Latest Housing Law News
Legal aid for Housing cases: by an announcement made on 10 July, the Legal Services Commission has invited solicitors and advisers to tender to provide help in 30,000 more "combined Social Welfare Law" cases. That category includes Housing and Homelessness. The deadline for submitting tenders expires on 7 August 2008. For the details, click here.
Possession claims after McCann: a HLPA-drafted amendment to the Housing & Regeneration Bill, designed to give effect to McCann judgment, was debated on 9 July 2008. The Government opposed the amendment as unnecessary. The Minister said that the Human Rights Act 1998 already required the domestic courts to have regard to a Strasbourg decision and that meant that on a claim to possession made by a local authority "they must already consider whether possession action is the proportionate response". To read the debate, click here (column 809).
RSLs as "public authorities": despite the recent judgment in Weaver v LQHT the Government's position remains that the provision of social housing for rent by housing associations is not a public function. On 9 July 2008 it rejected an amendment to the Housing & Regeneration Bill designed to put the issue beyond doubt. To read the debate, click here (column 757).
Disability Discrimination after Malcolm: in a debate on 9 July 2008 on the ratification of the UN Convention on Disability Rights a Minister indicated that the government did not believe that the decision in Malcolm would adversely affect the ability of the UK to ratify later this year. He said that government are giving "careful consideration" to the House of Lords judgments in Malcolm. To read the debate, click here (column 749).
Transferring Tolerated Trespassers: as originally introduced, the Government's arrangements for the abolition of tolerated trespasser status did not cover those who had become trespassers before a stock transfer. On 9 July 2008 the Government opposed opposition amendments designed to plug that gap, instead promoting its own amendment to give a regulation making power to do so at a later date. To read the debate, click here (column 811).
Eligibility for Housing Allocation and Homelessness: on 8 July the government laid the Persons subject to Immigration Control (Housing Authority and Homelessness) (Amendment Order) 2008. The amendment is designed to ensure that EEA nationals who are not exercising treaty rights, have no right to reside and who are persons subject to immigration control are not entitled to access to housing authority accommodation in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland or to homelessness assistance in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The change comes into effect on 7 August 2008. For a copy of the Order, click here.
Tenant Empowerment: the Government's new White Paper on community involvement, Communities in Control: Real People, real power, indicates progress in implementing the "call for action" provisions for victims of anti-social behaviour (para 4.15) and a range of measures to stimulate participation by tenants in the management of their homes (paras 4.57-4.63). For a copy of the paper, click here.
Family Intervention: an evaluation of the effectiveness of Family Intervention Projects has shown that 60% of families surveyed were subject to one or more housing enforcement actions when they started working with a FIP but that this had reduced to 18% for families leaving the schemes. For a copy of the evaluation report click here.
Young Homeless People: at least 75,000 young people experience homelessness each year. Youth Homelessness in the UK, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, provides a review of literature on the subject, an analysis of statistics and the findings from six case study areas. For a copy of the full report, click here. http://www.jrf.org.uk/bookshop/eBooks/2220-homelessness-young-people.pdf For a summary of the findings, click here.
Homeless Ex-Prisoners: Chapter 3 of High hopes: supporting ex-prisoners in their lives after prison contains a review of arrangements for access to housing by ex-prisoners. The researchers concluded that there is a "clear need for the housing needs assessment being used while they are in prison to ensure that all ex-prisoners have some accommodation arranged for the period following their release". For a copy of the report, click here.
Transfers & Mutual Exchanges: Mobility and Social Housing is the third in the Housing Corporation's series of briefing papers on planning for the future in social housing. It examines the mobility of social housing tenants through exchanges, transfers and through leaving the sector. For a copy of the paper, click here.
The Latest Housing Case Law
7 July 2008
Bello v Dulwich Estate Trustees
 EWHC (Ch),  All ER (D) 86 (Jul)
Ms Bello held the lease of a house containing two flats. The landlord brought a claim for possession alleging that she had breached the lease by converting the flats to bedsits. She counterclaimed the right to acquire the freehold. The action was compromised on terms that she would pay the landlord arrears of rent and costs by a specified date or the lease would be forfeit. When she did not pay, the landlord sought execution of a possession order and she applied to suspend the warrant and for more time to pay. The judge refused her application and the High Court dismissed an appeal. There was nothing in the arguments that justified an extension of time even if there was jurisdiction to grant one.
7 July 2008
Lettings International v Newham LBC
 EWHC 1583(QB)
The council wished to let contracts for the acquisition and management of private sector leased properties to house the homeless. The claimant submitted a tender but did not win the contract. It claimed that the council had acted unfairly in not disclosing what criteria and weighting would be applied in assessing bids and in failing to apply such criteria as it had disclosed. The High Court upheld the claim, finding that the council had acted in breach of EU Public contracts regulations. For the judgment, click here.
8 July 2008
Complaint against Lambeth Council
07/B/01138 and 07/B/05232
In April 2007 council decided to move 6 staff engaged on assessment of homelessness applications to new duties in a Prevention & Options Service. The remaining staff were unable to cope with the 250 live cases and there was a lack of leadership and guidance. It took the council 8 months to realise that a backlog had developed. By May 2008 it was estimating that it might take another 18 weeks to clear it. The two complainants had made straightforward homelessness applications that would normally have been determined in days. Each was kept waiting for 9 months before the council notified them that the main housing duty was accepted. The local government ombudsman found maladministration causing injustice, noted an offer of £500 compensation to each complainant, and made recommendations. For a copy of the investigation report, click here.
8 July 2008
Complaint against Haringey Council
The complainant had applied to Haringey for assistance as homeless. The council began enquiries but did not provide interim accommodation before deciding, a month later, that the main duty was owed. The council later explained that this was because its duty to provide interim accommodation did not arise until "it has reason to believe that a person is genuinely homeless". The Ombudsman found that there had been maladministration causing injustice. Good administration required the council to provide interim accommodation if an applicant "may" be homeless.
9 July 2008
Birmingham City Council v Aweys
The House of Lords has granted the council permission to appeal in this case concerning those described by the council as "homeless at home". For the Court of Appeal's decision, click here.
9 July 2008
Omar v Birmingham City Council
The House of Lords has refused the applicant permission to appeal in this case concerning the discharge of the main housing duty owed to the homeless. For the Court of Appeal's decision, click here.
11 July 2008
R(Faraah) v Southwark LBC
 EWCA Civ 807
In September 2005 the council switched from a points-based allocation scheme to a banded choice-based lettings scheme. The claimant had had medical priority under the old scheme but was not given the same medical priority in the banding scheme although the wording of the medical priority categories was virtually the same. The Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal against a declaration that the scheme was, in this respect, unlawful. Not only was there no material difference between the two categories but the claimant's case (and others) had been dealt with by applying an unpublished administrative practice not capable of being reconciled with its newly published allocation scheme. For a copy of the judgment, click here.
Housing Law Events Coming Up
14 August 2008
Housing Law - An Update
A Chartered Institute of Housing event in London
For the details, click here.
19 September 2008
Choice Based Letting Schemes: the New Statutory Guidance
A Lime Legal Conference in London
For the details, click here.
22 September 2008
Introduction to Housing Law
A Legal Action Group training event.
For the details, click here.