Issue 120 - 12th January 2009

Monday 12 January 2009

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The Latest Housing Law News

Legal Aid for Housing Cases: on 8 January 2009 the Legal Services Commission announced that it was extending to 31 March 2009 the deadline for holders of a Unified Civil Contract with a Housing category to bid for immediate allocation of additional Housing matter starts. For more details, click here.

Cap on Local Housing Allowances: the present system of local housing allowances (LHAs) operates without any maximum limit on the size of property that a single family might occupy. As a result of national media attention on a case in which a rent of £12,000pcm was being covered by LHA for a family in Ealing in a seven-bedroom property, the Government has decided to impose a cap on LHA at the local five bedroom rate even for properties of larger size. The Department for Work and Pensions' Work, Welfare and Equality Group has published Local Housing Allowance - Large Properties containing an impact assessment of the proposed changes. For a copy, click here. exercise on the changes, being conducted with stakeholders, ends on 30 January 2009.

Increasing the stock of social housing: on 6 January 2009 the Government announced that the new Homes and Communities Agency had funded the purchase by seven housing associations of a further 379 unsold homes from the private development and construction company Bovis Homes. That brings the total to 4,800 homes acquired for social housing recently with funding of £160m. For details of the announcement, and the geographic distribution of the new homes, click here.

Mortgage Rescue Scheme: this was to be the primary rescue vehicle for vulnerable households facing repossession by mortgage lenders. Their homes would be acquired by social landlords and then rented-back to them. The scheme was expected to be available through 60 fast-tracked local authorities in December 2008 with a national roll-out this month. For a fuller description of the scheme, click here. For details of the equivalent scheme in Wales, click here.

Housing & Disability Discrimination: the Housing Law Practitioners Association (HLPA) has made a powerful submission to the Office for Disability Issues consultation exercise on the means by which the decision in Lewisham LBC v Malcolm should be addressed by new legislation. For a copy of the response, click here.

Housing Migrant Children: last week a new Code of Practice issued by the UK Borders Agency came into force. It sets out the way in which the state (including social housing providers supplying accommodation for asylum seekers) will now meet minimum international standards for the protection of migrant children. For a copy of the Code, click here. For a copy of the Order bring the Code into force, click here. For the Children's Society views on the likely impact of the Code on housing providers, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

7 January 2009
Mirza v Mirza
[2008] EWCA Civ 1447
The first claimant let a house that he owned to his brother under a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy agreement. The brother, his wife and children occupied the house but the marriage was later ended by separation and divorce. After expiry of the agreement, the first claimant sought possession. The tenant's ex-wife and two of his (now adult) children resisted the claim on the basis that the tenancy agreement was a sham and that they (or any of them) had a beneficial interest in the premises. The judge rejected that defence. He held that the tenancy agreement was not a sham and had been specifically entered into on the premise that it would be valid and legally effective to enable the tenant to claim housing benefit. The evidence did not support the claims of the ex-wife and the children for a beneficial interest. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

The following case, although not a recent judgment, is noted given the infrequency of reported litigation between landlords and letting agents.

9 April 2008
Re: Easy Letting & Leasing
[2008] EWHC 3175 (Ch)
A property owner entered into an agreement with a lettings company that it could let-out her properties to its tenants and manage them as it wished in return for payment of rent to her of £1200 per month. The agreement was to last for one year. The lettings company's business was later acquired by Easy Letting & Leasing Limited. After the one-year expired, both parties continued to act as if the agreement was still in force on the same terms. But the company began to be late in making payments. The property owner demanded the outstanding sums and when they were not paid presented a winding-up petition against the company. The company applied for an order restraining that petition. It argued that either the agreement between the parties had been varied by conduct so that the due payment dates had become the later dates on which the company actually paid or, alternatively, the owner was estopped from demanding prompt payment by her conduct in accepting late payment. The judge rejected the company's application. On a true construction, the agreement required either payment on 19th of each month or on the last day of each month. The agreement had not been varied to allow later payments and the claim for an estoppel was not made out. As the judge also rejected the company's claim that it was entitled to retain an "adjustment fee" of 10% (£120) each month, it was clear that the owner was entitled to sums which the company had not paid to her and she could proceed with her petition. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

Housing Law Consultations

Legal Aid. The Legal Services Commission has invited views on its proposals for contracts to provide legal aid services from 2010 in Housing and all other civil subject categories. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here. The closing date is 23 January 2009.

Housing Law Articles

New Mortgage Arrears Protocol Explained

Derek McConnell
[2009] January LEGAL ACTION 19

Recent Developments in Housing Law
Nic Madge and Jan Luba QC
[2009] January LEGAL ACTION 21

Doherty: The facts of the matter
Andrew Arden QC
[2008] 11 Jnl of Housing Law 96

Malcolm v Lewisham LBC: Nasty Surprise or Logical Conclusion?
Emily Orme
[2008] 11 Jnl of Housing Law 103

Civil Justice Problem Experiences of people living in temporary accommodation
Tania Tam et al
[2008] 11 Jnl of Housing Law

Housing Law Events

21 January 2009
Human Rights & Housing
Housing Law Practitioners Association Meeting and AGM
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.

27 January 2009
Homelessness Conference: working together to improve services
CAPITA Conferences
For the 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.

5 February 2009
Anti-social Behaviour - Tackling Problems, Supporting Victims

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