Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 338 - 6 January 2014

Monday 6 January 2014

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Housing Law News

Social housing allocation: on 31 December 2013 the UK Government issued a new supplementary set of statutory guidance for councils in England on social housing allocations and lettings. It suggests greater emphasis on priority for local applicants and members of the armed forces who need "and deserve" social housing. It encourages councils to revise their allocation schemes in accordance with the new guidance "as soon as possible". For the guidance, click here. For the policy statement which accompanied it, and which suggested that the guidance "makes clear that only hard-working families, with a well-established residency, relatives or a job in the local area can go on their council's waiting list", click here.

Housing & Anti-social Behaviour: the Anti-social Behaviour Bill reaches its Report Stage in the House of Lords next week. On 3 January 2014 the Social Landlords' Crime and Nuisance Group issued a briefing to peers on the importance of the retention of Clause 1. For a copy of the briefing note, click here. In a further report issued today (6 January 2014), the Joint Committee on Human Rights has repeated its call for the mandatory eviction ground for riot offences to be withdrawn from the Bill. For that report, click here.

Private Rented Sector (1): redress schemes are to be established enabling private sector tenants in England to raise complaints of malpractice by managing and letting agents. A new statutory order sets out the process for the ministerial approval of such schemes. For a copy, click here. For the guidance notes for applicants seeking approval for a scheme, click here. On 6 January 2014 the UK Government issued the criteria by which such applications will be assessed. For a copy, click here. The 3,000 lettings and property management agents, around 40% of the industry, who do not currently belong to a redress scheme will now be required to join one by October 2014.

Private Rented Sector (2): on 30 December 2013 the UK Government allocated a further £4million to work on tackling rogue private landlords, to be shared among 23 councils in England. The largest allocation (£239,000) was to Blackpool BC. For further details, and the full list of the 23 councils, click here.

Private rented sector (3): on 18 December 2013 the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights published a paper expressing its concerns about the proposed controls on lettings to migrants set out in the Immigration Bill. For the details, see pages 24 to 30 of the report. For a copy, click here.

Private rented sector (4): on 18 December 2013 there was a Parliamentary Debate on electrical safety in the private rented sector. For the details, click here.

Homelessness (1): the UK Government collects data from local housing authorities in England about both their statutory homelessness services and their work on homelessness prevention. On 3 January 2014 it issued updated notes and guidance material about what data is collected and how. For the details, click here.

Homelessness (2): on 18 December 2013 the Welsh Government published the latest statistics on statutory homelessness activity by local authorities in Wales. For the details, click here.

Homelessness (3): in December 2013 the organisation CRISIS published Homelessness Monitor: England 2013. The report tracks the baseline account of homelessness established in 2011 and analyses key trends following that period. It also highlights emerging trends and forecasts some of the likely changes, identifying the developments likely to have the most significant impacts on homelessness. For a copy, click here.

Discretionary housing payments: on 20 December 2013 the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) issued new data indicating that by the end of September 2013 (the first six months of the financial year) 70% of local authorities had spent less than half of their Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) allocations for the year. For the figures, click here. For the accompanying policy statement, click here.

Housing Complaints: complaints about social housing management undertaken by councils and housing associations in England are ultimately dealt with by the Housing Ombudsman. On 19 December 2013 the UK Government issued a consultation paper on proposed future funding arrangements for that ombudsman service. The consultation runs until 30 January 2014. For the consultation paper, click here.

Right to Buy: on 3 January 2014 the Secretary of State for Communities announced changes to the Right to Buy scheme in England. The Government will increase the maximum Right to Buy percentage discount for eligible social tenants in houses to 70% - in line with the maximum discount for flats. The minimum percentage discount and the rate of increase year on year remain the same. The maximum cash cap of £75,000 (£100,000 in London) will now be increased annually in line with the consumer price index rate of inflation. For the details, click here.

Council housing: on 19 December 2013 the UK Government published the latest available data (2012-2013) on council housing in England. It covers stock, rents, conditions and evictions. For the data summary, click here.

Help to Buy: on 2 January 2014 the UK Government published the terms on which it will offer guarantees to lenders for mortgages granted under the Help to Buy scheme in England and the details of the Deed of Guarantee. For access to both documents, click here. For details of the Help to Buy scheme in Wales, 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.

