Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 342 – 3 February 2014

Monday 3 February 2014

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Housing Law News

Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPS) (1): today (3 February) is that last day on which local authorities can apply to the UK Government for a share of the extra £20 million being made available to councils this year for DHPs. On 29 January 2014 the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Minister told the House of Lords that "There is a bidding fund of £20 million that I would like to get spent". For the exchanges containing that remark, click here.

Discretionary Housing Payments (2): on 30 January 2014 the UK Government published the allocations of grants to councils which will enable them to pay DHPs in 2013/14. The total is £165 million (compared to £180 million in the current year). Underspends this year cannot be carried forward. For more details, click here. For the detailed figures in Housing Benefit Subsidy Circular S1/2014, click here.

Mutual exchange for social housing tenants: the Chartered Institute of Housing has issued a new free briefing note to help social landlords support tenants to find mutual exchange partners. For a copy, click here.

Social housing rent arrears: on 31 January 2014 the Scottish Parliament's Welfare Reform Committee published an interim report recommending that the UK Government should abolish the 'bedroom tax' or give the Scottish Parliament the powers to do so. It said that the bedroom tax is "iniquitous and inhumane and may well breach human rights". The report examines the impact of the 'tax', the ongoing attempts at mitigating the impact by local authorities and Scottish Government, and puts forward abolition as the solution to the "bad law". For the full report, click here.

Higher income social housing tenants: a new House of Commons Library Briefing Note has been published drawing the strands together on policy towards higher income households living in social housing. For a copy, click here.

Help with housing costs: the Select Committee on Work and Pensions has been taking more evidence, from charities, and others working with tenants, on the need for welfare benefits to provide help with housing costs. To watch the Z2K Chief Executive and others tell MPs just how difficult things are, click here.

Rented Housing and Universal Credit: on 29 January 2014 the UK Government published a new FAQ guidance note which provides private and social sector landlords and tenants with information about Universal Credit and its impact on arrangements for rental payments. For a copy, click here.

Housing and Anti-Social Behaviour: after a barrage of further amendments, to the provisions introducing new tools and powers relating to housing and anti-social behaviour, the Government's Bill passed its remaining House of Lords stages last week. The House of Commons will consider those final amendments tomorrow (4 February). To keep abreast of the various debates and latest versions of the Bill, click here.

Emergency applications in possession cases: the county court does not operate an out-of-hours emergency service but the High Court does. In the past, problems have arisen with applications at night and over weekends to High Court judges in possession proceedings for forms of relief (e.g. the stay of a county court warrant for possession) that could only be granted by county court judges. These issues have now been resolved. The Lord Chief Justice, after a consultation with the Lord Chancellor, has written to every high court judge stating that until further direction, every such judge can sit in any county court and is expressly authorised to do so under section 5(3) of the County Courts Act 1984.This development is referred to in the Mortgage Business v Green case at para [57]. For the judgment in that case, click here.

Immigration status and access to housing: on 31 January 2014 the Immigration Bill moved from the Commons to the House of Lords. Part 3 Chapter 1 of the Bill deals with penalties for landlords who let to migrants with the 'wrong' immigration status. For the latest version of the Bill, click here.

Homelessness and Young People (1): on 30 January 2014, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) released new statistics showing that from 2007/08 to 2012/13, CAB saw a 57 per cent increase in problems for young people about actual homelessness and a 39 per cent increase in problems for young people with threatened homelessness. For more details, click here.

Homelessness and Young People (2): a new report from Homeless Link has been published spelling out the full picture on Youth Homelessness in England. For a copy, click here.

Councils and social housing: on 30 January 2014 the UK Government launched a review of the powers available to local councils in England to secure more social housing provision in their areas. The review will report by the end of the year and is being led by Natalie Elphicke (chair of Million Homes, Million Lives) and Keith House (Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council). For the announcement, click here. For the terms of reference, click here.

Mortgage Rescue Scheme (MRS) in England: the MRS scheme in England is being wound-up (following the closure of the London scheme). Any final applications must be made by full referral from local authorities (or NHAS/CAB) to MRS lead providers by 31 March 2014. For further details, click here.

Mobile Homes: tomorrow (4 February) new regulations come into force in England which prescribe the procedure for the making, variation and deletion of mobile home site rules, prescribe the matters to which site rules may and may not relate and grant appeal rights in relation to these matters. For the regulations, click here. For the explanatory memorandum, 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.

R (PK) v Harrow LBC [2013] EWHC (Admin) noted on LAWTEL
30 January 2014

A mother and her children had been evicted from their home and were destitute and street homeless. The council accepted that it was obliged under Children Act 1989 section 20 to accommodate the claimant children. It decided that it was not obliged to secure housing for their mother, who was their sole carer, under that provision. The children sought judicial review, claiming that the council's assessment meant that they would be separated from their mother in breach of the right to respect for family life protected by Human Rights Act 1998 Schedule 1 Article 8. The High Court decided that the council had failed properly to take into account the children's Article 8 rights. No human rights assessment had been carried out.

