Issue 118 - 15th December 2008

Monday 15 December 2008

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The Latest Housing Law News

Choice Based Letting: The Government has approved funding for another tranche of housing authorities and housing associations to work-up proposals for regional or sub-regional choice based letting schemes applicable to applicants for social housing. The schemes in this fourth round of bidding in some instances cover most of, or the whole of, a county. For a list of the approved new schemes announced on 12 December 2008, click here.

Homelessness in England: Statistics released on 11 December 2008 show that the number of households accepted as homeless has fallen by 60% since 2003. Only 14,340 households were accepted as homeless by English local authorities between July and September 2008 - a 13% reduction compared to the same quarter last year. The statistics also show a reduction in the number of households in temporary accommodation - down 29% since 2004. For the Government's Press Notice on the statistics, click here. For the full figures, click here.

Housing in England: The latest annual volume of Housing Statistics for 2008 was released on 11 December 2008.This annual compendium covers all aspects of housing in England (and in some cases, tables also cover the United Kingdom). For the full report, click here.

Adaptations & improvements for the Disabled: On 10 December 2008 the Government announced that it is making £157m available to local authorities in England for 2009/10 through the Disabled Facilities Grant Programme designed to help disabled and older people stay in their homes. For the comparable figures for the current and previous years and for links to the authority-by-authority allocations, click here

Family Intervention Tenancies: The first of these new tenancies can be granted by councils and RSLs on 1 January 2009. They can be ended by Notice to Quit (NtQ). Before a local authority landlord gives a NtQ to a FIT tenant it must first serve a minded-to notice and offer the opportunity of a review. The Family Intervention Tenancies (Review of Local Authority Decisions)(England) Regulations 2008 SI 3111 spell out the procedure to be followed on such a review. For a copy of the regulations, click here. For the Explanatory Notes which accompany them, click here.

Premises Closure Orders: Several of these new orders have already been made since the provisions came into force on 1 December 2008. For the details of an order obtained by Tower Hamlets LBC in respect of a property let by Old Ford Housing Association, click here. Other examples are contained in the December 2008 issue (No.2) of ASB Focus magazine. To download a copy, click here

Anti-Social Behaviour: On 9 December 2008 the Sentencing Guidelines Council issued new guidance to the criminal courts when exercising their powers to sentence offenders for breach of Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs). For a copy of the new definitive guideline, click here.

Young Homeless People: On 8 December 2008 the YMCA published Breaking it Down: Developing Whole-Family Approaches to Youth Homelessness. Based on interviews with parents of homeless young people, it found that 72% of those interviewed believed that extra help could prevent the breakdown of family units and young people from leaving home. For a copy of the report, click here.

Owner-Occupation: Also on 8 December 2008 the Government announced a portfolio of new measures intended to improve arrangements for the buying and selling of houses and flats. For a statement containing an overview of the changes, click here.

Among measures announced, the OFT will be conducting a comprehensive study of home buying and selling, looking at competition between service providers and how consumer interests are served. For an outline of that study, click here.

Also, HIP requirements are being strengthened. A Property Information Questionnaire (PIQ) will be needed in a HIP for all properties marketed for sale from 6 April 2009. The PIQ is designed to provide information that is not only important for buyers to know but is also easy for sellers to provide without professional help. For a copy of the PIQ (general version), click here.

The requirement for a PIQ follows a consultation exercise. For a summary of the responses to that consultation exercise, click here.

Further modifications to the HIP regime are brought into effect on 1 January 2009 and 6 April 2009 by the Home Information Pack (Amendment) (No.3) Regulations 2008 SI No 3107. For a copy of those regulations, click here. For the Explanatory Notes which accompany them, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

11 December 2008
Mangion v Lewisham LBC
[2008] EWCA Civ, noted on LAWTEL
Ms Mangion had moderate depression, back problems and a condition of alcohol dependency. A medical adviser, when assessing her for disability benefits, had described her as having a "severe disability". The council decided on review that she was not "vulnerable" for the purposes of the homelessness provisions. The county court dismissed an appeal and the Court of Appeal dismissed Ms Mangion's further appeal. The council's officer was addressing a different issue from those officials responsible for assessing capacity for welfare benefits purposes. The reviewing officer had correctly addressed and applied the test in Housing Act 1996 section 189(1)(c).

