Issue 117 - 8th December 2008

Monday 8 December 2008

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The Latest Housing Law News

Amendment day: a host of changes to housing-related legislation were brought into force on 1 December 2008 by the second Commencement Order to be made under the Housing & Regeneration Act 2008. For example, in respect of applications for housing or homelessness assistance made on or after 1 December 2008, the "local connection" rules have been amended by section 315 of the 2008 Act. A range of new regulation-making powers are also now in force. The commencement date for the Family Intervention Tenancy provisions of the 2008 Act has been set as 1 January 2009. For a copy of the Commencement Order, click here.

Premises Closure Orders: these new orders also became available from 1 December 2008. Some police authorities and local authorities have already served premises closure notices (PCNs) and sought premises closure orders (PCOs) from magistrates' courts. For example, Leeds City Council served a PCN on 1 December 2008 and sought a PCO at court on 3 December 2008. Housing advisers need to brief themselves as to the funding arrangements for defending such claims - since they are civil claims in what is ordinarily a criminal jurisdiction.

Legal Aid for Housing Cases: recognising the recent escalation of demand for legal advice in relation to Housing and Debt, the Government has commissioned a legal aid study into four topics: the impact of the recession and the demand for civil legal advice; the impact of civil legal advice fixed fees on local providers - financially and in terms of the type of work they are taking on; the initial experience of Community Legal Advice Centres, including the impact on other providers in the area; and trends in funding from sources other than the Community Legal Service, including local authority funding, national lottery funding, charities, central government departments and others. The study group will report in March 2009. For more details, click here.

Private renting: in a speech to the National Landlords Association on 29 November 2008 the Junior Housing Minister set out the current Government's present approach to the development of the private rented sector. For a copy of the speech, click here.

Discrimination in Housing: in the wake of the House of Lords' decision in Lewisham LBC v Malcolm the Government has launched a consultation exercise about improving protection for the disabled using the proposed Equality Bill 2009. The option canvassed is: extending the "indirect discrimination" approach taken in sex and race legislation to the disability field. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here. The closing date is 6 January 2009.

Help for Home Owners: on 3 December 2008 the Government announced the outline features of yet another new scheme devised to assist those having difficulties in repaying their mortgages. The place of the "Homeowners Support Mortgage Scheme" in the range of other recently announced measures was set out in a short HM Treasury statement. For a copy of that statement, click here.

More Legislation: Although the Queen's Speech did not include a Housing Bill, the proposed legislation on local community participation - the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill -will contain powers enabling the establishment of the "National Tenants Voice". Funding will be provided to ensure that tenants' views are central to decision-making processes. For more detail, click here

Security of Tenure: a lengthy report from the Centre for Social Justice - Housing Poverty: From Social Breakdown to Social Mobility - contains a series of proposals for the radical reform of social housing including ending what it calls the "stifling requirement" of lifetime security of tenure. For a copy of the report, click here.

Landlord's Duty of Care: the House of Lords has concluded its hearing of the appeal made by the late tenant's family in Mitchell v Glasgow City Council. Judgment will be given in the New Year. Today (8 December) the Court of Appeal will hear the landlord's appeal in X & Y v Hounslow LBC.

The Latest Housing Case Law

5 December 2008
Hillingdon LBC v Collins & Others
[2008] EWHC (Admin).
The council gave notice to quit to several residents of one of its gypsy caravan sites and brought a claim for possession. The reasons given for seeking possession were arrears of rent, non-payment of service charges and serious anti-social behaviour. The defendants, who had no security of tenure, denied the arrears and the allegations of nuisance. They relied upon Human Rights Act 1998 Schedule 1 Article 8 and Protocol 1 Article 1. The claim was transferred to the High Court to await the outcome of decisions of the Court of Appeal (in Smith v Buckland) and of the House of Lords (in Doherty v Birmingham). With the benefit of those judgments, a High Court Judge transferred the claim back to the county court for trial. The Judge gave directions as to how this class of case should be handled in the light of the recent judgments. In particular, he held that there should be a determination of the question whether the decision of the council to claim possession had been reasonable.

4 December 2008
Freeguard v Martlet Homes Ltd
[2008] EWCA Civ, [2008] All ER (D) 55 (Dec).
The claimant was a tenant of the defendant landlord. He had planted trees, shrubs and plants in what was a communal garden for use by all the tenants. The landlord sent him a letter requesting the removal of the items planted and warning that, if not removed within 28 days, the landlord would clear them and recharge the cost. The letter was copied to another tenant with a compliment slip inviting them to let the landlord know if the claimant became "abusive etc to you". The claimant brought a claim against his landlord for libel in respect of those words. A judge struck out the claim on the basis that it had no prospect of success. The Court of Appeal upheld that decision because the words used were not capable of being defamatory.

2 December 2008
Fairweather v Metropolitan Police Commissioner
[2008] EWHC (Admin), [2008] All ER (D) 26 (Dec)
On a claim for an ASBO, the magistrates' court was provided with experts reports showing that the defendant, who had a long history of alcohol abuse and convictions for 68 offences over 13 years, was of a relatively low IQ and had moderate learning difficulties. The court was satisfied that: (1) she had been guilty of considerable anti-social behaviour at a block of flats housing elderly and disabled tenants; and (2) she was capable of understanding the terms of an ASBO. It made an order for 5 years. The High Court dismissed an appeal. There had been no irregularity in the making of the order.

28 November 2008
R(A) v Croydon LBC
[2008] EWHC (Admin) 2921
The claimant was an Iraqi asylum-seeker who had applied to Croydon for assistance with accommodation under the Children Act 1989. An issue arose as to his age. He claimed to have been born in November 1992. The council decided that his estimated date of birth was November 1990. On a review, the claimant relied on the reports of two paediatricians - Dr. Michie and Dr. Birch. But after considering those, the council confirmed its earlier decision. On a claim for judicial review, the High Court quashed that decision. The reasons the council had given for rejecting the experts reports were unsound and/or not material to the decision or irrational. For the judgment, click here.

Writing on Housing Law

Housing Repairs Update 2008
Beatrice Prevatt
[2008] December Legal Action 29

Suspension of possession warrants
DJ Neil Hickman
[2008] 12 Landlord & Tenant Review 196

Article 8 and Possession Proceedings - the Saga Continues
Casenote Editor
[2008] 72 Conveyancer & Property Lawyer 437

When a landlord must have Notice of disrepair
William Hanbury
[2008] 12 Landlord & Tenant Review 212

Allocating Social Housing: the new CBL Guidance
Robert Latham
[2008] December Legal Action 33

Housing Law Events this Month

8 December 2008
National Youth Homelessness Conference (Croydon)
For details e-mail:

9 December 2008
Housing & Regeneration Act 2008
A CIH Conference
For the details, click here

10 December 2008
The Housing Law Conference
Annual HLPA Conference in London.
For the details, click here.

11 December 2008
Housing Management
A Lime Legal Conference (Manchester)
For the details, click here.

12 December 2008
Housing Management
A Lime Legal Conference (London).
For the details, click here.

Housing Law Events Next Year

9 January 2009
Recent Developments in Housing Law
A Legal Action Group Training event
For the details, click here.

20-21 January 2009
National Housing Management Conference
Chartered Institute of Housing
For the details, click here.

22 January 2009
Housing Policy Explained
A Northern Housing Consortium Conference
For the details, click here.

27 January 2009
Private renting
University of Oxford Housing Seminar
For details, click here.

4 February 2009
Housing Disrepair
A Legal Action Group Training event
For the details, click here.

5 February 2009
Tolerated trespassers
A Chartered Institute of Housing Training Event
For the details, click here.



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