Bittó and others v Slovakia [2014] ECHR 79
28 January 2014

The applicants were the landlords of apartments let to tenants. They complained to the European Court of Human Rights that the regime of state rent controls on residential accommodation meant that they could not recover reasonable rents or possession of their properties. The Court concluded that the Slovak authorities had failed to strike the requisite fair balance between the general interests of the community and the protection of the applicants' right of property. There had been an infringement of Article 1 of Protocol 1. The Court noted that it had received many similar applications against Slovakia and suggested that, to prevent future findings of infringement, Slovakia should introduce, as soon as possible, a specific and clearly regulated compensatory remedy in order to provide genuine effective relief for the breach found. For the judgment, click here.

Solihull MBC v Khan [2013] EWCA Civ 41
28 January 2014

The council accepted that it owed Ms Khan the main housing duty because she was homeless. She told the council that she could not live in a particular part of its district because of fear of violence. The council made a final offer of accommodation in that area. Ms Khan assumed it must have been made in error and refused it. The council decided on review that the offer had been suitable and reasonable to accept. It did not agree that she would have been at risk in that area. An appeal was allowed in the county court on the basis that, when making the offer (and before it came to be accepted or rejected), the council should have explained that it did not accept the alleged risk. The Court of Appeal allowed the council's second appeal. There was no duty to explain why an offer was being made. If Ms Khan had thought the offer had been made in error, she should have contacted the council. For the judgment, click here.

Health and Safety Executive v Philip Hale and Roger Hale
27 January 2014

The defendants were two brothers who were private landlords. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) wrote to them requesting a copy of their "landlord's gas safety record". They admitted that they had not had one for eight years. The tenants also told HSE that they had never seen a gas safety record at any point in their five-year tenancy. At Dudley Magistrates' Court both pleaded guilty to breaching the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. Philip Hale was fined £1,000 and Roger Hale was fined £1,500 and they were ordered to pay costs of £464 each. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Complaint against Kingston upon Hull CC, Complaint No.13002073
23 January 2014

A woman applied to the council as homeless. It accepted a duty towards her and offered a property which she refused, as she felt it was unsuitable. The council wrote explaining that by rejecting the property she had brought the council's duty to an end. She applied for a review but was unsuccessful. Notice of the review outcome failed to give the reasons for the decision or notify the right to appeal to the county court on a point of law. The Ombudsman found that the failure to give reasons and notice of the appeal right was in breach of the law and of the council's own policy. The omissions were a feature of its template letters. The council agreed to provide a new decision on the homelessness review, give details of how to appeal the decision to the county court, apologise, and pay £200. It had also agreed to check its records and had identified three other people similarly affected by the error. It will issue them with fresh decision letters advising them of their rights. The council has also agreed to carry out a full review of its procedures and has reviewed its standard template letters. For the full investigation report, click here.

Complaint against Isle of Wight Council, Complaint No.12001189
14 January 2014

A man applied to the council as homeless. It accepted a duty towards him and provided four bedroom temporary accommodation for his family. It then nominated him to a four bedroom housing association property. He did not want to take it, but the council said it was his only offer. He accepted the tenancy which brought the council's duty to an end. The council did not tell him he could accept the offer and review its suitability and gave him no information about his right to seek a review. The council later accepted that the offer was not suitable because one of the rooms was too small to count as a bedroom under the council's own bedroom size standard. It did not move him out and left him in Band 3 on its allocation scheme. The Ombudsman recommended an immediate move up to Band 1 and £1000 compensation. For the investigation report, click here.

R (Miah) v Tower Hamlets LBC [2013] EWHC 4434 (Admin)
10 December 2013

The claimant was the beneficial owner of a house which was tenanted. On her homelessness application, the council initially decided that she was not homeless because she had the house. A county court appeal was allowed on the basis that the house was not 'available' to her because it had a sitting tenant. The council then decided that it did owe the main housing duty but would perform it by giving the claimant advice and assistance to secure her own accommodation i.e. by securing possession against the tenant. The council declined an invitation to review its decision to adopt that method of performing its duty. When the council declined to carry out a review, the claimant sought judicial review to compel them to do so. She also lodged a county court appeal against the decision. The High Court refused permission to claim judicial review. The claimant could pursue the county court appeal or put new information to the council indicating why she could not proceed with an eviction as it had proposed.

Epping Forest DC v Culligan & others [2014] EWHC 4054 (QB)
13 November 2013

The council obtained an injunction to end the occupation of a piece of land in its district by 45 named defendants who were occupying it with their caravans and mobile homes. Special directions were made for notice of the injunction to be posted at the entrance of the land on fences and stakes. Most of the 45 declined to leave and a further 25 defendants entered the land and began living on it in breach of the injunction. The High Court was satisfied that the council had established contempt of the order. It sentenced the first tranche of occupiers to six months' immediate imprisonment and the newcomers to four months.

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)

Letter of the law (tougher case management for housing cases)
L. Storey
[2014] Inside Housing 31 January
To read the article, click here.

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 (Part 1)
J. Luba
[2013] December/January Legal Action 19
To read the article, click here. (LAG subscribers only)

Housing Law Events

This week

Anti-Social Behaviour - the New Regime: law and practicalities
6 February 2014
A Social Housing Law Association evening seminar in London
For more details, click here.

Next week

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.

Later this year

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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