intentions on pursuing many of the reform proposals and launched a further round of consultation on particular aspects. For full 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 v Reasat [2013] EWCA Crim, [2013] All ER (D) 43 (Sept)
5 September 2013

The defendant was a tenant. Her landlord was her brother. She claimed housing benefit and council tax benefit. On the claim forms she recorded that she was not related to her landlord. She was charged with dishonestly making two false statements which had led to benefits of £40,500 being fraudulently obtained. She pleaded not guilty but was convicted by a jury. She had a severely disabled son who was dependent upon her. The judge sentenced her to six months' immediate imprisonment. Social services reported that the son had had an extreme reaction to his mother's imprisonment and developed suicidal tendencies. Her appeal against sentence was dismissed. The Court of Appeal decided that the judge had already taken her family circumstances into account and had passed a sentence which had been 'merciful' on the facts.

HSE v Mark Bond (trading as Bond Technical Services of Colchester)
5 September 2013

The defendant had fitted two gas fires and serviced a boiler in homes in Colchester. He had not been Gas Safe registered when carrying out the work. The Health & Safety Executive prosecuted. The defendant pleaded guilty and at Colchester Magistrates Court he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, ordered to carry out 240 hours of community service, and to pay £1,965.50 in costs. For details of the prosecution, click here.

HSE v Roy Osborne
5 September 2013

A private tenant reported the need for repairs at her home. The landlord's letting agent arranged for the defendant to carry out the work. While he was at the property, the tenant asked him to move a gas fire grate so that she could have new carpet fitted. She paid him privately for that work but he did it in a dangerous manner and he had not been Gas Safe registered. The defects were picked up on the landlord's subsequent annual gas safety inspection. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted. The defendant pleaded guilty and at Bodmin Magistrates' Court he was sentenced to carry out 180 hours of community service, and to pay £448 in costs. For details of the prosecution, click here.

HSE v Morris & Spottiswood Ltd
2 September 2013

A housing association contracted with the defendant company for renovation work to a block of flats. The work included the removal of redundant chimneys. The defendant sub-contracted that aspect of the work but failed to direct or supervise the sub-contractor. The site foreman wrongly recorded that one flat had an electric fire when it was in fact a gas fire. In the course of the work, the chimney filled with debris and was capped - thereby exposing the family to dangerous carbon monoxide fumes and the potentially fatal risk of gas poisoning. The HSE prosecuted. The defendant pleaded guilty and, at Glasgow Sherriff Court, was fined £60,000. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Harrower-Gray v Fife Council [2013] SC108/13/01318
29 August 2013

Ms Harrower-Gray was a housing association tenant. The landlord classified her flat as having three bedrooms. She lived alone. The council decided that from 1 April 2013 her housing benefit would be reduced by application of the 'bedroom tax'. She appealed. The First-Tier Tribunal allowed the appeal. It found that of the four main rooms in her apartment, one was her bedroom, one a sitting room, one a dining room and another was unfit for use as a bedroom. For the reserved judgment, click here.

Leicester City Council v Harjeet Johal
23 August 2013

The defendant was a private landlord of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) which he rented out to tenants between 2008 and 2013 but for which he did not have a licence. He pleaded guilty to failing to obtain a licence and at Leicester Magistrates' Court was fined £5,000, ordered to pay costs of £1,277.30 and required to pay a victim surcharge of £120. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Waltham Forest LBC v Muhammed Afzal Khan [2013] APP/U5930/C/12/2187463
12 August 2013

Mr Khan was the landlord of a ground floor flat with a rear garden. Without planning consent, he erected an outbuilding at the end of the garden which provided a double bedroom with toilet and shower for use by the ground floor tenant. The council served an enforcement notice requiring Mr Khan to cease the use of the outbuilding as a bedroom with en suite bathroom, completely remove the toilet, shower and bed from the outbuilding, and remove all debris resulting from the works. Mr Khan's appeal was dismissed by the Planning Inspector. The enforcement notice and the refusal of a deemed planning application were in line with planning controls. For the decision, click here.

Jumani v Mortgage Express [2013] EWCA Civ 1105
30 July 2013

A lender advanced monies secured by mortgages on a portfolio of buy-to-let residential premises. When mortgage arrears accrued, it appointed receivers to take over the portfolio and collect the rents. The borrowers claimed that they then reached an agreement with the lender that the properties would be returned to their control as the arrears were cleared. Some of the mortgage arrears were cleared and the borrowers brought a claim to enforce their agreement. The High Court held that no agreement had been concluded in the terms alleged. Judgment was entered for the lender on its claims, including an order for a payment of £4.5million on account. The Court of Appeal dismissed a renewed application for permission to appeal as there was no real prospect of disturbing the trial judge's conclusion that there had been no agreement of the type claimed.

