Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 344 – 17 February 2014

Monday 17 February 2014

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Housing Law News

Evictions: on 13 February 2014 the UK Government published the latest court statistics on possession claims brought by landlords and mortgage lenders in England and Wales. The figures indicate that 9,607 tenants were actually evicted in only 13 weeks (October to December 2013) by county court bailiffs acting pursuant to social and private landlords' possession claims. For the full data, click here.

Private renting: on 12 February 2014 the UK Government published a Review of property conditions in the private rented sector. This is a 'discussion document' which considers how best to tackle rogue private landlords, without negatively impacting on the good ones. Responses are invited by 21 March 2014. For a copy of the document, click here.

Bedroom Tax: on 12 February 2014 the National Federation of Housing Associations published new data indicating that one in seven social housing tenants affected by the bedroom tax had received notices seeking possession and were at risk of eviction. For the details, click here. On the same day, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) service reported that in the last three months of 2013 one in five Citizens Advice clients dealing with the under-occupancy penalty were also in housing arrears. For the details, click here. On 10 February 2014 the House of Commons Library issued an updated version of its free briefing note Under-occupation of social housing: Housing Benefit entitlement. For a copy, click here. On 13 February 2014 a DWP Minister told Parliament that it would not bring an appeal against the Upper Tribunal decision CH/140/2013 on the meaning of 'bedroom'. For the announcement, click here.

Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) and the disabled: on 10 February 2014 the Papworth Trust published new data on DHPs. Although Government guidance asks councils to prioritise the payments for disabled people who live in adapted homes and are affected by the 'bedroom tax', Freedom of Information requests to 222 local authorities across the UK show that more non-disabled people are receiving the payments than disabled people. For the figures, click here. In another report, Wales & West Housing Association records that half of its disabled households affected by the bedroom tax are now in arrears with their rent. For that report, click here.

Housing costs and benefits: on 12 February 2014 the Minister for Housing and a DWP Minister gave evidence before a Select Committee investigating the role of welfare benefits in supporting housing costs. To read or watch the evidence, click here.

Housing Associations and Right to Buy: on 12 February 2014 the House of Commons Library produced a new free Briefing Note on Housing association tenants: right to buy. For a copy, click here.

Housing and Anti-Social Behaviour: last week the Chartered Institute of Housing (Scotland) published a new practice briefing for social landlords on tackling anti-social behaviour. For a copy, click here.

Landlords and Poverty: on 13 February 2014 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a new report which considers the role of housing providers in reducing poverty, reviews the policies and strategies of housing organisations in relation to the needs of households experiencing poverty, and presents a framework for future analysis of provider strategies. For a copy, click here.

Immigration status and housing: the organisation Migrant Rights Network has published an Immigration Bill briefing for House of Lords covering the implications of landlord checks for migrants in the UK. For a copy, click here.

Mutual exchange: on 10 February 2014 the UK Government published new non-statutory guidance designed to encourage social landlords in England to do more to promote mutual exchange in order to encourage tenant mobility. For the guidance, click here. For the linked research report, click here.

Home ownership: on 11 February 2014 the UK government updated the information available about the rules that lenders must comply with in order to offer mortgages under the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme. For the details, click here. On the same day it announced that the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme had been extended to include providers of Home Purchase Plans which are Sharia law compliant. For the details, click here.

Regulating social landlords (England): on 10 February 2014 the social housing regulator for England, the regulation committee at the Homes & Communities Agency, launched a consultation on meeting the cost of regulation. The Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 gave the regulator the power to raise fees to cover the costs of its work. It is consulting about switching from the current grant-in-aid arrangement, to a system where the cost of regulation is met through fees charged to social landlords. For the consultation paper, click here. The consultation period ends on 21 March 2014.

Homelessness and rough sleeping: a new report from Homeless Link shows that around 7 in 10 (67%) rough sleepers across England are now helped off the streets on the day that they are found, and nearly 8 in 10 (78%) do not return to the streets after receiving help. For a copy of the report, click here.

Park Homes in Wales: the Mobile Homes (Wales) Act is due to come into force on 1 October 2014 and a package of regulations is being made to support its implementation. These introduce new provisions for: (1) the sale and gifting of mobile homes; (2) pitch fee reviews; and (3) the making of site rules. The Welsh Government is consulting on the details. Responses are sought by 6 May 2014. For more information, 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.

Peel Land and Property (Ports No. 3) Limited v TS Sheerness Steel Limited [2014] EWCA Civ 100
14 February 2014

This commercial tenancy case deals with the vexed question of the right (or otherwise) of a tenant to remove tenant's fixtures during or at the end of a tenancy. It applies across the landlord-and-tenant spectrum. For the Court of Appeal judgment, click here.

Moreshead Mansions Limited v DiMarco [2014] EWCA Civ 96
12 February 2014

Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 section 21 entitles a tenant to require a landlord to supply a written summary of costs which will form part of a service charge. The landlord must comply with the request within one month. Section 22 entitles a tenant who has received such a summary to require the landlord to afford reasonable facilities for inspecting the documents supporting the summary. The Court of Appeal has decided that neither of these provisions can be enforced by a tenant in proceedings in the civil courts. For the judgment, click here.