Islington LBC (and three other councils) v Communities Secretary [2013] EWHC 4009 (Admin)
20 December 2013

The four claimant councils had applied to the Secretary of State for exemptions for parts of their areas from a new Town and Country Planning Order (May 2013) permitting conversion of office space to dwellings without the need for planning permission applications from the owners. The Communities Secretary received almost 1400 applications for exemption. He appointed consultants to deal with them and applications were given a points-based scoring. The High Court rejected a claim for judicial review. The system adopted had not been unfair in the respects alleged by the councils and consultation about the process had not been deficient. For the judgment, click here.

Griffiths v Justice Secretary [2013] EWHC 4077 (Admin)
19 December 2013

The claimants were women prisoners approaching the date on which they would be considered for release on licence. They needed accommodation in so-called "approved premises" designed to accommodate women released from prison on licence. There are 94 men's approved premises, spread throughout England and Wales but only six women's approved premises in England, none in London, and none in Wales. The claimants asserted that they faced the significant likelihood of being placed in approved premises many miles from their homes and families, with detrimental effects on their rehabilitation and reintegration into the community. The High Court rejected claims of direct or indirect sex discrimination but held that the Justice Secretary now had to undertake the analysis necessary to fulfil his public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010. For the judgment, click here.

Liverpool CC v John O'Boy, MIDAS Property Management Ltd and Peter Anthony Doherty,
17 December 2013

Mr O'Boy was a private landlord. He engaged MIDAS as his property agent. Its managing director was Mr Doherty. The council inspected a property divided into five flats. It found appalling and dangerous conditions and prosecuted each defendant for multiple offences, particularly under the HMO regulations. Mr O'Boy blamed the agents and they blamed him. At Liverpool Magistrates' Court, all were convicted. Mr O'Boy was fined £8,700 and ordered to pay £3,205 costs, MIDAS Property Management Ltd was fined £3,600 and Mr Doherty was fined £3,300 and ordered to pay costs of £3025. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Christoforou v Standard Apartments Ltd [2013] UKUT 0586 (LC)
17 December 2013

Two leaseholders failed to pay service charges levied in respect of their flats. In 2009 a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) decided that (save in respect of £50 per flat) the charges were reasonable. Armed with that finding, the landlord company took court proceedings, obtained judgment and eventually secured payment of the service charges. It then raised a further service charge against each leaseholder in respect of the legal costs it had incurred in the earlier LVT proceedings. In 2012 a further LVT held that those costs were payable under the leases and assessed the costs at £6944 for each leaseholder. The Upper Tribunal dismissed an appeal. The lease did provide for the recovery of such costs, they were not unreasonable, and they were not barred by the fact that the LVT itself did not normally award costs relating to its proceedings. For the judgment, click here.

Southend upon Sea BC v Alfred Katona
11 December 2013

The defendant was a private landlord. As a result of an inspection, the council made a prohibition order preventing further letting of one of his properties. It also prosecuted for five breaches of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006. The offences related to fire and electrical safety, water supply and drainage, fixtures, fittings and appliances, information to occupiers and maintenance of living accommodation. At Southend Magistrates' Court the defendant pleaded guilty. He was fined £18,500 (£3,700 per offence) and ordered to pay costs of £1005 and a £120 victim surcharge. For details of the prosecution, click here.

R (OR) v Home Secretary [2013] EWHC 3867 (Admin)
10 December 2013

The claimant had been held in immigration detention following his release from custody for offences relating to children. He was granted bail. The Home Secretary had power to provide accommodation for him under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. The search for suitable accommodation was delayed because a caseworker decided that accommodation should not be provided in proximity to schools or parks. The High Court dismissed a claim for judicial review. The imposition of such conditions had not been unreasonable or otherwise unlawful. For the judgment, click here.

Conway v Jam Factory Freehold Ltd [2013] UKUT 0592 (LC)
10 December 2013

A development consisted of 194 flats. The defendant, a tenant-led company, acquired the freehold and retained the services of the previous owner's managing agents. 13 or 14 leaseholders applied to an LVT for an order appointing a different manager. That application was dismissed. The grounds for it were not made out and the proposed alternative manager was unsuitable. However, the LVT - having found that the costs of the proceedings would normally be recoverable as a service charge under the leases - made an order under section 20C of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 preventing recovery. The Upper Tribunal allowed an appeal. The LVT had erred in failing to give emphasis to the fact that the application had wholly failed. It directed that 90% of the company's costs should be recoverable. For the judgment, click here.

