Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 336 - 10 December 2013

Tuesday 10 December 2013

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CONFERENCE SPECIAL: this week's Bulletin is being published to coincide with the Annual Conference of the Housing Law Practitioners Association (HLPA) being held today in London. To join HLPA, or to find out more about its activities, click here.

Housing Law News

Housing Policy: in the Autumn Statement on 5 December 2013 the Chancellor announced that: (1) councils would be forced to sell-off high value council housing; (2) the right to buy would be expanded; (3) the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) budgets for the next two years would be increased by £40m; and (4) priority in social housing allocation would be given to those moving to take up work. For a summary of the housing-related measures, click here.

Homelessness in England: the number of households accepted as owed a housing duty in England fell to a little over 13,000 for the three months July to September 2013 but at the end of that period the number of households in temporary accommodation had increased to 57,000. For the detailed statistics, click here.

Housing Benefit: the total household benefit cap for tenants is applied by reducing or withdrawing housing benefit. The latest Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures published on 5 December 2013 indicate that (1) almost 28.5 thousand households had their housing benefit capped; (2) 47% of households affected by benefit cap were in London; and (3) of the 20 councils with the highest number of households affected by the benefit cap, only two were not in London (Birmingham and Manchester). For a copy of the statistics, click here.

Temporary Accommodation and Welfare Reform: the impact of welfare reform on the charges imposed by local housing authorities for the provision of temporary accommodation to the homeless is examined in a new report from CIH Scotland. For a copy, click here.

Disabled Tenants and Welfare Reform: the housing organisation Habinteg has published a new report spelling out the adverse impact on disabled tenants of recent welfare reforms. For a copy of their paper, click here.

Race and housing: the race equality foundation has published a new briefing paper on understanding ethnic inequalities in housing, based on an analysis of the 2011 census data. For a copy of the paper, click here.

Service charges: on 3 December 2013 the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced that it proposes to launch a market study into residential property management services - such as maintenance, cleaning or building work - for leasehold homes in England and Wales and released a scoping paper. For more details, click here.

Housing for the Roma: at the EU Council meeting on employment, social policy, health and consumer affairs held in Brussels on 9 and 10 December 2013 a recommendation was considered that would call upon Member States to "Take effective measures to ensure equal treatment of Roma in access to housing". For a copy of the recommendation, 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.

Swan Housing Association v Gill [2013] EWCA Civ 1566
9 December 2013
Mr Gill was an assured tenant. Swan HA applied for an anti-social behaviour injunction arising from his breach of his tenancy agreement and acts of neighbour nuisance. A judge agreed that the acts alleged had been proven but refused an order in light of Mr Gill's disability, the association's consequent breach of the Equality Act 2010 and the court's public sector equality duty under that Act. The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal and granted the injunction. There had been no medical evidence of any disability and no disability had been relied on by Mr Gill. Therefore there could not have been any breach of the 2010 Act relating to a disability. The court itself did not owe the public sector equality duty. For the judgment, click here.

R (HC) v Secretaries of State for DWP and DCLG [2013] EWHC 3874 (Admin)
6 December 2013
The claimant was an Algerian married to a British national. Their children, born in the UK, were British. The claimant fled her husband's domestic violence and was homeless. A children's services department provided temporary accommodation under Children Act 1989 section 17 but the local housing authority could not accommodate her as homeless or in social housing because of the Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2012. The claimant sought an order quashing those regulations on the grounds of direct or indirect discrimination against persons enjoying 'Zambrano rights'. The High Court dismissed the claim. The decision in Zambrano gave rise to no substantive right to social assistance. There had been no direct discrimination and any indirect discrimination was justified. There had been no breach of the public sector equality duty. For the judgment, click here.

Teignbridge DC v Curtis Betteridge
2 December 2013
The defendant was the private landlord of an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation). The council served an improvement notice under Housing Act 2004 requiring that he remove and replace a glazed panel from above an interior fire door, link the fire alarm system to the rest of the building and deal with inadequate heating. He failed to comply. South Devon Magistrates' imposed a fine of £4000 with costs of £917 and a surcharge of £120. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Complaint against Ealing LBC Nos. 12004331 and 12011635
22 November 2013
The council was making extensive use of B&B accommodation to house homeless households, more than 100 of whom had been in occupation for longer than the absolute legal maximum of six weeks. The two complainants were in unsuitable B&B accommodation for 7.5 and 10 months respectively. The Local Government Ombudsman recommended compensation of £1750 and £2000 for that maladministration and directed the council to ensure that it put in place a strategy for complying with the law. For the full investigation report, click here.

