Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 343 – 10 February 2014

Monday 10 February 2014

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Housing Law News

Housing and Anti-Social Behaviour: the Government's Anti-social Behaviour etc Bill passed its remaining Parliamentary stages last week. It will receive Royal Assent shortly. For a background briefing on the various amendments to the Bill made in the House of Lords, click here.

Housing Law changes: the Deregulation Bill had its House of Commons Second Reading on 3 February 2014. It would make two changes to housing law: (1) reduction of the qualifying period for the right to buy and (2) the removal of the power to require preparation of housing strategies. For a copy of the Bill, click here. For a useful summary of its provisions, click here. To monitor the progress of the Bill, click here.

Housing and Human Rights: following her mission to the UK last year, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing has presented her report and recommendations to the UN General Assembly. For a copy, click here. For the dismissive response of the UK Housing Minister, click here.

Housing cases and judicial review: the UK Government has published its response to a recent consultation on judicial review. For a copy, click here. It has decided to proceed with a proposal that cases brought with legal aid will not necessarily result in payment of the claimants' solicitors unless the claims obtain permission to proceed. For a commentary on the implications for housing cases, click here.

Homelessness: on 4 February 2014 the Welsh Local Government Association published Homelessness Prevention: Adopting a housing solutions approach to homelessness. The toolkit focuses on the housing options interview and the actions councils can take to help someone avoid homelessness. For a copy, click here.

Bedroom Tax: on 5 February 2014 the UK Government made regulations closing a perceived 'loophole' in the bedroom tax concerning tenants who have been in receipt of housing benefit continuously since at least 1 January 1996 and who have also occupied the same property continuously since then. The regulations will come into force on 3 March 2014. For the regulations, click here. For the explanatory memorandum, click here.

Social housing rent arrears: a new report from the regulator of social landlords in Scotland demonstrates that welfare reform is beginning to have a significant impact on their arrears levels. For a copy of the report, click here.

Housing Benefit (1): on 6 February 2014 the DWP published the latest figures for the number of households that have had their housing benefit reduced by operation of the overall benefit cap. They show that by the end of 2013 36,400 households had been capped with 28,400 still subject to a cap. 96% of households had children and 22% were capped by £100 per week or more. For the full figures, click here.

Housing Benefit (2): the House of Commons Library has published a new briefing on the policy suggestion of withdrawing Housing Benefit entitlement from claimants under 25. For a copy, click here. For a commentary on the impact of such a policy from the chief executive of Depaul UK, click here.

Private rented sector: the Special Rapporteur (see above) recommended that the UK Government should: increase regulation and enhance information and accountability in relation to the private rented sector; adopt regulatory tenancy protections, including minimum length of contracts, restraints on rent increases and strict limits on eviction; encourage the use of standardized human rights-compliant rental contracts; enhance mechanisms of registration of landlords and letting agents, and establish clear accountability mechanisms to eliminate discrimination in the private rented sector. For a review of recent moves to such regulation of the private rented sector see the latest House of Commons briefing on The regulation of private sector letting and managing agents (England). For a copy, click here.

Homes from offices: on 6 February 2014 the UK Government criticised some local authorities in England for making Article 4 directions intended to block office-to-residential conversions in their areas. Eight councils have used the power and the Government has written to Islington LBC and Broxbourne BC asking them to review the directions they have made. For the details, click here.

Empty Housing: on 31 January 2014 the Local Government Association called for the system of compulsory purchase orders (CPO) to be simplified and extended so as to enable councils to use CPO powers more effectively. It described the present arrangements as "a costly, overly complex and bureaucratic process". For more details, click here.

Mobile homes: the House of Commons library has published a new briefing on the Mobile Homes Act 2013. For a copy, 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.

Masih v Yousef [2014] EWCA Civ, [2014] All ER (D) 56 (Feb) noted on LAWTEL
6 February 2014

A private landlord brought a claim for possession against an assured tenant relying on the mandatory ground for arrears of rent: Ground 8 Housing Act 1988 Schedule 2. The court could only grant possession if there had been a valid notice seeking possession which set out Ground 8. The notice that had been served referred to the "rent owed" rather than to the term "rent lawfully due" which is used in the Ground. The Court of Appeal held that the notice was valid. It only needed to convey the substance of the statutory ground. Rent could not be owed unless it was lawfully due.

Health & Safety Executive v Anchor Trust and others
6 February 2014

Anchor Trust needed to replace the lift at one of its sheltered housing schemes. The lift shaft contained asbestos boards. The Trust provided the contractors with conflicting information and, although an asbestos survey was provided, it was not sufficiently accurate or detailed enough for the work being carried out. The Health and Safety Executive brought a prosecution. The Trust after pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 9(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. At Bedlington Magistrates' Court it was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £346.40 in costs. For details of the case, click here.