Corkish v Wright [2014] EWHC 237 (Admin)
11 February 2014

A garage to a mid-terraced house had been converted into accommodation. Access to it was through a door in the main hallway of the house and the room was used by the owners as an extension to their living arrangements in conjunction with the main house. They were liable for council tax on the 'annex' if it was self-contained unit. The listing officer decided that it was. A Valuation Tribunal allowed the owner's appeal. The High Court allowed a further appeal by the listing officer. The Tribunal had applied the wrong test. The case was remitted. For the judgment, click here.

R (Walford) v Worcestershire CC [2014] EWHC 234 (Admin)
10 February 2014

The claimant's mother became resident in a care home. In determining what charges she should pay, the council took into account the value of her house. The relevant regulations provide that property should be disregarded where it is occupied in whole or in part by a relative who is aged 60 or over "as their home". The claimant, who was 67, contended that the house should be disregarded because she occupied it as her home. The High Court quashed the council's decision as it has applied a test of actual occupation and/or permanent residence as at the date the mother went into care. "Home" is a place to which a person has a degree of attachment both physical and emotional. Any determination of "home" requires a qualitative and a quantitative assessment. That falls to be reviewed each time circumstances change. For the judgment, click here.

JL Homes Ltd v Mortgage Express [2014] EWHC 190 (Ch)
5 February 2013

The claimant company owned six properties held on buy-to-let mortgages from the defendant lender. It sub-let them all to another company. On the basis of repayment arrears and breaches of the loan conditions, the lender appointed Law of Property Act receivers. They brought proceedings for possession and cleared most of the properties of their occupiers. The company brought claims against the lender and the receivers asserting that the receivership had been wrongly constituted and seeking damages for loss of the rental income. The High Court struck out the claims as having no real prospect of success and as an abuse of process (in the light of earlier litigation involving the same parties). It declared the claims to be totally without merit. The High Court then decided that the company's repeated pursuit of hopeless litigation justified the making of an extended civil restraint order and the award of indemnity costs.

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea v The Bangladesh Centre
4 February 2013

A routine inspection by council officers of a house in multiple occupation found that measures to ensure the safety of the house's 24 residents were not in place. They were also concerned about the condition of the accommodation, which was poorly maintained, and the lack of fire precautions and cooking and washing facilities. At Hammersmith Magistrates' Court the owners pleaded guilty to 26 breaches of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 and an offence contrary to Housing Act 2004 section 72. They were fined £8,300 and ordered to pay costs of £4,790. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Hand v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2014] EWHC 314 (Admin)
23 January 2014

A caravan had been brought onto land and used as a permanent home without planning permission. After it had been there six years, the owner sought a certificate of 'lawful use'. Under Section 171B(3) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 enforcement action can normally be taken within 10 years from the use commencing. However, use of a building as a dwelling-house becomes immune from enforcement and therefore lawful after four years. Was the caravan a building which could be described as a dwelling-house? The owner said the structure was a building because it had been secured to a wall and land in such a way that it could not be removed without being demolished. The council refused a certificate. An Inspector dismissed an appeal. The High Court held that the decisions had not been made in error of law. The caravan had not become a building.

Medvedev v Russia
10 January 2014

A council tenant died. A man produced false documents to the council showing him as the deceased's spouse. The tenancy was put in his name and he later bought the flat from the council. The fraud was then discovered and in 2005 a court annulled the transfer of title to the man. In 2011 he was still in occupation and he sold the flat. In 2012 it was re-sold to the applicant who knew nothing of the background and lived in the flat as his home. The council sought and obtained an order for annulment of the sale and for possession. The applicant was evicted. He complained to the European Court of Human Rights which has asked the parties the following questions (among others): Has there been an interference with the applicant's right to respect for his home, within the meaning of Article 8(1) of the Convention? If so, was that interference in accordance with the law and necessary in terms of Article 8(2)? For the Statement of Facts, click here. The Court has asked the same question in 10 other cases brought against Russia on similar facts. For those cases, click here.

Zabor v Poland
7 January 2014

A council tenant died. The applicant claimed that he had a right to succeed to his late mother's tenancy. His brother, who was in occupation, refused to move out. The applicant took legal proceedings and was recognised by the domestic courts as a successor to the tenancy agreement and subsequently the council acknowledged this status too. But he had not been able to move back in. He complained of breach of his Article 8 right to respect for his home. The European Court of Human Rights dismissed the claim. The applicant had moved out of the flat in 1980 and had not been living in it for more than 30 years with the exception, at most, of short, occasional stays. The Court held that the applicant did not have sufficient and continuous links with the flat which therefore could not be classified as the applicant's "home" within the meaning of Article 8. For the judgment, 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)

Housing Team Bulletin (Garden Court North)
J. Stark
[2014] February issue
To read the current bulletin, click here.

A clause for concern (injunctions and ASB)
K. Varley
[2014] 14 February Inside Housing
To read the article, click here.

Superstrike Ltd v Rodrigues: more questions than answers
K. Lees
[2014] Conveyancer & Property Lawyer 60

Coming to an area near you - selective licensing in the private rental sector
S. Jackson
[2014] Local Government Lawyer 6 February
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

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.

ASB, the New Regime: law and practicalities
6 March 2014
An evening seminar for SHLA in 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.

Homelessness Conference
15 April 2014
A Legal Action Group event in 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.

Recent Developments in Housing Law
18 September 2014
A Legal Action Group training event 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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