Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 325 - 17 September 2013

Tuesday 17 September 2013

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Housing Law News

Legal aid in housing cases: the number of housing law cases in which legal advice and assistance has been sought from legal aid solicitors and advisers in England has nose-dived since the introduction of cuts to the scope of legal aid in April 2013. This is particularly surprising as most mainstream housing work remains within the legal aid scheme. For an analysis of the problem, click here.

Housing complaints: since April 2013 responsibility for complaints about all council housing management matters has been transferred to the Housing Ombudsman. Complaints against local authorities about other housing matters (such as homelessness and housing allocation) still go to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO). The LGO has decided to publish details of all post-April 2013 housing complaints in the interest of fairness and transparency. For the decisions made on those complaints, click here.

Tenancy fraud in social housing: a new report, Shutting the Door on Tenancy Fraud - One Year On, suggests that although detection of fraud and recovery of social housing have increased, there is still much to be done. For a copy of the report, click here.

Housing benefit fraud: on 11 September 2013 the UK Government published the latest data on overpayments of housing benefit and benefit fraud covering 2012/2013. For the full figures, click here.

Accurate letting fees: the compliance team at the Committee of Advertising Practice has issued an information note for estate agents, letting and managing agents and private landlords about the need for accuracy and transparency when advertising rents and ancillary charges. For a copy of the information note, click here. For the separate guidance on Compulsory costs and charges imposed by Letting agents, click here. For the ASA announcement of a deadline of 1 November 2013 for compliance by private landlords and agents, click here.

New tribunal for tenanted housing: new arrangements for resolving housing disputes between landlords and tenants are to be established in Scotland. Jurisdiction for civil private rented sector cases will be transferred from the sheriff courts to the private rented sector (PRS) tribunal as part of plans to be included in the forthcoming Housing Bill. For the announcement, click here.

Tenants of social housing: on 12 September 2013 the Minister for Housing announced further training resources and support for social housing tenants in England. The resources are intended to help develop and support tenant scrutiny panels and tenant management organisations. For the details, click here.

New private rented housing: on 12 September 2013 the Minister for Housing announced the opening of the bidding process for the second round of Build to Rent funding worth £400m in England. For the announcement, click here. For the prospectus, click here.

Rented homes for military personnel: the Ministry of Defence owns a range of accommodation available to rent to service families. It has just published the latest issue of its information newsletter for prospective and current tenants covering allocations, asbestos, damp and mould, heating and maintenance. For a copy of the latest issue (and back issues), 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.

Re Kurd (a bankrupt) [2013] EWHC(Ch), [2013] All ER (D) 79 (Sept)
10 September 2013

The defendant was the father of a bankrupt son. The claimant, the son's trustee in bankruptcy, sought to realise the value of a freehold property. There was a charge over the property held by a bank and in favour of the father. The trustee claimed it was a sham. The High Court held that no sham had occurred and that the parties had intended to agree that the father would recover £75,000 and any further mortgage payments he made if the property was sold. The judgment contains a useful review of the requirements necessary to establish that an arrangement relating to property is a 'sham'.

Hounslow LBC v Key Property (UK) Ltd (t/a Key Solutions and Key Lettings)
4 September 2013

The defendant was a letting agent. It rented-out a single house to seven tenants. The front and rear living rooms were being used as bedrooms. Council officers discovered a significant number of defects relating to excess cold, damp and mould, electrical hazards, problems with sanitation and drainage, security, fire safety, structural hazards and hygiene. Although the property was multi-occupied, it had no Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence. The defendant pleaded guilty to 15 offences. Feltham Magistrates' Court imposed the following penalties: (1) unlicensed HMO, fine £15,000 (2) supplying false information, fine £5000, (3) three HMO management offences, fine £22,500. The company was ordered to pay £600 compensation to the tenants, a £120 victim surcharge and £4,320 in legal costs. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Blackpool BC v Cargill [2013] UKUT 0377 (LC)
27 August 2013

