Housing Law News
New Housing Law: two new Housing Bills have been introduced which are designed to radically reform housing law in both the public and private sectors. For the Housing (Wales) Bill introduced in the Welsh Assembly, click here. For the Explanatory Memorandum, click here. For the timetable for legislative scrutiny, click here. For the Housing (Scotland) Bill introduced in the Scottish Parliament, click here. For the Explanatory Notes, click here. For the timetable for legislative scrutiny, click here.
New Housing Strategy: the Mayor of London has launched a consultation on a draft revised Housing Strategy for London. The consultation closes on 17 January 2014. For a copy of the consultation draft, click here. For the background to the consultation, click here.
Homelessness: despite the abolition of "priority need" on 31 December 2012, the number of homelessness applications made to councils in Scotland has been falling in 2013. This is said to be due to effective homelessness prevention and to housing options measures. However, the number of households in homelessness temporary accommodation had increased to 10,494 on 30 June 2013. For the latest statistics, click here.
Housing and Human Rights: the Lord Chancellor has told Parliament, in an urgent statement, that he does not accept the view expressed in the recent "AB" case (see last week's Bulletin) that the Charter is directly enforceable in the UK courts. He is seeking a test case to clarify the position. For his statement, click here. Meanwhile, the Council of Europe is conducting a consultation on the longer term future of its Convention on Human Rights and its Court. For details of the consultation, click here.
Social Housing management: two new guides have been published about engagement between social landlords and their tenants. Strong Foundations: Building a better dialogue between tenants and landlords contains a useful analysis of how social landlords can maintain and develop relationships with their tenants through the welfare reform changes. For a copy, click here. The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has published How to ... communicate with tenants about fire safety. For a copy of that, click here.
Housing & Anti-Social behaviour: on 25 November 2013 the UK Government published details of the progress that its Troubled Families initiative is making in tackling the causes of anti-social behaviour. For the detailed breakdown, click here. For the accompanying announcement, click here.
The "bedroom tax" and other Housing Benefit issues: a new analysis of recent successful bedroom tax appeals to the First-tier Tribunal (Social Entitlement Chamber) has been published by CIH Scotland. For a copy, click here. For an article describing how social landlords are responding to the impacts of the bedroom tax, click here. The hardest impact of the change has been (as expected) in Wales. For an article that sets out the extent of that impact, click here. For the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Circular on the new Housing Benefit and Universal Credit (Size Criteria) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 and The Rent Officers (Housing Benefit Functions) Amendment (No.2) Order 2013 click here. For the latest briefing on Paying Housing Benefit direct to tenants in social rented housing from the House of Commons Library click here.
Rent and mortgage arrears: the causes and consequences of default on debts like mortgage and rent repayments are identified in a new report, Maxed Out: Serious Personal Debt in Britain. For a copy, click here.
Private renting: on 19 November 2013 the UK Government published the detailed conditions which organisations setting up redress schemes for private tenants in England will need to meet in order to secure their approval by the Secretary of State. For a copy of the conditions, click here. Meanwhile, an amendment made to the Energy Bill on 19 November 2013 gives the Government enabling powers to introduce a requirement for carbon and/or smoke alarms in private rented homes (although these will only be used if supported by the review of conditions in the sector which will consider the technical issues and the current overlapping regulatory regimes). For the Government announcement, click here.
Shared Ownership: the Universities of Bristol, Kent and York have been awarded a grant by the Leverhulme Trust to conduct a research project entitled "Shared Ownership: Crisis Moments". Advisers working with clients on issues arising from shared ownership are invited to share experiences with the research team by email to Helen Carr at H.P.Carr@kent.ac.uk
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.
Health and Safety Executive v Harpal Singh
22 November 2013
The defendant was a private landlord. In January 2013 he installed a gas boiler and pipework in a tenanted home without using a Gas Safe engineer. His tenants complained of the smell of gas and the landlord returned three times to try and fix the problem before, in May 2013, a qualified specialist disconnected the supply. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought a prosecution for three separate breaches of the gas safety regulations. The defendant was sentenced to six months' immediate imprisonment on his guilty pleas. Costs of £1852 were awarded. For details of the prosecution, click here.
Noel v Hillingdon LBC  EWCA Civ noted on LAWTEL
21 November 2013
Mr Noel became homeless when he lost his accommodation by being evicted for rent arrears. 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. He brought a second appeal on the basis that he could not have become homeless intentionally because his accommodation did not count as it was not 'reasonable to continue to occupy'. The council should have asked that question in relation to his previous home. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. Mr Noel could reasonably have continued in occupation by applying all his housing benefit towards the rent and by increasing his income to meet any shortfall.
