Issue 126 - 9th March 2009

Monday 9 March 2009

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The Latest Housing Law News

Changing the "eligibility" rules: as indicated in last week's Bulletin, section 314 of the Housing & Regeneration Act 2008 was brought into force on 2 March 2009. That section introduced changes to homelessness and housing allocation law - for applications made on or after 2 March 2009 - bringing a new class of "restricted persons" for whom the primary method of discharging the main homelessness duty is to be a private sector tenancy. The commencement order is now available. For a copy, click here. The details of the changes are set out in non-statutory guidance issued to all local authority chief housing officers in England on 16 February 2009. For a copy of that guidance, click here.

Council House Rents: many local councils will be increasing their tenants' rents from the first or second week of April 2009. Most will already have given formal written notice of the increases to their tenants (to comply with the minimum 4-weeks notice period). However, on 6 March 2009 the Housing Minister announced that the Government guideline rent increase was being reduced by 50% from 6.2% to 3.1% to avoid an adverse impact on tenants in the current recession and that funding would be available to help councils seeking the lower rent increases. The statement does not explain how the reduction is to work where notice of increase has already been given. For a copy of the announcement, click here.

Empty Homes: the Government has confirmed that only 17 Empty Dwelling Management Orders have been approved by tribunals in England since the passage of the Housing Act 2004. For the details, click here.

Adult Social Care: on 5 March 2009 the Government issued Circular LAC (DH) (2009) 1 - Transforming Adult Social Care. It contains an Annex sets out at a practical level, in plain English, the kind of society which successful transformation of adult social care should help to create. For a copy of the Circular, click here.

Stock Transfer: a new report from the Joseph Rowntree Trust - The impacts of housing stock transfers in urban Britain - considers the transfer of housing stock from councils to housing associations concentrating on the 'second generation' of transfers carried out since 1997. For a summary of the research, click here. For a copy of the full report, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

6 March 2009
R(MM) v Lewisham LBC
[2009] EWHC 416 (Admin)
Ms M (then 17) fled her home in fear of domestic violence and took shelter at a women's refuge. After she had been there for 4 months, a refuge worker telephoned social services to make a referral because Ms M was in need of support. On the basis of that call, the council decided that she was not a 'child in need' because any support needs she might have could be met by a local voluntary organisation. On a claim for judicial review, the High Court quashed that decision and held that had an adequate assessment been made under the Children Act 1989 no reasonable council could have failed to have been satisfied that Ms M was a child in need owed the section 20 accommodation duty. He granted a declaration that she should have been accommodated for 13 weeks before turning 18 and was therefore entitled to further assistance as a 'former relevant child'. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

4 March 2009
R(Ahmad) v Newham LBC
[2009] UKHL 14
The council operated a choice-based letting scheme with three bands. The largest band (from which most lettings were made) contained applicants who were entitled to a "reasonable preference" under one or more of the categories in Housing Act 1996 section 167(2). When bids from members of that band were received for an available property they were ranked by registration date. The property would be allocated to the bidder with the oldest date. The council also had a "direct let" scheme for decants and other urgent cases. Mr A had multiple housing needs spanning a number of reasonable preference categories and several of his household had medical needs. His application for "direct let" status was unsuccessful and he remained in the CBL main-band, queuing by date. He claimed that the scheme was irrational because it grouped the vast bulk of applicants into a single band distinguishing between them by registration date rather than by housing need. The House of Lords dismissed his claim. It held that the language of the 1996 Act, as substituted by Homelessness Act 2002, gave local housing authorities greater flexibility than before. It no longer required that those in the reasonable preference categories who were in the greatest need should be housed first. Waiting time was a relevant factor in determining who should be allocated social housing. Newham's scheme could not be described as irrational for giving that factor pre-eminence. Cases of the most serious nature were still capable of being addressed by the "direct let" arrangements. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

3 March 2009
Liverpool CC v Doran
[2009] EWCA Civ 146
Having received complaints of anti-social behaviour, the council gave Mrs D notice to quit her plot on one of its gypsy and caravan sites. Mrs D disputed the allegations but, on the council's possession claim, the judge granted summary judgment for possession. He was satisfied that the factual dispute could be ventilated in deciding whether the court should exercise its new powers to suspend such orders (Caravan Sites Act 1968 section 4 as amended). Mrs D appealed and argued that the making of the order itself infringed her right to respect for her home (Article 8 Human Rights Act 1998 Schedule 1). The Court of Appeal upheld the possession order. Mrs D's claim that the decision to seek her eviction was unreasonable was "unarguable". For a copy of the judgment, click here.

11 November 2008
Dublin City Council v Gallagher
[2008] IEHC 354
Mrs G had been a council tenant. When she died, her son applied to succeed to the tenancy. Council policy was to allow succession if there had been two years co-residence. It did not accept Mr G had been living with his mother for that period and gave notice to quit. On a claim for a possession warrant, Mr G wanted to prove that he did satisfy the two-year condition but Housing Act 1966 section 62 required a judge to grant possession once a notice to quit had expired. Mr G claimed that that would defeat his right to respect for his home under Article 8 without a proper trial (as required by Article 6). The High Court agreed with him. It found that there was no opportunity to resolve the factual dispute between himself and the council. Judicial review could not make good that deficiency because it did not deal with factual disputes. The judge declared section 62 to be incompatible with the human rights convention. For a copy of the judgment, click here.
This case was decided some months ago but is included here given its general importance.


Housing Law Articles

Procedural Safeguards and Protection of Human Rights
(relating to local authority tenants)
B. Keys Farrell
[2009] Law Society Gazette (Ireland) Jan/Feb issue, p14
Downloadable here

Housing Law Events

This Week

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

This Month

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

19 March 2009
Using the Housing Act 2004
A HLPA Training Seminar
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

21 April 2009
Tolerated Trespassers
A Northern Housing Consortium Event in York
For the details, click here.

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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