Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 348 – 17 March 2014

Monday 17 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

Housing Allocation and Homelessness: on 14 March 2014 the Welsh Government launched a consultation exercise on the content of new 'eligibility' regulations for social housing allocation and homelessness. Responses should be submitted by 9 May 2014. For copies of the consultation documents, click here.

Housing and Anti-social Behaviour (ASB): on 13 March 2014 the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 received Royal Assent. It contains new tools and powers to address ASB in the housing context and abolishes the ASBO. It will be brought into force in stages. For a copy of the Act, click here. For the final debate on the last of the amendments to be resolved, click here. For the first of the commencement orders, click here.

Housing and Legal Aid: when legal aid was being recast in 2012/13 the UK Government promised that deserving cases no longer within the scope of the legal aid regime, but which ought to be funded, would be considered on an exceptional basis. On 13 March 2014 it published statistics on applications for such exceptional case funding received between April and December 2013. Applications were made in 65 housing cases but only one was successful. For the full statistics, click here.

Long Leases: on 13 March 2014 the Leasehold Reform (Amendment) Act 2014 received Royal Assent. It repeals (for England) the requirement that all tenants must personally sign notices of collective purchase of freeholds or notices seeking extension of leases. It will come into force on 13 May 2014. For a copy of the Act, click here.

Private Renting (1): the Immigration Bill, which contains provisions relating to private renting and the immigration status of prospective tenants, has been working-though its committee stage in the House of Lords. For the text of the latest debate on these provisions (held on 12 March 2014), click here.

Private Renting (2): on 12 March 2014 research was published on the scale of 'revenge' or 'retaliatory' evictions by landlords of private tenants who raise concerns about their tenancies or the condition of their homes. The survey was commissioned by Shelter and British Gas as part of their partnership to improve the conditions of privately rented homes. For a summary of the findings, click here.

Private Renting (3): on 10 March 2014 the UK Government announced that it has set up a working group to "look at what can be done to protect landlords and tenants alike and ensure a fair eviction process in the private rented sector" as part of wider efforts to increase the availability of longer tenancies. It said "The working group is made up of organisations representing landlords and tenants, as well as other property professionals". For the announcement, click here.

Private Renting (4): on 12 March 2014 the House of Commons ordered a second reading of yet another Private Members Bill seeking to address concerns about the conduct of, and charges made by, letting agents and other aspects of the private rented sector. For the debate, click here.

Housing Benefit (1): a new report from the Chartered Institute of Housing shares the detail from Scotland of the impact that the bedroom tax has had on the income of social landlords. For a copy, click here.

Housing Benefit (2): the household benefit cap is implemented primarily by restricting or removing housing benefit entitlement. The latest House of Commons Library briefing note on the cap contains all the detail, facts and figures. For a copy, click here.

Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs): the allocations of central government funding to local authorities to meet the cost of DHPs cannot be carried-forward beyond the end of the current financial year. The official statistics covering the first half of the financial year (published in December 2013) showed that an underspend was likely. For those figures, click here. Now, with only a few weeks of the financial year left, some commentators are asking why councils are not ensuring that they spend the available DHP funds. For an example, click here.

Council Tax Reduction Schemes: on 11 March 2014 the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee published a report about local replacement schemes for the abolished Council Tax Benefit. It expressed concern that central government was not taking a firmer line with councils which had adopted local reduction schemes that were even less generous than had been intended. For a copy of the report, click here. For one charity's response to the report, click here.

Mobile Homes: a new briefing from the House of Commons Library outlines the provisions of the Mobile Homes Act 2013 which will come into force in England from April 2014. For more details,  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.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council v Armour [2014] EWCA Civ 231
12 March 2014

Mr Armour was granted an introductory tenancy in January 2011. Within the first few weeks, there were complaints of him being abusive to a neighbour, a call centre worker and contractors. The council gave notice of intention to seek possession. The decision to serve notice was upheld on review and possession proceedings were issued in June 2011. After repeated adjournments (including the need to address issues of mental capacity and to secure the appointment of a litigation friend), the claim was tried in March 2012. The judge held that, in the light of all the circumstances, including the absence of any further incidents since March 2011, it would not be proportionate to order possession having regard to the tenant's right to respect for his home (Article 8). For her judgment, click here. The council appealed. The High Court rejected the appeal. It decided that the judge had properly balanced all aspects of the case and that her judgment provided a 'model' judgment on deciding issues of proportionality in possession claims. For the High Court's judgment,  click here. The council appealed to the Court of Appeal and sought to rely on 'fresh evidence'. The appeal was dismissed. There were no grounds for interfering with the trial judge's judgment and the fresh evidence did not satisfy the criteria for admission on an appeal, let alone satisfy the stricter criteria for admission on a second appeal. For the judgment, click here. For comment on the judgment, click here.

Manchester Ship Canal Developments Ltd v Persons Unknown [2014] EWHC 645 (Ch)
10 March 2014

The defendants went onto the claimant's land to set up an encampment in a protest about 'fracking'. The claimants sought possession. The defendants maintained that a possession order ought not to be made because it would represent a disproportionate interference with their rights under Articles 8, 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act 1998 Schedule 1. An issue arose about whether such rights could be relied on to defend a claim brought by private landowners. The High Court said they could, adopting the approach favoured by both the first instance judge and Sir Alan Ward in Malik v. Fassenfelt. However, on the facts, an order for possession was granted because the making of such an order was proportionate. For the judgment, click here. For comment on the judgment, click here.

