Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 347 – 10 March 2014

Monday 10 March 2014

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SPECIAL NOTICE: The Editor of this Bulletin (Jan Luba QC) will be undertaking the London Legal Walk 2014 to raise funds for advice service charities. Please consider making a small donation. Click here to do so.

Housing Law News

Homelessness: on 6 March 2014 the UK Government published the latest homelessness statistics from local housing authorities in England. They show that at the end of 2013 there were 57,000 households placed in temporary accommodation and over 500 of those had been placed in B&B for more than the absolute legal maximum of six weeks. For a copy of the statistics, click here. On 27 February 2014 the UK Government published a table setting out how many families had been in B&B for more than six weeks for each of the 10 years since it became unlawful to use such accommodation. For the table, click here. The charity St Mungo's has published a special report on the issues faced by homeless women. For a copy, click here.

Eligibility: on 5 March 2014 the UK Housing Minister laid the Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility)(England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 before Parliament. They contain new rules on eligibility for Afghani nationals in relation to homelessness and lettings and come into force on 30 March 2014. They remove special provisions for nationals from Montserrat, Lebanon and Zimbabwe which are now spent. For a copy of the regulations, click here.

Gas safety and social landlords: the social housing regulator for England has served another major social landlord with a regulatory notice as a result of concerns about its compliance with obligations to carry out annual gas safety inspections of tenanted homes. For the notice, click here.

Private rented sector: some of the worst conditions in the sector are to be found in outbuildings and extensions adapted for residential use without planning permission. In just one year (2013), Hounslow London Borough Council discovered 270 such cases of "beds in sheds" in its area. 23 were taken out of use and 159 enforcement actions have been pursued. For the details, click here. The House of Commons Library has updated two of its excellent free briefing notes covering private rented sector issues. For a copy of The Selective licensing of private landlords (England & Wales), click here. For a copy of The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), click here. In Wales, the Welsh Local Government Association has published a paper identifying issues acting as barriers to progressing work by local councils to improve the private rented sector. For a copy of the paper, click here.

Social Housing Lettings & Rents: The House of Commons Library has updated two of its excellent free briefing notes covering social rented sector issues. For a copy of Allocating social housing (England), click here. For Rent setting for social housing tenancies, click here.

Long leaseholds: on 4 March 2014 the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced that it would undertake a market study on the provision of residential property management services in England and Wales. It will investigate whether the market is working well for consumers (tenants), and if not, whether there is potential for improving how it functions. It will cover service charges and management issues in both the private and social housing sectors and will report in September 2014. For more details, click here.

Housing Benefit (1): on 6 March 2014 the UK Government published statistics showing that, since April 2013, over 38,600 households have had their housing benefit capped and therefore either reduced or removed. For the full figures, click here.

Housing Benefit (2): The House of Commons Library has updated it excellent free briefing note covering the 'bedroom tax'. For a copy of Under-occupation of social housing: Housing Benefit entitlement, click here.

Housing Benefit (3): on 6 March 2014 the UK Government issued an urgent circular explaining the implications of the recent Court of Appeal decision dismissing ten challenges to the 'bedroom tax'. For a copy of HB U2/2014, click here. Earlier it had published a new circular on the introduction of a minimum earnings threshold for EU workers in relation to benefit claims. For a copy of that circular, click here.

Housing Benefit (4): on 28 February 2014 the DWP put proposals to the Social Security Advisory Committee relating to the new definition of exempt accommodation for the purposes of Universal Credit. For more details, click here.

Discretionary Housing Payments: a new report from Shelter sets out its findings on the use by local authorities in Scotland of discretionary housing payments to help meet housing costs. For the report, click here.

Housing Ombudsman: on 28 February 2014 the UK Government published a summary of the responses to its recent consultation on how the work of the Housing Ombudsman should be funded. For a copy, click here.

Property Tax: on 5 March 2014 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a new report examining the case for a tax on the value of property as an alternative to the Council Tax. For a copy of the report, 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.

Mohamoud v Birmingham CC [2014] EWCA Civ 227
7 March 2014

The council accepted that it owed Ms Mohamoud the main housing duty because she was homeless: Housing Act 1996 section 193. It told her she would be made only one offer of accommodation but she could bid under the council's allocation scheme. In due course it made an offer which she refused because it was too small and high rise. The council decided that its duty had ended. Ms Mohamoud asked for a review. She explained that English was not her first language, that she had misunderstood by the relationship between bidding and offers and that friends had led her to believe she would get a choice of three properties. The reviewing officer upheld the discharge decision. The county court dismissed an appeal. The Court of Appeal allowed a second appeal. The reviewing officer had not issued a "minded to" letter and followed the procedure in regulation 8 of the Review procedures regulations. The 'new' material put forward in the review had not been considered in making the original decision and that decision was, accordingly, deficient. For the judgment, click here.

Newham LBC v Belal Salik Choudhury
5 March 2014

The defendant was a private landlord. He operated an unlicensed House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in the council's area which was in appalling condition. He was found guilty at Thames Magistrates' Court of 24 disrepair offences under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006 for which he was fined £20,500. He was also fined £5,000 for one offence under the Housing Act 2004. He must also pay £738 costs and a victim surcharge of £120. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Hillingdon LBC v Rajwant Singh and Gurbax Kaur
21 February 2014

Private landlords adapted two outbuildings for residential accommodation without planning permission and let them out. A council inspection found the sheds were not fit for habitation. They were cold, mouldy and had faulty gas and electrical supplies. The council served notices under the Housing Act 2004 section 46 requiring cessation of use and demolition as a means of addressing the hazards found. On appeal to a Residential Property Tribunal, the notices were upheld. For more details, click here.

Bolton Council v Joanne Parker
19 February 2014

The defendant was a private landlady. A council inspection found hazards including dangerous electrical installations, unsafe flooring, and a broken window opener. There was no gas safety certificate. The council served an improvement notice but it was ignored. The defendant was found guilty in her absence and fined £4000 by Bolton Magistrates' with costs of £587 and a victim surcharge of £100. For more details of the prosecution, click here.

Torbay Council v Angela Claydon
13 February 2014

The defendant was a private landlady. She pleaded guilty to five offences of failing to comply with The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 in a residential property owned by her. The contraventions related to fire safety, unsafe shared provisions and poor hygienic conditions throughout. At Torquay Magistrates' Court she was ordered to pay a total of £4746.87 in fines and costs. The case was brought by Torbay Council's Housing Standards Team. She had previously been prosecuted by Torbay Council for similar offences and ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £6080. For details of the most recent prosecution, click here.

John Jackson Charitable Trust v Hornblower and Davies [2014] UKUT 21 (LC)
4 February 2014

The landlords served notice of rent increase on two assured tenants seeking a rent of £3000 per quarter. The tenants referred the notices to a rent assessment committee. It agreed that £3000 was an appropriate market rent but deducted from it £200 to reflect the fact that the tenants had a liability under their tenancy agreements for internal decoration. The landlords appealed contending that most tenancy agreements carried such a liability and no reduction was justified. The Upper Tribunal allowed an appeal as the committee had not given reasons why they had found such a deduction appropriate. 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)

The families priced out of their London homes by benefit cap
A. Gentleman
[2014] The Guardian 5 March
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

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

Later

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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