Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 327 - 30 September 2013

Monday 30 September 2013

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Legal 500 2013 (Housing)

The Garden Court Housing Team were delighted to be recommended as a top tier set in the newly-created Social Housing chapter of Legal 500 2013. Described as "the premier set for homelessness and tenant-focused work", nine members of the team are highlighted as leading individuals. For full details, click here.

Housing Law News

Housing Benefit: the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has issued a circular announcing that it will seek to appeal two decisions of the First-Tier Tribunal in Fife which appeared to hold that a room could not count as a bedroom if it was smaller than the room standard for overcrowding purposes. For a copy of the circular, click here.

Policy on the Rented Sector: the Minister for Housing set out an updated account of the UK Government's policies for the rented sectors in a speech to the National Housing Federation on 18 September 2013. For a copy of the speech, click here.

Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP): the DWP has issued a circular suggesting how local authorities might wish to deal with applications for DHPs made by claimants affected by the benefit cap. For a copy of the circular, click here.

Housing Tribunal: the first Practice Directions have been issued for the new Property Chamber of the First-Tier Tribunal. For the directions explaining how to make an application in a residential property case, click here. For the directions explaining which office to send applications to, click here.

Social Housing Fraud: the extent and prevalence of such fraud in Northern Ireland has been mapped by its Audit Office. For a copy of their report, 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.

Rugby Borough Council v Mokhtar Mohammad Pouri
23 September 2013

The council served improvement notices on the defendant landlord requiring him to carry out remedial work on his tenanted property. Failure to comply led to successive prosecutions in 2011 and 2012. The landlord carried out some works but an inspection indicated that four breaches of the notice remained outstanding relating, among others, to fire safety issues and damp. On a further prosecution, Nuneaton Magistrates' Court fined the defendant £1500 with over £2000 costs. For details of the 2011 prosecution, click here. For the details of the latest prosecution, click here.

Surinder Lall v Westminster City Council SC242/13/09744
20 September 2013

The council decided that the claimant had a two bedroom home and that his housing benefit should be reduced on account of the second 'spare' bedroom in which the claimant stored equipment related to his disability. The First Tier Tribunal allowed his appeal. It held that the room had not been used as a bedroom or intended for such use. For a copy of the short judgment, click here. For commentary on the decision, click here.

Kings Lynn & West Norfolk BC v Carmine Salamone
19 September 2013

The defendant was the private landlord of five Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in the council's area. The council prosecuted offences related to his properties. At Kings Lynn Magistrates' Court, the defendant was fined £8,000 for breaching two Prohibition Orders, £15,000 for five counts regarding the lack of fire safety precautions, and a further £2,000 for the lack of central heating provision and for interrupting the supply of gas. Fines totalled £25,000. Full costs of £8,800 were awarded plus a £120 surcharge. A daily fine of £20 will apply for each day that the prohibition orders continue to be breached. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Nuneaton & Bedworth Council v Dr Urav Sharma
19 September 2013

The defendant was a private landlord. A council inspection of a tenant's home found excess cold due to lack of satisfactory fixed heating provision (as the only working heater in the three bedroom property was a portable convector heater). The council served an improvement, calling for works including the provision of gas fired central heating system. No work had started when the notice expired. The defendant failed to attend the hearing at Nuneaton Magistrates' Court and was found guilty. He was fined £900 and ordered to pay £945.56 costs plus a victim's surcharge of £90. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Bradford Council v Paul Atha
18 September 2013

The defendant was a private landlord. On inspection of two of his tenanted properties, council officers found a rotting kitchen worktop which had partially collapsed, mouldy rooms, a gas fire which was not fixed to the wall, cracked windows, a leak in the roof and outdated electrics. The defendant pleaded guilty to seven counts of failing to comply with improvement notices. At Bradford Magistrates' court he was fined £3,500 for each property, with a £250 victim surcharge and a £2,925 contribution towards court costs. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Norwich City Council v Edward Thomas Webster
12 September 2013