London Fire Brigade v Irshad Ibrahim
5 March 2014

The defendant had an industrial unit which he used as a car workshop. He let out the accommodation above it as five bedsits. Following neighbours' complaints, a joint investigation of the site was carried out by the police, council and the Fire Brigade. The Brigade identified wholly inadequate fire separation of the bedsits and only one single escape route from the commercial premises. There was also no fire risk assessment, no fire safety arrangements between the commercial and residential parts and no emergency lighting. It issued a prohibition notice preventing the building's upper floor from being used for sleeping and it evacuated the residents. At Kingston Crown Court the defendant pleaded guilty to 10 offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. He was fined £12,000 with £7000 costs and a victim surcharge of £1200. A confiscation order was made in respect of £5,000 he had received in rent. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Complaint against Hinckley & Bosworth BC (12001338 and 12010505)
5 March 2014

The complainants were the residents of a village located 500 metres from a motor racing track. They had complained to the council that the track was generating such noise as to cause them nuisance in their homes. The Local Government Ombudsman said that the council should have acted sooner to investigate their complaints. Officers delayed taking any action and relied for too long on the hope that low level liaison would solve the problems - even when it became patently obvious that it would not. She recommended a £5000 payment to reimburse legal and noise expert fees incurred by the residents, £2500 for one couple's loss of amenity and enjoyment, and a £1000 donation to the village schoolroom committee. For the investigation report, click here.

Complaint against Doncaster MBC (13001144)
3 March 2014

The complainant ran away from home aged 17. She applied to the council for help, telling them that she had been subjected to physical and emotional abuse by her father. The council gave her £50 under Children Act 1989 section 17 telling her to go back to the council for her home area and seek help there. She felt too scared to return and went back to the same council's offices to apply as homeless. The housing staff telephoned social services and were told the council had no responsibility because she was not 'ordinarily resident' in their area. The housing staff decided to take no further action on the homelessness application. The complainant lodged a complaint but the council failed to respond. The Local Government Ombudsman found multiple failures causing significant injustice and recommended an apology, compensation and a review of the council's protocol for those aged 16 to 17 in housing need. For the investigation report, click here.

Avon Fire & Rescue Service v Ashiq Mohammed Sadiq
20 February 2014

The defendant was a private landlord. There was a fire at his property. Two people escaped with burns and smoke inhalation; however, a third person died as a result of injuries sustained. The fire service found that there was no self-closing fire door to the kitchen and that combustible materials were stored against unprotected electrical wiring in the escape route. There was also a lack of fire protection between the ground floor, which was full of combustible material, and the living accommodation above. The defendant pleaded guilty to four breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 by failing to complete a fire risk assessment, failing to ensure that the premises were equipped with fire detectors and alarms and failing to secure that the exit route was adequately protected. At Bristol Crown Court he was sentenced to a six months' custodial sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to serve 200 hours community service. He was also ordered to pay costs of £7,819. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Waltham Forest LBC v Ghazala Bostan
7 February 2014

The council discovered that the defendant was allowing an unauthorised outbuilding to be used for residential purposes. It brought prosecutions both in relation to a breach of a planning enforcement notice and for failure to comply with a prohibition order issued under the Housing Act 2004. At Thames Magistrates' Court fines of £500 were imposed for each offence, with costs of £843.98 and £1,020 respectively. The defendant assured the court she was having the structure demolished. The council will revisit to confirm that the whole of the building has been removed. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Bradley & others v Northern Ireland Housing Executive
15 January 2014

The council embarked on an area redevelopment programme involving clearance or refurbishment of private housing. In the earlier stages, owner-occupiers were bought-out but the CPO process for tenanted properties was not completed until some years later. The private landlords of two of those properties asked the Lands Tribunal for Northern Ireland to fix the value of the properties as their value before the vandalism that had occurred progressively as the area ran-down. The Tribunal held that the Executive had not been responsible for any of the loss due to vandalism. For the judgment,  click here.

Housing Law Articles

Recent developments in housing law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2014] March Legal Action 20
For back issues of articles in this series, click here.
To read the current article, click here (LAG subscribers only).

We need to talk about homelessness
T. Vanhegan
[2014] March Legal Action 3
To read the article, click here (LAG subscribers only)

The cap fits (court challenges to welfare reform)
D. Underwood
[2014] Local Government Lawyer 5 March
To read the article, click here.

The High Court on in-house arrangements and Teckal (homelessness reviews)
D. Hansom
[2014] Local Government Lawyer 5 March
To read the article, click here.

Social landlords securing gas safety
H. Spurr
[2014] Inside Housing 14 March
To read the article, click here.

Fitting the bill (tenancy injunctions)
A.Pearson
[2014] Inside Housing 14 March
To read the article, click here.

Short-time work (housing eligibility for EEA nationals)
M. Robinson
[2014] 162 The Adviser 19

One small document - one big problem (tenancy deposits)
C. Kus
[2014] 162 The Adviser 21

A different view (section 21 notices)
M. Coates
[2014] 162 The Adviser 25

Section 20 consultation - where are we now? (service charges)
L. James
[2014] 319 Property Law Journal 22

Jackson, LASPO and housing cases
A. Brookes
[2014] 17 Journal of Housing Law 21

The need for a housing mediation service
A. Arden
[2014] 17 Journal of Housing Law 24

Minor tenants - part 1, status and succession
A. Arden and A. Knight
[2014] 17 Journal of Housing Law 37

The governance and regulation of housing associations: latest developments
C. Handy
[2014] 17 Journal of Housing Law 31

Dispelling the section 21 myths
M. McDermott
[2014] 164 issue 7597 New Law Journal 15

Housing Law Events

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.

Hoarding
24 April 2014
A SHLA evening seminar 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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