Housing Law Bulletin - Issue 350 – 1 April 2014

Tuesday 1 April 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 and Legal Aid (1): as reported in last week's bulletin, the Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2014, which will restrict the availability of legal aid for judicial review cases, were laid on 14 March 2014. Subsequently, the leader of the opposition (Ed Milliband MP) has tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons calling for the regulations to be annulled. For the text of the motion, click here. The House of Lords' Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has referred the regulations to the full House expressing concern over their lack of clarity. For the committee's report, click here. Lord Pannick QC has tabled a regret motion in the House of Lords. For a copy, click here. Readers wishing to contact their MPs about the regulations can find more information and a template letter by clicking here.

Housing and Legal Aid (2): today (1 April) is the last chance to make a nomination (or nominations) for this year's Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) awards, which include a new Housing Lawyer category. For a nomination form, click here.

Housing Law Reform: the National Assembly for Wales' Communities Committee has published the results of its initial scrutiny of the Housing (Wales) Bill. For a copy of its report, click here. The report refers to the submission by the Housing Team at Garden Court Chambers. For a copy of the submission, click here.

Homelessness: on 26 March 2014 the Scottish Government published the latest figures on homelessness applications made to local authorities in Scotland. For the full statistics, click here.

Bedroom Tax: on 28 March 2014 the BBC published research, based on Freedom of Information requests, involving 331 social housing providers across England, Scotland and Wales. It showed that just under 6% of tenants affected by the bedroom tax had moved house. For the details, click here. On 24 March 2014, Esther McVey MP responded to concerns relating to the number of tenants affected by the bedroom tax resorting to payday loans. For her statement, click here. On the same day, she dealt with the effect of the "1996 exemption" in succession cases. For that statement, click here.

Housing Benefit: new restrictions on housing benefit entitlement for migrants from the European Union come into force today (1 April 2014). For the regulations, click here. For the statement of reasons for this policy development, click here.

Social Housing: figures released on 24 March 2014 by Citizens Advice show that the "legacy of recession" remains. In 2013 the organisation helped with 86,950 problems of social housing arrears, an increase of 10% over 2012. Of these, 10,702 problems involved people at risk of having their homee taken from them after falling into debt, a 26% increase compared the previous year. For more details, click here.

Private Renting (1): according to a YouGov poll conducted on behalf of Shelter, more than 200,000 tenants have been evicted or served with an eviction notice in the past year for complaining about conditions in their homes. For more details, click here.

Private Renting (2): the housing charity CRISIS reports that over the last three years it has assisted in creating nearly 8,000 tenancies through its Private Rented Sector Access Development Programme, DGLG funded, which offers help and advice to tenants on finding suitable accommodation. For more details, click here.

Discretionary Housing Payments: reports indicate that eight English councils have failed to spend a total of £1.2 million of their £6.4 million allocation for discretionary housing payments. Of these Wandsworth LBC had the largest underspend of £544,783. For more details, click here.

Housing in the Budget: on 24 March 2014, MPs debated the measures in the recent Budget relating to housing. Key points include plans for 15,000 new homes to be built in a new garden city at Ebbsfleet and an extension of the help to buy scheme. 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.

Farah v Hillingdon LBC [2014] EWCA Civ 359
26 March 2014

Ms Farah is a sole parent with three children. She is disabled, having suffered polio as a child. She was evicted from her privately rented accommodation as a result of rent arrears and applied to Hillingdon as homeless. Whether she made herself homeless intentionally depended upon whether, on her income, she could afford to pay for the rent. She said she could not afford the rent. The council conducted an income and expenditure assessment and decided that she could have afforded the rent. A review decision upheld the 'homeless intentionally' finding. A county court appeal failed. The Court of Appeal allowed her appeal. It found that, unlawfully, the review decision simply stated that the initial decision had been based on an affordability assessment which showed that the rent was affordable if Ms Farah had prioritised her expenditure. The Court found that there had been no proper review, nor any reasons given for reaching the same decision. The Court observed that where an applicant has produced and relied upon justification for expenditure (as in this case) a more detailed explanation for rejecting those arguments may be required. For the judgment, click here.