10 December 2008
Knowsley Housing Trust v White
[2008] UKHL 70
The House of Lords has unanimously decided that where a possession order is granted (whether outright or suspended) against an assured tenant of a housing association or private landlord the tenancy does not end until the tenant is actually evicted by the bailiff or the tenant voluntarily leaves. As a result, there are no "tolerated trespassers" in the assured tenancy sector. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

10 December 2008
Porter v Shepherds Bush Housing Association
[2008] UKHL 70
Mr Porter had been a secure tenant. He had failed to comply with the terms of a suspended possession order but remained in occupation as a secure tenant. Mr Porter eventually paid-off all the arrears and costs. The order said that: "When you have paid the total amounts mentioned, the plaintiff will not be able to take any steps to evict you as a result of this order." The House of Lords held that notwithstanding his earlier breach of the order and the wording used, he was entitled to apply to the county court to revive his former tenancy. To the extent that the cases of Swindon BC v Aston and Bradford MBC v Marshall had held otherwise, they had been wrongly decided. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

10 December 2008
Islington v Honeygan-Green
[2008] UKHL 70
Having exercised (but not completed) the right to buy, Ms Honeygan Green lost her tenancy for breach of a suspended possession order. She later cleared the arrears and her tenancy was revived. The House of Lords decided that the effect of the revival of the secure tenancy was that her old right to buy application also revived and she was entitled to pursue it. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

10 December 2008
Massey v Secretary of State
[2008] EWHC Admin, [2008] All ER (D) 118 (Dec)
The claimants were refused planning permission to establish a temporary traveller's site on a farm. A planning inspector allowed an appeal in relation to some occupiers but excluded the claimants on the ground that they did not satisfy the definition of "gypsies and travellers" in Circular 01/2006. The High Court dismissed an appeal against that decision. The inspector had been entitled to find on the facts that the particular claimants were not of a nomadic habit of life.

8 December 2008
South Staffordshire District Council v Secretary of State
[2008] EWHC Admin, [2008] All ER (D) 78 (Dec)
28 November 2008
A gypsy family sought permission to live in caravans stationed in the green belt. Having regard to the special educational needs of the children and the absence of any alternative site, a planning inspector granted limited temporary permission. The council appealed. The High Court dismissed the appeal. The inspector had not misdirected herself. She had appropriately considered Circular 1/2006 para 45.

Housing Law Consultations

(1) Closing This Week

Two crucial consultation exercises close this week. Advisers will need to deliver swift responses - in both cases by 19 December 2008:

  • Tolerated trespassers. How should the "replacement tenancy" provisions of the Housing & Regeneration act 2008 apply to those trespassers living in properties which have been subject to stock transfers? For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.
  • Gypsies & Travellers. How should the Mobile Homes Act 1983 be adapted to apply to residents on local authority sites for gypsies and travellers. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

(2) Closing Next Month

Three further consultation exercises require responses in January 2009

  • Disability Discrimination. What are the appropriate means of improving protection for the disabled using the proposed Equality Bill 2009. One option canvassed is: extending, to the disability field, the "indirect discrimination" approach taken in sex and race legislation. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here. The closing date is 6 January 2009.
  • Homebuying. The Office of Fair Trading has invited contributions to its review of house sale and purchase (see above) by 16 January 2009. Comments should be sent to: homebuyingandselling@oft.gov.uk
  • Legal Aid. The Legal Services Commission has invited views on its proposals for contracts to provide legal aid services from 2010. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here. The closing date is 23 January 2009.

Housing Law Events - Early Next Year

9 January 2009
Recent Developments in Housing Law
A Legal Action Group Training event

For the details, click here.

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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