Issue 127 - 16th March 2009

Monday 16 March 2009

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The Latest Housing Law News

Rent increases in social housing: tenants of social housing may be forgiven for being confused about the increased rents payable under their tenancies from April this year. Both the Government and the Tenant Services Authority have recently reminded councils and housing associations respectively that there is no expectation that they should levy the maximum guideline rent increase. Indeed, for councils the guideline increase has been halved. For the latest government announcement, click here. For the latest TSA announcement, click here. The journal Inside Housing has suggested that it will cost each local authority about £10,000 to rescind earlier rent increase notices and issue new ones. For more details on that estimate, click here.

Empty Homes: the Government estimates that 3% of the current housing stock is lying empty and that 293,728 homes in England have been empty for more than 6 months. To support measures to fill these empty homes, the Government has endorsed new guidance published by the Empty Homes Agency encouraging local authorities to use their statutory powers to bring empty homes back into use. For the ministerial announcement, click here. For the new EHA guidance, click here.

Homelessness: the latest statistics on Homelessness in England were published on 12 March 2009. They show that in the course of the 6 years since 2003 the level of acceptances of the full housing duty has fallen by 62%. They also indicate that there are still 330 teenagers aged 16 or 17 placed in B&B accommodation by local housing authorities. For the statistical report, click here. For the ministerial statement on the figures, click here.

Tolerated Trespassers: ahead of the commencement of the new arrangements for tolerated trespassers (expected on 6 April 2009), the Government has had to decide what to do about those trespassers occupying homes that have been transferred to new owners (for example, under large scale voluntary transfers). It sent out 500 copies of a consultation paper in Autumn 2008 but received only 18 responses. For a summary of those responses, click here. In the light of them, it has decided to use regulation-making powers to give each transferred tolerated trespasser a replacement tenancy with the closest similarity to their previous tenancy that the new owner is able to grant. For the details, set out in an Impact Assessment, click here.


The Latest Housing Case Law

13 March 2009
R(M) v Hackney LBC
[2009] EWHC Admin, [2009] All ER (D) 146 (Mar)
The claimant was an elderly disabled council tenant. He applied for a transfer from his present home to a ground floor flat. He was awarded medical priority and offered a ground floor flat. When he realised that the flat offered was near a school playground, he alerted the council to the fact that he was the subject of a sexual offences prevention order. He had several earlier convictions for sexual offences against children. The council withdrew the offer and decided that the claimant was not eligible for consideration under its allocation scheme at all. The claimant sought a judicial review, contending that the council had not given sufficient reasons and had not acted consistently with its own allocation scheme. The High Court dismissed the claim. The judge held that sufficient reasons had been given and the council had not acted unreasonably.

12 March 2009
R(JL) v Islington LBC
[2009] EWHC Admin, [2009] All ER (D) 140 (Mar)
The claimant was a disabled child receiving extensive support services from the council. The council decided to adopt new eligibility criteria for its support services and, when those criteria were applied to JL, his services were significantly reduced. The High Court allowed a judicial review of that decision. The council had been wrong to change the services being provided to JL without a re-assessment of his needs. Moreover, the eligibility criteria failed to distinguish between cases in which children were being assisted under the absolute duties imposed by Children Act 1989 section 20 (on which they could have no lawful impact) and cases being handled under discretionary powers such as those in Children Act 1989 section 17.

11 March 2009
Ofulue v Bossert
[2009] UKHL 16
The owners of a house brought a claim for possession against the occupiers. The occupiers defended on the basis that they had acquired title to the house by more than 12 years adverse possession. The owners sought to defeat that defence by reliance on an admission that the occupiers had made about the owners' title in without prejudice correspondence in earlier proceedings. The House of Lords held, by a majority, that the "without prejudice rule" prevented the owners from relying on the admission of their title. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

11 March 2009
R(M) v Lambeth LBC
R(A) v Croydon LBC

The House of Lords has granted leave to appeal to the claimants in these important cases concerning age assessments for young people seeking accommodation under Children Act 1989 section 20.

9 March 2009
R(Sanders) v Harlow DC
[2009] EWHC (Admin), [2009] All ER (D) 86 (Mar)
The council decided to reduce its discretionary spending on the funding of welfare rights advisory services from £500k to £100k per annum. The committee papers referred to the possible impact on social inclusion and equal opportunities. In a claim for judicial review, the High Court quashed the decision. It held that the council had not shown that it had had due regard to the express duties to promote equality of opportunity and eliminate discrimination set out in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

12 December 2008
Pullen v Dublin City Council
[2008] IEHC 379
The claimants were council tenants. Having received complaints of anti-social behaviour relating to them, the council served notice to quit and, when that expired, sought a warrant for possession. The court had no alternative but to grant that order on proof of service of a valid notice to quit (Housing Act 1966 section 62). The claimants claimed that the council had breached their convention rights under Articles 6, 8 and Article 1 of Protocol 1 by seeking the termination of their tenancy and possession by a process which did not allow them to be heard by an independent tribunal on the issue of whether they had committed the acts of anti-social behaviour. The High Court in Ireland agreed and held that the council had not acted in a way compatible with the human rights of the claimants.
This case was decided some months ago but is included here given its general importance.
For a copy of the judgment, click here.


Housing Law Articles

Ground Offensive
(relating to rent arrear possession claims against assured tenants)
M. Walsh
[2009] 159 NLJ 339

Possession, possession. possession
(relating to mortgage possession claims)
S. Edwards
[2009] 132 Adviser March/April issue, p50

Conditional possession orders after Knowsley HT v White
R. Latham
[2009] March Legal Action 27

The writing on the wall
(relating to tenancy agreements)
C. Fuller
[2009] 132 Adviser March/April issue, p17

Recent Developments in Housing Law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2009] March Legal Action 21


Housing Law Events

This Week

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

This Month

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

28 April 2009
Social Housing Conference
Organised by Hardwicke Building
For the details, click here.

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



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