Preston v London Rent Assessment Panel [2014] EWHC (Admin) noted on LAWTEL
26 March 2014

Mr Preston was an assured periodic tenant. At the beginning of the tenancy, the property was in disrepair, which was reflected in a low rent. Mr Preston carried out extensive improvements. Area Estates Ltd purchased the freehold and carried out its own improvement works. It then sought to increase the rent threefold. The matter was referred to the Rent Assessment Panel. It decided that the rent reasonably to be expected was £1,020pm. The Panel took account of its own general knowledge of market rents in the area. Upholding Mr Preston's appeal, the High Court held that the Panel had failed to go through the process required by Housing Act 1988 section 14 - which was: to determine the value of the property in its current state, to determine the value of the improvements and then determine what the value should have been disregarding the improvements. Having failed to carry out the process the Panel failed to give the parties an opportunity to understand its underlying reasoning. Taking into account its own general knowledge without explaining it to the parties and allowing them to comment on it was contrary to natural justice. Accordingly, the matter was remitted for a fresh decision.

Islington LBC and others v Mayor of London [2014] EWHC 751 (Admin)
25 March 2014

Islington and eight other London Boroughs sought to challenge the lawfulness of amendments to the London Plan made by the Mayor of London, which precluded them from imposing Borough-wide caps on rent for affordable housing. The Boroughs wished to have the power to introduce local planning policies imposing rent caps on affordable rented housing at levels below 80% of the market value which were low enough to make the housing available to a wider class of potential tenants. They commissioned evidence which showed that if affordable rents were set at or close to 80% of market rents, housing would not be affordable for a large proportion of households on low incomes or on benefits subject to cap. The High Court characterised the real issue between the parties as being about economics, planning and housing policy. The amendments were lawful and not contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework. The Mayor had taken into account the views of the expert and was entitled not to adopt them. For the judgment, click here.

Shebelle Enterprises Ltd v Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust Ltd [2014] EWCA Civ 305
25 March 2014

The Trust was freeholder of a number of properties in Hampstead Garden Suburb. Shebelle had a 999 year lease of a property from the Trust which contained the conventional covenant for quiet enjoyment. The owners of the next door property sought permission from the Trust to carry out substantial works including the creation of a single-storey basement which would stretch under the garden and in which there would be skylights. The Trust's expert advisors recommended that the Trust grant permission. Shebelle sought an injunction restraining the Trust from granting permission on the basis that it would be in breach of covenant. The Court of Appeal held that the nature of the covenant was prospective and that if an unanticipated factual event arose that did not mean that the covenant did not apply to it. In such circumstances, the Court should look at what reasonable parties would have envisaged and should be taken to have intended by the covenant. Applying these principles, the Court found that the proper and bona fide performance of the Trust's duties could not amount to a breach of covenant for quiet enjoyment. For the judgment, click here.

Health and Safety Executive v Valbond Management Ltd and Holbond Ltd
19 March 2014

The Health and Safety Executive successfully prosecuted two landlord companies in relation to a block of privately rented flats in Hampstead, North London. The companies had failed to maintain appliances and flues and had not arranged annual safety inspections or obtained gas safety certificates. The companies were convicted at Westminster Magistrates' Court, fined £48,000 and ordered to pay costs. For details of the prosecution, click here.

Complaint against Newham LBC No. 13005485
17 March 2014

The complainants were both elderly and severely disabled. They lived in private rented accommodation with their son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. Their landlord defaulted on his mortgage and the lender obtained a possession order. They applied as homeless before the bailiffs warrant was received but were not seen until the day of eviction when they were not interviewed but told, with others, that the only accommodation available was in Birmingham. The complainants did not want to go to Birmingham so split up and went to stay with relatives. Following the threat of judicial review, Newham offered temporary accommodation in London which the male complainant could not occupy because of the stairs. The remainder of the family had to remain in this accommodation for ten weeks. Newham also failed to notify acceptance of the main housing duty to the complainants or their solicitors. The Local Government Ombudsman found maladministration causing injustice, awarded the complainants £750 and made recommendations as to Newham's future conduct. For the investigation report, 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).

Boroughs lose fight against Boris' affordable rent plan
[2014] Inside Housing 25 March
L. Robertson
To read the article, click here.

Bedroom tax: one year on
[2014] Inside Housing 28 March 2014
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

Homelessness Conference
15 April 2014
A Legal Action Group event in London
For more details, click here.

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.

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 and 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.

The Care Bill: Implications for Accommodation Issues
13 November 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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