The defendant was the landlord of a five bedsit HMO. Council officers found no fire doors or any appropriate fire detection system and the property was not licensed as a HMO. Some of the windows were broken, a ceiling was cracked, contained loose plaster and had gaps in it therefore compromising its integrity and ability to resist fire and smoke, and the landlord was unable to provide a certificate of testing of the fixed electrical installations. At Norwich Magistrates' Court the defendant pleaded guilty to seven offences under the Housing Act 2004. He received fines totalling £12,000 and was ordered to pay a further £4,115.97 in costs and victim surcharge. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Juric v Croatia (Application 29843/13)
5 September 2013

Ms Juric was the tenant of a room with use of a communal kitchen and toilet. She applied to exercise her right to buy under a statutory provision enabling the purchase of flats. Her claim was dismissed on the basis that she did not occupy a 'flat'. She complained to the European Court of Human Rights. It has asked the parties to address whether there has been an interference with the right to respect for a home and/or an interference with the peaceful enjoyment of possessions. For the court's statement of facts, click here.

Balan and others v Slovakia (Application 51414/11 and others)
2 September 2013

The applicants were landlords of private rented accommodation. Their properties were subject to rent control producing what were said to be incomes lower than the costs of maintaining the properties. They complained that the rent limits amounted to an unlawful interference with their rights to peaceful enjoyment of their possessions. The European Court of Human Rights has entertained the applications and issued questions to both parties. For the court's factual statement, click here.

Deutsche Bank Suisse SA v Khan [2013] EWCA 1149
26 July 2013

In mortgage possession proceedings in the High Court, a possession order was granted following a trial and notices were then served on the occupiers indicating that the lender would seek to evict. The borrowers appealed from that order and also applied for the exercise the court's discretion under Administration of Justice Act 1970 section 36 to postpone delivery of possession. That application was dismissed on its merits on 12 July 2013. The borrowers then also appealed that dismissal to the Court of Appeal. The notice of appeal was filed on 19 July 2013 and sought a stay of execution. Before that could be considered, the bank recovered possession on the morning of 23 July 2013. On the same day the borrowers asked that they be restored to possession pending consideration of the stay. They said they had been evicted without any notice. The Court of Appeal immediately granted permission to appeal and made an order restoring the borrowers to possession. When it later transpired that the borrowers had had notice of the eviction, the Court of Appeal set aside the order restoring them to possession and ordered payment of costs on an indemnity basis.

HMRC v Healy [2013] UKUT 0337 (TCC)
25 July 2013

Mr Healy was a stage actor with a family home in Cheshire. He took a role in a theatre performance in London. He rented a London flat for a year to provide him with accommodation while performing. A tribunal decided that the rent and council tax were tax deductible as business expenses. An appeal to the Upper Tribunal was allowed and the case remitted with directions as to the applicable principles which it set out in the judgment. For that judgment, click here.

South Lanarkshire Council v George [2013] ScotSC 60
23 July 2013

A secure council tenant was convicted of an offence in relation to controlled drugs (a very amateurish and incompetent attempt to grow cannabis in his home) and was fined £200. The council sought possession and a possession order was granted in the tenant's absence. The tenant appealed contending that it was not reasonable to order possession as this had simply been a failed and amateur attempt to produce drugs for his own use. The appeal was dismissed. There was no arguable defence on reasonableness. The landlords had been entitled to take a strict view of the use of their premises for cultivation of drugs. For the judgment 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).

Personal injury Claims against Landlords part 1
[2013] 118 Personal Injury Law Journal p15

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

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.

The Northern Housing Conference
22 October 2013
A conference in Manchester (speakers include Alex Offer)
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.

Gypsy and Traveller Law Update
29 October 2013
A LAG training event in Birmingham (speakers include Marc Willers)
For more details, click here.

Where 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

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

Housing & Residential Property Mediation Conference
26 November 2013
A dispute resolution conference in London
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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