Huzrat v Hounslow LBC  EWCA Civ,  All ER (D) 242 (Nov)
21 November 2013
Ms Huzrat was evicted from her accommodation for rent arrears. She applied as homeless. She said she had been unable to meet her housing costs as well as the costs of raising her three children. The council decided that she had become homeless intentionally because an income and expenditure assessment showed she could have met the rent and her basic living expenses. Her challenge to that decision was rejected on review and on appeal. She then argued that the council had failed to comply with its duty to give priority to the interests of her children (Children Act 2004 section 11). The Court of Appeal dismissed a second appeal. The section 11 duty had applied to the council's decision-making but applying it did not change the result.
Leicester CC v Shearer  EWCA Civ 1467
19 November 2013
The defendant's husband had been a council tenant in succession to his mother. When he died there could be no further succession. The defendant and the couple's children remained in the house but the council sought possession. The defendant's defence was that the decision to seek possession had been unlawful because the council had failed to consider granting a new tenancy of the house as a 'direct let' under the 'exceptional circumstances' provision in its housing allocation scheme. It said she had not made a formal application complying with its scheme. The possession claim was dismissed. The council's appeal to the Court of Appeal was also dismissed. The council had acted unlawfully in commencing possession proceedings against the defendant without giving any or any proper consideration to the option of making a direct let. For the judgment, click here.
R (MK) v Barking & Dagenham LBC  EWHC 3486 (Admin),  All ER (D) 269 (Nov)
13 November 2013
The council agreed to exercise its powers under Children Act 1989 section 17 to provide alternative accommodation for a mother facing eviction with her two young children. The claimant (aged 20) was the mother's niece and had lived with the family. The council declined to accommodate her. She was unlawfully in the UK with no access to welfare benefits or housing or social services. She sought a judicial review. The High Court dismissed the claim. The claimant was not entitled to be accommodated with the family under section 17, following a social worker's assessment. The council could not be required to use alternative powers to assist her when the statutory regimes of social welfare had been drawn to design-out assistance for those unlawfully in the UK.
Barnet LBC v Sharmal Najim
12 November 2013
The council found a multi-tenanted house was occupied by ten people living with serious disrepair and in conditions amounting to a serious fire hazard. It brought prosecutions against both the property owner (BDB Developments Ltd) and the manager of the property (Mr Najim). On the trial date, the company was fined £10,000 with £6,172 costs but the manager failed to appear. A warrant was issued for his arrest and his trial rescheduled. When he again failed to appear, Willesden Magistrates' Court fined him £12,000 in his absence and awarded a further £5,072 in costs. For details of the prosecution, click here.
Complaint against Birmingham CC No 12015642
11 November 2013
The council received an application for consent to mutual exchange from one of two joint tenants. It had previously served an abatement notice in respect of noise nuisance he had created, his music equipment had been seized twice and he had breached the notices and there had been legal proceedings but no claim for possession. Even though he did not have the consent of the other joint tenant, the council approved his application and he moved to a housing association property. The council did not alert the association to his background. He then committed nuisance in his new home. His new landlord seized more music equipment and obtained injunctions and a possession order. It incurred legal costs of over £15,000. The Local Government Ombudsman found that the council had been guilty of maladministration in approving the application and recommended £1500 compensation for the tenant's most recent neighbour. For the full investigation report, click here.
Mohamoud v Birmingham CC  EWCA Civ 1509
7 November 2013
The council notified a decision on the claimant's homelessness application. She made an application for a review and on her behalf Shelter raised new points which had not been considered in the original decision. Did that make the original decision 'deficient' so that the reviewing officer had to follow the "minded to" letter procedure and offer an oral hearing? The Court of Appeal decided that the correct answer to that question justified the grant of permission to bring a second appeal. To monitor the progress of the appeal, click here.
Housing Law Articles
Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
 November Legal Action 29
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.
To read the current article, click here (LAG subscribers only).
Housing allocations: Go home foreigners?
A. Arden and E. Orme
 LAG Housing Law Blog 26 November
To read the article, click here.
Varying a decision taken under s. 202 of the Housing Act 1996
 Local Government Lawyer 20 November
To read the article, click here.
Landlord and tenant update
 157 Solicitors Journal No 44 p 30
To read the article, click here.
Housing Law Events
Housing & Residential Property Mediation Conference
26 November 2013
A dispute resolution conference in London
For more details, click here.
A round up of 2013 and a look ahead to 2014
5 December 2013
A SHLA members' evening seminar in London
For more details, click here.