Liverpool CC v Michael Hiett
6 December 2013

The defendant was a private landlord operating a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in the council's area without a licence. He pleaded guilty at Liverpool Magistrates' Court to that offence and eight other offences relating to the safety of the property. The defendant was fined £6,000 for operating the property without a licence and £500 on each of eight breaches of HMO safety regulations and ordered to pay £825 costs. For details of the prosecution, click here.

LS v Horsham DC [2013] UKUT 0617 (AAC)
4 December 2013

In 1997 the claimant was granted an assured shorthold tenancy of a dwelling. She occupied it as her home and, after the initial term expired, she held over as a statutory assured periodic tenant on a weekly or monthly basis, until she left. The council required her to pay council tax as it considered she was the "owner" i.e. a person with a leasehold interest of six months or more. The Upper Tribunal held that she was not liable for council tax. After the expiry of the original term, she no longer had an owner's interest. Macattram v. London Borough of Camden [2012] EWHC 1033 applied. For the judgment, click here.

Wolverhampton CC v Mr and Mrs Mpofu
12 November 2013

The defendants were a married working couple who were tenants in Walsall. They made a fraudulent homelessness application to Wolverhampton Council and were housed by the council's ALMO. They pleaded guilty to the offence at Wolverhampton Magistrates' Court. Mr Mpofu was sentenced to a 12-month Community Order and ordered to do 120 hours unpaid work. His wife was given a three-month Community Order. Both were ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £60 and costs of £320. For details of the prosecutions, click here.

West Sussex CC v Persons Unknown [2013] EWHC 4024 (QB)
11 November 2013

The council owned the verges of land on the B3026 at Balcombe and was the highway authority. The defendants were encamped on the land as part of an anti-fracking protest. The council sought possession orders and injunctions. The High Court made those orders having considered that the provisions of Articles 10 and 11 of Schedule 1 to the Human Rights Act 1998 would not thereby be infringed.

Housing Law Articles

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

Housing repairs update
B. Prevatt
[2013] December/January Legal Action 11
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.
To read the current article, click here. (LAG subscribers only)

Prosecuting landlords - an update
J. Luba
[2013] December/January Legal Action 19
To read the article, click here. (LAG subscribers only)

Tenancy agreements and Gang Membership
S. Mansfield
[2013] 6 December Local Government Lawyer
To read the article, click here.

Reading behind the headlines (ASBIs v IPNAs)
J. Green
[2013] 16 December Social Landlords Crime & Nuisance Group
To read the article, click here.

Contracting out homelessness review decisions
T. Vanhegan
[2013] 18 December Local Government Lawyer
To read the article, click here.

Sub-letting solutions (Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act)
J. Menzies
[2013] 20 December Inside Housing
To read the article, click here.

Housing Law Events

Next Week

Defending Possession Proceedings: One Year On
15 January 2014
A Housing Law Practitioners Association meeting in London
For more details, click here.

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

Later this month

Homeless Young People - rights, responsibilities and responses
21 January 2014
A free one-day training course from the LCN in London
For more details, click here.

Later this year

Anti-Social Behaviour
6 February 2014
A SHLA evening seminar in London
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
For more details, click here.

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
For more details, click here.

Homelessness
12 March 2014
A Housing Law Practitioners Association meeting in London
For more details, click here.

Housing Rights of the Vulnerable
27 March 2014 from 18:30 to 20:00
Garden Court Chambers, London
For more details, click here.

The Care Bill: Implications for Accommodation Issues
1 May 2014 from 18:30 to 20:00
Garden Court Chambers, London
For more details, click here.

Defending Possession Proceedings
14 May 2014
A Legal Action Group training event in London
For more details, click here.

Anti-social Behaviour Strategy
21 May 2014
A Housing Law Practitioners Association meeting in London
For more details, click here.

Homelessness and Allocations: Where Are We in 2014?
5 June 2014 from 18:30 to 20:00
Garden Court Chambers, London
For more details, click here.

Costs, CFA and Funding
16 July 2014
A Housing Law Practitioners Association meeting in London
For more details, click here.

Housing Money Claims: Deposits & Disrepair
17 September 2014
A Housing Law Practitioners Association meeting in London
For more details, click here.

Conducting Disrepair Claims Post LASPO and Jackson
25 September 2014 from 18:30 to 20:00
Garden Court Chambers, London
For more details, click here.

Understanding Leasehold and Service Charge Disputes
23 October 2014 from 18:30 to 20:00
Garden Court Chambers, London
For more details, click here.

Housing Law Update
19 November 2014
A Housing Law Practitioners Association meeting in London
For more details, click here.

 

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