Issue 125 - 2nd March 2009

Monday 2 March 2009

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The Latest Housing Law News

Mending Housing Law: today (2 March 2009) is expected to be the commencement date in England for section 314 of the Housing & Regeneration Act 2008. That section introduces changes to homelessness and housing allocation law designed to replace the provisions of Housing Act 1996 section 185(4) which were declared incompatible with Convention Rights by the UK courts several years ago. The changes introduce a new class of "restricted persons" for whom the primary method of discharging any homelessness duty is to be the arrangement of a private sector tenancy. The details of the changes are set out in non-statutory guidance sent by the government to all local authority chief housing officers in England on 16 February 2009 with a letter announcing today's date as the commencement date. Astonishingly, no commencement order has yet been published on the OPSI website and no copy of the 16 February 2009 letter is available on the internet. To access a copy, click here.

Housing the Homeless from Zimbabwe: the Government is to offer up to 3000 elderly or vulnerable British Citizens and British Nationals still living in Zimbabwe the opportunity of assistance to settle in the UK. As very few of those eligible will be habitually resident in the UK, new regulations waive the normal habitual residence requirement to enable them to access social housing and homelessness assistance in the UK on arrival - provided that they arrive before 18 March 2011. The new regulations will come into force on 18 March 2009. For a copy of the regulations, click here. For a copy of the explanatory note, click here.

More rented homes: considerable numbers of properties developed for shared-ownership (part-rent, part-buy) remain unsold, while demand for social housing to rent is soaring. The Tenant Services Authority has announced that, in response to that scenario, 4000 unsold shared ownership homes have been released for use by housing associations for social rented housing. For more details, click here.

Repairs and Adaptations for the Elderly: on 26 February 2009 the Government released details of the allocation to local housing authorities in England of new Minor Repair and Adaptation ("handyperson") Grants. The funds will enable councils to initiate or continue funding schemes which provide adaptation and minor repair services for the elderly. For a copy of the letter indicating the allocations to each authority, click here.

Owner-occupation: on 25 February 2009 the Office of Fair Trading announced the launch of a market study covering regulation of the process of buying and selling homes. The study is expected to be completed this year and will look at the work of all those providing services to buyers and sellers including solicitors and estate agents. For more details of the study, click here.

Stock Transfers: the Housing & Regeneration Act 2008 contains provisions changing the arrangements for consultation and balloting prior to stock transfer from local housing authorities to housing associations. The Government is consulting on the new statutory guidance it will issue about these provisions. The closing date is 21 May 2009. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Housing Association Stock: for historic reasons, the portfolio of housing stock owned by some housing associations is fragmented over wide geographic areas. The new Tenant Services Authority has invited associations to consider rationalisation of those stock holdings to improve services to tenants. For a copy of the new report Location, Location, Location illustrating how rationalisation can achieve benefits, click here. For the TSA's Press Release on stock rationalisation, click here.

The Regulator's New Powers: the Tenant Services Authority is presently regulating the housing association sector using the Housing Corporation's old powers. It is expected that from December 2009 it will begin regulating associations using its own new statutory powers and that its jurisdiction will be extended to local housing authorities in April 2010. Meanwhile, it reports that the views of thousands of tenants about the new standards it should expect landlords to achieve have been elicited through its current "national conversation". For details of the progress of that consultation exercise click here. For details of the "national conversation" itself, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

24 February 2009
Cambridge CC v Joyce
[2009] EWCA Civ, [2009] All ER (D) 234 (Feb)
The council obtained an injunction restraining a secure tenant from annoying his neighbours, particularly by his use of surveillance equipment in his street. In response to 23 alleged breaches of that order, it sought his committal to prison and also brought a possession claim. The judge was satisfied that 14 breaches were made out. He granted an outright 28 day possession order and imposed a 21 day suspended sentence of imprisonment. The tenant appealed, contending that the council had a vendetta against him. The Court of Appeal upheld the possession order and the sentence.

24 February 2009
R(Ariemuguvbe) v Islington LBC
[2009] EWHC (Admin), noted on LAWTEL
The claimant was eligible for an allocation of social housing by the council under Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996. She sought accommodation for herself, her husband, their five adult children and three grandchildren. The council decided that for the purposes of its allocation scheme her household would comprise only herself, her husband and the grandchildren. It declined to treat the adult children as part of her household because: (1) they were non-dependent; (2) they were subject to immigration control and their immigration status was precarious and; (3) they were subject to terms of entry that prohibited them from reliance on public funds. The High Court dismissed a claim for judicial review of that decision. The judge held that Part 6 contained no definition of "household" and there had been no error in the council's decision-making as to whom it would treat as members of the claimant's household.

27 February 2009
R(Child Poverty Action Group) v Secretary of State
[2009] EWHC 341 (Admin)
Social security legislation confers statutory power on the Secretary of State to recover certain overpaid welfare benefits. However, in cases not covered by that power and where benefits had been paid in error, the Secretary of State had sought repayment in exercise of common law powers to recover monies paid by mistake. The High Court rejected CPAG's claim that common law recovery could not be used because there was a statutory scheme in place. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

Housing Law Events

This Week

3 March 2009
Housing & Regeneration Act 2008
A CIH Training Event in Manchester
For the details, click here

5 March 2009
Welfare Benefits for Housing Practitioners
A HLPA Training Seminar
For the details click here

This Month

13 March 2009
Gypsy & Traveller Law Update
A LAG Training Course
For the details, click here

18 March 2009
Possession & Tolerated Trespassers
A HLPA Members' Meeting and AGM in London
For the details, click here

25 March 2009
Mortgage Possession: Preventing Homelessness and Protecting Homeowners
A Lime Legal Conference
For the details, click here.

30 March 2009
Defending Possession Proceedings
A LAG Training Course
For the details, click here

Next Month

23 April 2009
The TSA and Tolerated Trespassers
A HLPA Training Seminar
For the details click here

30 April 2009
Homelessness & Lettings
A Lime Legal Conference
For the details, click here

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