New Progress Housing Association v Lloyd Crawshaw
24 July 2013

The association made appointments with the defendant, its tenant, for its gas engineers to gain access to carry out annual gas safety inspections. He repeatedly failed to give access. The association applied for an injunction. The District Judge at Preston County Court made an injunction requiring the defendant to give access on three days' written notice. The injunction was to remain in force for the entire period for which the defendant remained a tenant. He was ordered to pay the association's legal costs. For details of the proceedings, click here.

A local authority v WMA [2013] EWHC 2580 (COP)
23 July 2013

A disabled adult lived with his disabled mother in her home. The conditions in which they lived were unhygienic and had impaired his development. The local council decided that it would be in his best interests to be placed in his own supported housing accommodation. He did not want to move and his mother did not want him to go. The council applied for orders to bring about the move. The Court of Protection granted orders which included: a power for the council to enter the current home; a power for the police to restrain the son if necessary; and an order that the son be removed from his current home and taken to the supported housing where the council would have power to retain him if needs be and to sign the tenancy agreement on his behalf. These measures were considered to be not only in his best interests but proportionate and necessary. For the judgment, click here.

Complaint against Wiltshire Council LGO No. 12011081
16 July 2013

In November 2010 a woman approached the council for help with accommodation. She had left a housing association property of which she was the joint tenant with her partner. She said that her relationship had broken down, that her partner was using drugs and that there had been emotional abuse. The council did not treat the applicant as having made a homelessness application. The Local Government Ombudsman rejected a complaint that that had amounted to maladministration. Until the judgment in Yemshaw v Hounslow, given in 2011, the word 'violence' in Housing Act 1996 Part 7 had been treated as limited to physical abuse - so the Ombudsman considered that the council had not erred in failing to take the application. For the investigation report, click here.

Platform Funding Ltd v Easeman [2013] EWCA Civ 1012
12 July 2013

In 2009, the claimant mortgage lender obtained an order for possession against its borrower, Mr Easeman. In September 2011 Mr Easeman was evicted from the house. In December 2011 Mr Easeman's father and others entered the property as trespassers. The lender began a possession claim against them and a possession order was made in September 2012. Mr Easeman and his father then applied for the setting-aside of the possession orders and for injunctions to restrain the lender from executing the latest possession order. A judge dismissed those applications. The Court of Appeal dismissed a renewed application for permission to appeal. The appeal sought to raise matters which could have been raised, in defence to the first and second claims, but had simply not been pursued.

R (Cash) v Secretary of State for Communities [2013] EWHC (Admin) 2028
25 June 2013

The claimant owned land for which he sought planning permission in order to establish a small Gypsy Traveller site, comprising two pitches and associated facilities. The local council refused permission and that decision was upheld by a planning inspector. The claimant appealed, contending that the inspector had failed to have regard to the Planning Policy for Traveller Sites (para 11) and to the lack of available alternative sites. The High Court found no error in either respect and dismissed the appeal.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2013] September Legal Action 26
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.
To read the current article, click here (LAG subscribers only).

Help for council tax payers - Part 2: defending council tax defaulters
A. Berry
[2013] September Legal Action 23
To read the current article, click here (LAG subscribers only).

Social housing fraud: does the criminal law hold the key?
T. Crook
[2013] 16 Journal of Housing Law 101

Social landlords and the courts bear the brunt of welfare reform
S. Bello
[2013] 16 Journal of Housing Law 95

Is 'rent to homebuy' always what it is held out to be?
M. Martil
[2013] 16 Journal of Housing Law 107

Living with housing law's unintended consequences
N. Billingham
[2013] 16 Journal of Housing Law 85

Allocations reforms: the revolving door of social housing
N. Grundy and S. Waritay
[2013] 16 Journal of Housing Law 88

The hidden dangers of shared ownership
G. Peaker
[2013] Guardian Professional 3 September
For a copy of the article, click here.

Shared ownership flaws reveal void in young people's housing options
L .Kelly
[2013] Guardian Professional 6 September
For a copy of the article, click here.

Homelessness: housing benefit reform starts to hit home
P. Butler
[2013] Guardian Blog 5 September
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 Week

Rogue Landlords
12 September 2013
A CIH Training event in Manchester
For more details, click here.

Tenancy Agreements
12 September 2013
A CIH Training event in London (speakers include Liz Davies)
For more details, click here.

Next Week

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

Current and future Issues in Housing Law
19 September 2013
A conference in Bristol.
For more details, click here.

Later this Autumn

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
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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