Barons Finance Ltd, Dharam Gopee & Others v Numerous Defendants [2014] EWHC 138 (QB)
5 February 2014

The claimant group of companies (linked by Mr Gopee's involvement) made secured loans to borrowers. The security was usually the borrower's only home. The companies then made numerous claims for possession based on borrower default. The Mercantile Court has issued directions controlling all the current and future housing possession claims brought by these lenders. For the details, see the judgment by clicking here. For a discussion of this litigation, click here.

Complaint against Sandwell MBC Complaint 12021104
30 January 2014

The council delayed in dealing with an application for a Disabled Facilities Grant needed to provide accessible bathing facilities for a disabled woman. The council was approached in late 2007 but did not start the assessment of needs until January 2010. It did not complete the assessment until August 2011. Due to the delay, her son carried out the work. The Local Government Ombudsman found maladministration causing injustice. The council has agreed to (1) pay the son £7,000 (equivalent to the costs of the work it originally recommended) and £1,000 in recognition of the frustration, distress and uncertainty he had been caused; and (2) pay £2,000 to his mother for distress and inconvenience caused by the delay in providing accessible facilities. For the investigation report, click here.

R v Ibrahim Bundu and others
28 January 2014

Mr Bundu was a caseworker in Southwark Council's homeless persons department. From 2003 to 2011, he used false identities and false personal data to give his friends and family members characteristics that would make them 'high priority' for housing. He pretended that single women were pregnant, helping their applications gain priority. He used false documents to support fictional applications and then allocated homes to those who were his friends and family. Over time, he then extended his operation to others, who paid him for securing them a home. The frauds were detected as part of the Council's data-matching exercise to detect social housing fraud. After hearing the prosecution case against him, and against members of his family, the defendant changed his plea to guilty at Woolwich Crown Court. He will be sentenced on 20 March 2014. For more details, click here.

Furlonger v Pettorelli Lalatta and others [2014] EWHC 37 (Ch)
24 January 2014

Leases of several flats in a single building provided for upward-only rent reviews every 10 years but they included a proviso that the rent could not exceed two-thirds of the rateable value. The system of domestic rating had since fallen into abeyance. The landlord brought a claim seeking to establish a right to a higher rent. The High Court held that the machinery needed to operate the proviso in the lease had indeed broken down with the effect that there was no operative cap on the rent. However, the court considered it appropriate to devise 'alternative machinery' intended to produce the same result as the initially intended effect of the proviso.

Wiemar v Redstone Mortgages [2014] EWCA Civ 81
24 January 2014

Mr Wiemar took out a mortgage to buy a flat. The lender later decided that he was in breach of the terms and issued a demand notice calling-in the loan. It was sent to his contact address. He denied having received it. The lender obtained summary judgment on its claim for the outstanding balance. An appeal was dismissed. Mr Wiemar sought permission to bring a second appeal based on 'fresh evidence' he had found showing that he had probably sent a letter to the lender notifying a different contact address. The Court of Appeal refused permission. Mr Wiemar could not meet the high hurdle necessary to enable the court to receive fresh evidence on a second appeal.

Investigation relating to police response to anti-social behaviour at Garland Court
23 January 2014

In July and August 2012 police attended five reports of incidents of anti-social behaviour at a flat on the ninth floor of a block of flats in Gosport. The nuisance was being caused by a housing association tenant who had moved in during April 2012. Police jointly attended with the association at the tenant's address to inform him he would be served an eviction notice. Nuisance continued and culminated in a serious assault made upon a neighbour's son in late August 2012. This resulted in a critical and life-changing head injury requiring life-long medical care. The association secured an outright possession order the following month. The Independent Police Complaints Commission set up an inquiry to investigate the effectiveness of Hampshire Constabulary's response to the anti-social behaviour reports. It concluded that the police sergeant responsible for the local safer neighbourhood team had a case to answer for misconduct. For the IPCC report, click here. In January 2014 the officer received a written warning. For the details, click here.

Hounslow LBC v Baljit Singh Jhawer
22 January 2014

The defendant constructed three outbuildings at the rear of his property without planning consent and rented them out to tenants. The council served enforcement notices to prevent residential use but the defendant failed to comply. At Feltham Magistrates' Court he was fined £4,000, ordered to pay costs of £1,492, made liable to a victim surcharge of £120 and ordered to remove the kitchen and bathroom facilities. The court stated that if he failed to comply with the enforcement notices the council may bring him back to court for the same offence again. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Newham LBC v Sajaid Shaukat
17 January 2014

The defendant was a letting agent. He was found guilty of causing an illegal eviction when a family gave up their home after they began to receive threatening texts from him. The gas meter and electricity was also disconnected by a handyman who worked for him. At Inner London Crown Court, he was given a five-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months on condition that he completes 120 hours community service. He must also pay £1,000 costs. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Merton LBC v Adeel Saleem Beg
17 January 2014