The council was entitled to recover service charges from right to buy leaseholders. Those charges included sums for property management expenses. The council set up an Arm's Length Management Organisation (ALMO) to manage its stock, including the leasehold properties. The Upper Tribunal judgment contains a detailed analysis of the entitlement of the council to recover the ALMO's charges and the appropriate amount of those charges. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

Hounslow LBC v Anne Newell
23 August 2013

The defendant had claimed housing benefit and council tax benefits from the council. She had failed to declare that she owned a property in another area which she was renting out. In April 2013 she was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out 120 hours unpaid community work. The council then sought a confiscation order to recover the proceeds of the crime. Feltham Magistrates' Court ordered the defendant to repay £42,460.93 within three months, and prosecution costs of £6,971.50 within six months. Failure to repay the money in time would result in an 18 month prison sentence. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Hastings BC v Dr Dilip Wilson and Norman Rushbrook (t/a Options Property Management)
21 August 2013

The defendants were the landlord and agent of a property in the council's area. The council prosecuted for breach of the conditions of an HMO licence and for breach of the HMO management regulations. Dr Dilip Wilson, who had pleaded not guilty, was found guilty of five offences. Two guilty verdicts related to contraventions of conditions of the HMO licence and three offences contrary to the HMO regulations. Norman Rushbrook of Options Property Management also pleaded not guilty was also found guilty of five contraventions of the HMO regulations. At Hastings Magistrates' Court, Dr Wilson was fined £2,500, with a £15 victim surcharge and was ordered to pay £1,000 costs. Mr Rushbrook was fined £1,500, with a £15 victim surcharge and was also ordered to pay £1,000 costs. For details of the prosecution, click here (and scroll down).

Ozyurekliler v Secretary of State for Communities [2013] EWHC (Admin) 2648
31 July 2013

The claimant was a private landlord. He owned a large terraced house arranged over three floors. Without planning permission, he converted the property into seven flats and constructed an outbuilding in the rear garden. Haringey Council served an enforcement notice. The claimant appealed to a planning inspector contending that the conversion had been carried out years earlier and that the use as flats was an established use. The inspector dismissed his appeal. The High Court dismissed a further appeal. The inspector had not erred in her approach to the law or the facts and she had given adequate reasons for her decision.

Noel v Hillingdon LBC [2013] EWCA Civ 1120
26 July 2013

Mr Noel became homeless when he lost his accommodation. The council decided that he had become homeless intentionally because he had taken on the tenancy of the property knowing that it was too large for him and that he could not afford it. That decision was upheld on review and on appeal to the county court. The Court of Appeal granted permission for a second appeal on the basis that it was arguable that Mr Noel could not have become homeless intentionally because his 'deliberate act' (taking on the tenancy) had preceded his occupation of the property. The full appeal will be heard in November. To follow its progress, click here.

R (Hyslop) v Leasehold Valuation Tribunal [2013] EWCA Civ 1122
26 July 2013

The Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) held a hearing to consider the reasonableness of service charges Ms Hyslop may have to pay. Her landlord provided a bundle of documents to the LVT. Ms Hyslop asked for an adjournment but the LVT simply put back the case for one hour so that she could consider the documents. She left the hearing centre. The hearing proceeded and the charges were fixed at £10,000 and she was ordered to pay costs. The Upper Tribunal refused an application for permission to appeal on the basis that she had had the critical documents before the hearing and that the adjournment allowed was reasonable. The High Court dismissed an application for judicial review of that decision and the Court of Appeal refused permission to appeal from that dismissal.

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).

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

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.

Next Week

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.

Later this Autumn

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

ASB & Social Housing Conference
22 November 2013
A Lime Legal conference in London (speakers include Jan Luba QC)
For more details, click here.

Annual Housing Law Conference
10 December 2013
A HLPA conference in London, with Jan Luba QC speaking.
For more details, click here.

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