Spencer v Taylor [2013] EWCA Civ 1600
20 November 2013
In 2006 Mr Spencer granted Miss Taylor a six months fixed term assured shorthold tenancy. When it expired, she remained in possession as a statutory tenant. The rent was payable weekly each Monday so that the last day of each period of the tenancy was Sunday. On 18 October 2011 a section 21 notice was served requiring possession either (a) on 1 January 2012 (a Saturday) or (b) "at the end of your period of tenancy which will end next after the expiration of two months from the service upon you of this notice". A judge decided that the notice was valid and granted possession. The Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal. It held that the terms of section 21(1) were satisfied. That fact was not disapplied by sections 21(2) or 21(4). Further, even if the notice had set out two dates, one of which was invalid, the notice would take effect on the alternate valid date. For a commentary on the case, click here.

R (Tesfay) v Birmingham CC [2013] EWCA Civ 1599
20 November 2013
The claimant was a refugee. While she had been seeking asylum she had been provided by the UKBA with accommodation in Newport. She applied as homeless in Birmingham where there was a community of people of the same ethnic and religious background. The council decided that she had no connection with its area and made a referral to Newport which was accepted. The claimant applied for a review and for accommodation pending review. That was refused and she sought a judicial review. She applied for an order that Birmingham accommodate her pending a decision on the judicial review claim. That relief was refused by the High Court, on the papers and then again at an oral hearing. The Court of Appeal refused permission to appeal because, on the facts, there was no arguable error in the refusal of such an interim order.

Complaint against Croydon LBC No. 13002818
6 November 2013
The council accepted that the complainant was owed the main housing duty as a homeless person. It made her an offer of accommodation which she said was unsuitable. The council decided on review that the offer had been suitable and advised that if the offer was refused its duty would be discharged. The letter failed to notify the right of appeal to a county court. The Local Government Ombudsman found that the council had been wrong to fail to give notice of that right but in light of the facts that it had agreed (a) to make a further offer and (b) to amend its review decision letters, the investigation was discontinued. For the decision, click here.

R v Capital Mastercraft Ltd and Arunas Siaulys [2013] EWCA Crim 2083
31 October 2013
The defendants had been operating an HMO without a licence and in breach of an emergency prohibition order made under Housing Act 2004. They pleaded guilty and were referred to the Crown Court for sentence. The company was fined and a conditional discharge for 12 months was imposed on Mr Siaulys. The rental income derived from letting the HMO had been £41,400 and a confiscation order was made in that sum. The Court of Appeal decided that, in light of the October 2012 decision in R v Sumal & Sons, the rent could not be confiscated for failure to hold an HMO licence. The defendants were granted an extension of time to appeal and their appeals were allowed.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2013] November Legal Action 29
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.
To read the current article, click here (LAG subscribers only)

The European Court of Human Rights and Pinnock
S. Mansfield
[2013] Local Government Lawyer 28 November 2013
To read the article, click here.

Malik v Fassenfelt: known unknown
K. Lees
[2013] Conveyancer and Property Lawyer 516

The rule in Hammersmith v Monk survives - for now
I. Loveland
[2013] European Human Rights Law Review 573

Growing coordination in housing rights jurisprudence in Europe?
P. Kenna and D. Gailiute
[2013] European Human Rights Law Review 606

Housing Law Events

Next Year

Government's attack on Squatters
15 January 2014
A Haldane Society meeting in London (featuring David Watkinson)
For more details, click here.

Human Rights to Occupy Land for Homes and Protest
13 February 2014 from 18:30 to 20:00
Garden Court Chambers, London
Full details coming soon.

Introduction to Housing Law
26 February 2014
A Legal Action Group training event in London
For more details, click here.

Implications of the Bedroom Tax and the Benefit Cap
6 March 2014 from 18:30 to 20:00
Garden Court Chambers, London
Full details coming soon.

Housing Rights of the Vulnerable
27 March 2014 from 18:30 to 20:00
Garden Court Chambers, London
Full details coming soon.

The Care Bill: Implications for Accommodation Issues
1 May 2014 from 18:30 to 20:00
Garden Court Chambers, London
Full details coming soon.

Homelessness and Allocations: Where Are We in 2014?
5 June 2014 from 18:30 to 20:00
Garden Court Chambers, London
Full details coming soon.

Conducting Disrepair Claims Post LASPO and Jackson
25 September 2014 from 18:30 to 20:00
Garden Court Chambers, London
Full details coming soon.

Understanding Leasehold and Service Charge Disputes
23 October 2014 from 18:30 to 20:00
Garden Court Chambers, London
Full details coming soon.

 

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