The defendant was granted conditional planning permission to build a two storey, two bedroomed house. Instead, he failed to comply with the conditions and built a three storey, three bedroomed house which he let to tenants. The council served an enforcement notice requiring demolition. In 2011 he was fined £2000 for non-compliance. By 2013 he had still not complied. He was convicted again by Richmond Magistrates' Court and referred for sentencing to Kingston Crown Court. He was fined £25,000, given a confiscation order of £32,000 in respect of the rent he had received and was ordered to pay the council's legal costs of over £10,000. Payment is due within three months, with imprisonment for a year in default. The notice remains extant and the house must be demolished. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Cornwall Council v Michelle Rachel Bathe and Stacey Darren Bathe
17 January 2014

The defendants were the landlords of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). On a council inspection they could not produce valid gas or electricity safety certificates. They were failing to maintain fire precautions and there was general disrepair of the property and of the communal areas and garden. On a prosecution for failing to comply with the requirements of the Housing Act 2004 and the duties imposed under the House in Multiple Occupation Management Regulations 2006 they failed to attend court and were convicted in their absence. Truro Magistrates' fined the defendants a total of £6000 (£3000 each) and made orders for a victim surcharge of £120 and costs of £1,873.52. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Liverpool CC v Serco Ltd
9 January 2014

The defendant company let out a three storey property comprising seven bedrooms, with tenants sharing the kitchen, bathroom and toilet facilities. Council officers found that the fire doors of many of the rooms had excessive gaps between the top of the door and frame and would not protect the occupant from smoke or spread of flames in the event of a fire. They also found that there were two fridge/freezers immediately behind the kitchen door preventing it from opening fully and obstructing the means of escape. The kitchen cupboard which housed the kitchen sink was in a poor state of repair. At Liverpool Magistrates' Court, the defendant pleaded guilty to operating a house in multiple occupation without a licence and five breaches of the HMO management regulations. In sentencing, the District Judge said that Serco were a big firm with massive resources and had left vulnerable people living in unsafe conditions. They were fined £5,000 for not having a licence and £1,000 each on four breaches relating to fire hazards and £300 for a broken sink - a total of £9,300. They were also ordered to pay costs of £1,015. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Russell and Clark v Tenzin [2013] B456/13
20 December 2013

Two joint tenants rented a property and paid a deposit. The landlord failed to place the deposit with a tenancy protection scheme. At the end of the tenancy the deposit was returned with the usual deductions made. The tenants brought a claim for failure to protect the deposit and were awarded a sum of three times the amount of the deposit. The landlord appealed contending that the amount of the penalty was excessive. Three times was the maximum multiplier and ought not to have been used. The appeal was dismissed. Judicial discretion permitted up to three times the deposit being awarded and there had been no error in the exercise of that discretion. For the judgment, which contains a useful re-statement of the policy behind deposit protection, click here.

Cunningham v Cameron & British Gas [2013] ScotCS CSOH 193
13 December 2013

In the 1950s a house had been converted into two separate self-contained flats. In 2006 a fire broke out damaging both flats. The source was the gas boiler of the lower flat. The owners of that flat brought claims against the owners of the upper flat and against British Gas. The former for obstructing their gas boiler flue outlet (by leaning timber against it) and the latter for breach of contract in failing to detect and remedy a gap in the flue. A judge allowed the claim and held that the upstairs owners were liable in nuisance and negligence for two thirds of the damages. For the judgment, click here.

Peterborough CC v Haris Properties Ltd
4 December 2013

The defendant company was the managing agent of an unlicensed HMO found to be in such poor condition that the council made an interim management order to take over the property. On the council's prosecution, the company pleaded guilty at Peterborough Magistrates' Court for not having a licence and was fined £3,000. It also pleaded guilty to two offences under Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations in relation to fire safety and failure to maintain the common parts in a clean and safe condition. It was fined £2,500 and £1,500 respectively for those offences. The court awarded costs of £7,000 with a victim surcharge of £120. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2014] February Legal Action 26
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 2
J. Luba
[2014] February Legal Action 26
To read the current article, click here (LAG subscribers only)

Claims against noisy neighbours: Part 1
I. Loveland
[2014] February Legal Action 25
To read the current article, click here (LAG subscribers only)

Offers of accommodation and the giving of reasons
C. Rowlands
[2014] January 29 Local Government Lawyer
To read the article, click here.

The draft Tenants' Charter
P. Reddin
[2014] 18 Landlord & Tenant Review 1

Small but perfectly regulated? Shutting the stable door on the sell-to-rent-back market
R. Crozier
[2014] 18 Landlord & Tenant Review 15

Room for argument (rent possession claims and costs)
W. Jacob
[2014] 164 New Law Journal No.759315
To read the article, click here.

Housing Law Training

Vulnerability and Priority Need in Applications for Homelessness Assistance
A webinar by Liz Davies and Connor Johnston
CPD training from Jordan Publishing
For more details, click here.

Housing Law Events

This 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.

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.

Housing Disrepair
30 April 2014
A Legal Action Group training event in 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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