Issue 131 - 20th April 2009

Monday 20 April 2009

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The Latest Housing Law News

Social housing allocation: new statutory guidance for local housing authorities on housing allocation has been issued by the Secretary of State in exercise of her powers under section 169 of the Housing Act 1996. The guidance is contained in the new CLG Circular 04/2009 Housing Allocations: Members of the Armed Forces published on 9 April 2009. The circular: (1) gives effect to a commitment to issue guidance about the priority to be given to seriously injured service personnel; and (2) takes account of amendments to section 199 of the Housing Act 1996 made by section 315 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 which change the application of the local connection test in respect of members of the armed forces. For a copy of the Circular, click here.

Homelessness strategies: from 13 April 2009 the exemption from the statutory duty to produce a local homelessness strategy has been extended. Now any English local authority which has a 3 star, 4 star, or excellent rating is exempt. For a copy of the ministerial order making the change, click here. For a copy of the official memorandum explaining the reasons for the change, click here.

Local housing allowance: to supplement the existing Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Guidance Manual, the DWP has published a Local Housing Allowance Guidance Manual. To download a copy of the manual, click here.

Family intervention tenancies: the National Housing Federation has produced guidance for its housing association members on the use of these new forms of tenancy. For a copy of the guidance, click here.
Service charges: if a tenant pays service charges to a landlord or managing agent and later they (or the bank in which they have placed the monies) become insolvent, can the tenant get the money back? That question is addressed in the new guidance note Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) Treatment of service charges for residential property published last week. For a copy, click here.

Sale and rent-back: homeowners in mortgage difficulties who are tempted by arrangements under which they remain in their homes as tenants (of companies to whom the home is sold) may believe that they can claim housing benefit for the rent. The position is clarified in a new HB Circular (A5/2009) Sale and rent back arrangements which appends a leaflet for distribution to homeowners. For a copy of the Circular, click here.

Gas safety in HMOs: a local authority can require production within 7 days of a gas engineer's safety certificate from the owner or manager of an HMO. From 13 April 2009 new regulations have amended the definition of "recognised engineer" for this purpose. For a copy of the regulations, click here. For a copy of the official memorandum explaining the reasons for the change, click here.

Parenting orders: the Criminal Justice & Immigration Act 2008 section 125 was brought into force on 1 April 2009. Section 125 extends the list of local authorities in England which may enter into a parenting contract or apply for a parenting order. For a copy of the commencement order, click here.

Overcrowding: new research published last week by the National Housing Federation predicts that the figure for statutorily overcrowded households will rise to 2.65 million within two years - as a lack of mortgages and rising unemployment forces families to stay in properties that are far too small for them. For more details, click here.

Home information packs: the introduction earlier this month of new additional requirements for the content of Home Information Packs has prompted the Government to issue revised guidance for trading standards officers at local authorities (and the Office of Fair Trading) on enforcement of the HIP rules. For a copy of the revised guidance, click here.

Housing Work on Legal Aid: on 16 April 2009 the Legal Services Commission published a summary of the more than 350 responses it has received to its proposals for civil contracts for legal aid work after 2010. For a copy of the summary, click here.

County court bailiffs: from 30 April 2009 the Distress for Rent Rules 1988 will be amended to require lists of county court bailiffs to be published on the internet and to require applications to act as a bailiff to be accompanied by a certificate about previous convictions. For the new rules, click here. For a copy of the official memorandum explaining the reasons for the change, click here.

Council house rents: the consultation exercise on Housing Revenue Account amendments to reflect reduced 2009/2010 rent increases will close on 24 April 2009. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

6 April 2009
Rutherford v HSBC
[2009] EWHC 733 (QB)
The claimant brought an action against the bank, for recovery (with interest) of thousands of pounds of bank changes that he had paid, claiming that the charges were unfair. His claim, along with thousands of others, was stayed to await the outcome of a test case brought by the Office of Fair Trading. When faced with a claim for possession of his home brought by a mortgage lender, he applied for the stay to be lifted so that he could use the recouped bank charges to help clear his mortgage arrears. The judge refused to lift the stay and the appeal court refused to disturb that decision. Whether or not to lift a stay was a case management matter and the appeal court would not normally interfere with the judge's exercise of discretion. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

9 April 2009
HSE v Adrian Ellis
Colchester Magistrates Court
The Health & Safety Executive brought a prosecution against the defendant (a former landlord) in respect of five breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998. On a guilty plea, the court imposed:

  • a £2,500 fine for carrying out work on a gas boiler without being competent to do so, breaching Regulation 3(1);
  • a £2,000 fine for the same offence at a different property, likewise breaching Regulation 3(1);
  • a £3,300 fine for neglecting to ensure a gas boiler was maintained in a safe condition, breaching Regulation 36(2)(a). The boiler was condemned by a HSE specialist.
  • a £2,000 fine for failing to ensure a record of any safety check in respect of a gas boiler was made and retained, breaching Regulation 36(3)(c);
  • a £1,000 fine for neglecting to ensure a copy of a safety check record was given to a tenant, breaching Regulation 36(6)(a);and ordered payment of £20,000 within 56 days with 12 months imprisonment in default. For more details, click here.


Latest Housing Law Articles

Landlord liability for acts of its tenants

F. Sadiq and J. Bates
(2009) 12 Journal of Housing Law (Issue 3) p48

All dressed-up and nowhere to go
(Fast track trial costs in housing disrepair and other cases)
M. Fowles
(2009) 74 Personal Injury Law Journal (April 2009 issue) p20

Article 8 - la lutta continua
HHJ Madge
(2009) 12 Journal of Housing Law (Issue 3) p43
For the text, click here.

Into the Void
(Empty Dwelling Management Orders)
D. Underwood
[2009] Inside Housing, 17 April, p13
For the text, click here.

He who lives by the sword
(Newport CC v Charles)
S. Smith
(2009) 12 Journal of Housing Law (Issue 3) p54

A tale of two trespassers - Part 1
Prof. I. Loveland
(2009) European Human Rights Law Review (Issue 2) p148

Social landlords and service charges: Part 2
H. Carr
(2009) 12 Journal of Housing Law (Issue 3) p59


Housing Law Events

This Month

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 chambers
For the details click here.

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

Next Month

5 May 2009
Household Formation
University of Oxford Housing Seminar
For the details click here

15 May 2009
Social Housing Law & Practice
A Lime Legal Conference
For the details click here

20 May 2009
HLPA Meeting in London
For the details click here

21 May 2009
Housing Benefit Update for Housing Practitioners
A HLPA London Seminar
For the details click here

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