Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 326 - 24 September 2013

Tuesday 24 September 2013

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Housing Law News

Homelessness: while the numbers of homeless applications and acceptances are going up in England, they are falling in Wales. But the latest Welsh statistics indicate a significant increase in the use of B&B accommodation. For the latest statistics, click here.

Housing benefit (bedroom tax 1): the first tranche of judgments on the bedroom tax made by First Tier Tribunals (Social Entitlement Chamber) in relation to appeals against housing benefit decisions have been published. For copies of the decisions, click here. For commentary, click here. It seems that onwards appeals by the council to the Upper Tribunal in these cases are unlikely. For details, click here.

Housing benefit (bedroom tax 2): The impact of social housing rent arrears caused by the bedroom tax is highlighted in research by the pressure group FalseEconomy whose material is published by the Trades Union Congress (TUC). For details, click here. For more details of the particular impact in Cumbria and the North East of England, click here. The effect on housing associations is being charted by the National Housing Federation. For their latest figures, click here.

Housing benefit (fraud): on 16 September 2013 the Director of Public Prosecutions issued new guidance on the prosecution of housing benefit and council tax fraud by local authorities and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). For the new guidance, click here.

Private sector renting: a new report from the Local Government Information Unit and the Electrical Safety Council argues that central government should cut bureaucracy to give local authorities greater freedom to enforce housing standards in the private rented sector. For a copy of the report, click here.

Homelessness and offenders: in England, homeless ex-prisoners are accorded priority need status only if vulnerable. In Wales there is no such 'vulnerability' requirement for ex-prisoners. The Welsh Government has issued a consultation document proposing that the position in Wales is tightened. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Homelessness and benefits: a new research report by HomelessLink has found that the homeless are disproportionately made the target of benefit sanctions. For a copy of the report, click here.

Gas safety in housing: Gas Safe Register has inspected just under 100,000 homes in Great Britain in the last three years. It found that one in six homes - the equivalent of 4.28 million households - had an unsafe gas appliance. For details, click here.

Responding to the housing crisis: a new report has set out the action that churches and community groups can take in developing local solutions to the housing crisis. For a copy, 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.

Liverpool CC v Farad Motamedi
19 September 2013

The defendant was the private landlord of a house which had been converted into six self-contained flats. Council officers found that: the fire alarm wasn't working; there were holes in ceilings and walls; fire doors throughout the property were holed and damaged (and did not fit properly in their doorframes and would not provide the required 30 minute fire separation to allow time for escape in the event of fire); and there was damp and mould and no proper heating in the building. At Liverpool Magistrates' Court, the defendant was convicted of 17 offences relating to housing standards. He was fined a total of £4,100 and ordered to pay £4,000 costs. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Complaint against Westminster City Council 12 009 140
13 September 2013

The council was providing temporary accommodation for homeless households in B&B. Some 40 applicants complained to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) that they had been placed in B&B for longer than the legal maximum of six weeks. The LGO said that "the council had not complied with its statutory duties. Its failure to avoid the use of bed and breakfast for families in excess of six weeks has caused real injustice to those families. The families concerned have been deprived of suitable accommodation." The council agreed to pay £500 to complainants in B&B for more than six weeks. For the investigation report, click here.

R (Wildie) v Wakefield MDC [2013] EWHC 2769 (Admin)
13 September 2013

The council granted planning permission for an owner of Green Belt land to change the use of her land from an agricultural field to a 20 pitch caravan and camping site, including residential use for a manager's mobile home. The claimant challenged the decision for failure to give adequate reasons and failure properly to interpret or take account of Green Belt policy under the National Planning Policy Framework. The claim succeeded and the decision was quashed. For the judgment, click here.

R v Sultan Mahmood
12 September 2013

The defendant was a solicitor and a private landlord. He and his uncle had gone to the home of his tenants, armed with a blunt weapon, because they had fallen behind on their rent. The tenants were attacked and injured. Both men were convicted of actual bodily harm and were sentenced to five years imprisonment each at Bolton Crown Court. For further details of the prosecution, click here.

Wrigley v Landchance Property Management Ltd [2013] UKUT 0376 (LC)
19 September 2013

The company owned a building containing four flats. It brought a county court claim against Mr Wrigley for alleged unpaid service charges for the period 2004-2010 in respect of his leasehold flat. That claim was transferred to the leasehold valuation tribunal (LVT). Its decision was then appealed to the Upper Tribunal. The appeal was allowed in part. Certain of the charges had been reserved in the lease as "rent". They were therefore subject to a six year limitation period and if not subject of recovery action within that period were stature-barred. For the judgment, click here.

Cambridge CC v Yu Chang
5 September 2013

The defendant was the landlord of a house let to six students. Following a fire, an inspection revealed that: the fire alarm system was inadequate; the design and layout of the property was not suitable for the mode of occupation; the bedroom doors were poor quality, offering little resistance to the fire and were lockable by padlocks; and the hallway was partially blocked with two large fridge freezers hindering the means of escape. The defendant pleaded guilty to five charges brought under the HMO Management Regulations and was fined a total of £6595 with costs by Cambridge Magistrates' Court. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Fraser and Pease v Meehan [2013] ScotSC 58
29 August 2013

The defendant was a private landlord. By an 'oversight' he failed to protect his tenants' deposit of £1,150 with a tenancy deposit protection scheme. In a claim brought by the tenants, the judge found that she was required to order payment of three times the deposit (£3450) plus costs. For the judgment, click here.

Vernyk v Ukraine
20 August 2013

The applicant had been a construction worker provided with accommodation by his public sector employers in a hostel. The hostel was sold to a private entrepreneur and redeveloped into residential apartments, hotel rooms and offices. The applicant, who had retired, refused to leave, relying on a statute which protected retired staff from eviction from their accommodation. A court made a possession order. All appeals were dismissed and the applicant was evicted. The European Court of Human Rights has invited the parties to consider the question: Did the applicant's eviction strike a fair balance between his interests and those of the building owner (see, for example, Kryvitska and Kryvitskyy v. Ukraine, no. 30856/03, § 44, 2 December 2010)? For the details, click here.

Hillingdon LBC v Thangam Rana and Tahir Rana
20 August 2013

The defendants were private landlords operating a house in multiple occupation (HMO), without a licence. A council inspection found inadequate heating, no basic fire precautions, dangerous electrics and a gas leakage. The couple were in breach of a prohibition order and six aspects of the HMO regulations. At Uxbridge Magistrates' Court, Tahir was fined a total of £55,000 and Thangam was ordered to pay £3,750, with a £120 collection order. Costs of £2725 were awarded. For details of the prosecution, click here.

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 article, click here (LAG subscribers only).

At the end of the road (abolition of rent arrears Ground 8)
S. Jones
[2013] Inside Housing 20 September
To read the article, click here.

Tipping the balance (judicial review in housing cases)
H. Spurr
[2013] Inside Housing 10 September
To read the article, click here. To read the article, click here.

Bedroom tax and unintentional homelessness - Zahawi's false assurance
[2013] 22 September, Alrich blog.
To read the piece, click here.

Strike a light! (commentary on Superstrike Ltd v Rodrigues)
E. Lawrence
[2013] 159 Adviser 18

Keep on knocking (commentary on social housing allocation issues)
M. Robinson
[2013] 159 Adviser 23

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

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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