Issue 141 – 29th June 2009

Tuesday 30 June 2009

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The Latest Housing Law News

More Law on Social Housing: today (29 June 2009) the Prime Minister announced further changes in the law relating to social housing as part of the Building Britain's Future programme The four specific proposals are: (1) a change in the rules for allocating social housing, enabling local authorities to give more priority to local people and those who have spent a long time on a waiting list; (2) expansion of Choice Based Lettings nationwide and support to tenants who need to move to take up the offer of a new job; (3) an autumn crackdown on housing 'fraud', freeing up homes for those in need; and (4) reforming the council housing finance system to allow local authorities to keep money from their own council house sales and rents. For the full Building Britain's Future report, click here. For the Housing Minister's supplementary statement, click here.

Housing Possession Cases: the Communities and Local Government department presently funds 76 county court duty desks for possession days in county courts in England & Wales. On 22 June 2009 the Housing Minister announced that he was doubling the funding for the schemes, up to £1.5m. These schemes are separate from and additional to those funded by the Legal Services Commission. For the Minister's announcement, click here.

Housing & Anti-social behaviour: on 19 June 2009 the Government published a Summer 2009 progress report from the Youth Taskforce which is leading the national strategy to tackle anti-social behaviour. The report covers Intensive intervention Projects, Family Intervention Projects and progress with the Youth Crime Action plan. For a copy of the report, click here.

Homelessness & RSLs: the Homelessness Action Team at the TSA has just published its June 2009 Update covering mortgage rescue, possession prevention and private sector reform. For a copy, click here.

Redress for poor service in Housing: in the 2008 White Paper Communities in control: real people, real power the Government promised to commission a review into redress for citizens when their council services fail to meet agreed standards. The review team published its findings on 19 June 2009. It looked at the experience of service and redress provision from the customer's viewpoint and how a customer-focused approach can be embedded in the culture of local service providers, to ensure services deliver first time as well as deal better with complaints. For the review team report, click here. http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/communities/pdf/1258299.pdf For the tool-kit they have produced to help local councils to improve customer service, click here. . For the White paper, click here.

New housing laws for Northern Ireland: on 23 June 2009 the Housing (Amendment) Bill 2009 passed its second stage in the NI Assembly. The Bill would introduce rights of review and appeal for the homeless, require production of homelessness strategies, amend the definition of an HMO and deal with abandoned introductory tenancies. For a copy of the debate, click here.

New consultation on housing benefit rules: on 24 June the Government began a consultation on proposals for draft secondary legislation that would remove the up to £15 excess Housing Benefit in cases where the Local Housing Allowance rate is higher than the contractual rent. The change was announced in the 2009 Budget Report on 22 April 2009. Responses are sought by 10 September 2009. For the consultation paper, click here.

 

The Latest Housing Case Law

24 June 2009
Austin v Southwark LBC
House of Lords
An appeal committee has granted Mr Austin leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal decision that he could not succeed to his late brother's council tenancy because the brother had breached the terms of a suspended possession order. For the Court of Appeal decision, click here.

24 June 2009
Complaint against Havering LBC
Local Government Ombudsman
The complainant was a private sector tenant who accepted the tenancy of a council flat. At the date the tenancy started there were problems with the gas supply, major gas leaks and, as a result, no heating or hot water. It was two months before these matters were remedied during which time the tenant was "given the run around" by the council's ALMO and had to continue paying rent on his private flat. The Ombudsman found maladministration in that the flat had not been in lettable condition and recommended over £1500 compensation. For a copy of the investigation report, click here.

24 June 2009
Reeves v Blake
[2009] EWCA Civ 611
R and B were adjoining homeowners. B began excavation works close to the boundary between the properties. R prepared an application for an injunction to stop the work but the claim was never issued because B gave undertakings to cease work pending an award under the Party Wall etc Act 1996. That award dealt with the issue of the works but also covered the costs of the prospective litigation. The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of a judge that awards under the Act could not deal with costs of other prospective litigation between adjoining owners. For the transcript, click here.

23 June 2009
Central Bedfordshire Council v Taylor
[2009] EWCA Civ 613
The council owned the freehold of residential premises. It had let them to a district council that had then sublet to a housing association that in turn had allowed about 40 homeless persons (including the defendant) to occupy under assured shorthold tenancies. After all the leases and sub-leases and short tenancies had expired, the council sought possession as owner. The defendant had no defence other than to rely on his right to respect for his home (article 8 of schedule 1 to the Human Rights Act 1998). The Court of Appeal upheld a possession order. While the council had to have regard to the facts known to them (including the personal circumstances of the occupiers), its decision to press for possession could not be faulted given that the occupiers had no statutory right to priority for housing and by the date of trial had continued to occupy for two years after the leases had expired. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

19 June 2009
Holland v Secretary of State for Communities
[2009] EWHC Admin [2009] All ER (D) 216 (Jun)
The claimants were gypsies. They owned a field that had been divided into 16 plots on which the stationed mobile homes without planning permission. The council served an enforcement notice prompting applications for planning permission that were refused. After taking account of Circular 01/2006, an inspector upheld the notices and refusals of permission. The High Court dismissed an appeal. The inspector had been entitled to take account of highway safety issues, impact on outlook, noise and disturbance and the cumulative impact of granting individual permissions. He had balanced those against the claimants' needs and reached an unimpeachable decision.

19 June 2009
R(McCaw) v Westminster Magistrates Court
[2008] EWHC 1504 (Admin) and [2008] EWHC 1503 (Admin)
The claimant claimed that the development of a local site was causing environmental pollution and was a statutory nuisance contrary to Part III Environmental Protection Act 1990. She began a prosecution of the developer under section 82 of the 1990 Act and applied to join other residents as claimants. That application was refused by the magistrates and the claimant sought judicial review and a protective costs order. The High Court refused to make a protective costs order notwithstanding the need to take a flexible approach to environmental cases. It held that the judicial review arising from a procedural ruling in the magistrates court did not raise a wider public interest issue.

Housing Law Articles

The trouble with Malcolm
(Malcolm v Lewisham LBC)
E. Williamson
[2009] 159 New Law Jnl 912

The end of a legislation-made plague
(Tolerated trespassers)
S. Murdoch
[2009] 925 Estates Gazette 135

 

Housing Law Consultations

Closing on 1 July 2009
The Treasury Select Committee inquiry into mortgage arrears and repossessions. Written submissions needed by 12 noon on 1st July 2009. For more details, click here.

Closing on 31 July 2009
Views are invited on the issues relating to costs in housing litigation by Lord Justice Jackson's review of civil litigation costs. His Preliminary Report contains a Housing Claims chapter (Chapter 31 in Volume 1) canvassing a range of issues. For the Preliminary Report, click here.

Closing on 7 August 2009
A consultation exercise relating to the private rented sector is currently underway. It covers the proposed national registration scheme for private landlords and the proposed regulation of letting agencies and managing agents. For the consultation paper, click here.

Closing on 31 August 2009
The consultation on the London Housing Strategy is now underway. For a copy of the draft strategy, click here.

Closing on 8 September 2009
The TSA consultation on new national housing standards will close. For a zip file containing all the consultation and background documents, click here.

Closing on 17 September 2009
The consultation on proposals for draft secondary legislation that would remove the up to £15 excess Housing Benefit in cases where the Local Housing Allowance rate is higher than the contractual rent. For the consultation paper, click here.

Closing on 17 September 2009
Consultation on proposals to modify Part F (Means of Ventilation) of the Building Regulations to address the problem of ventilation being reduced by heat-loss prevention measures. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Housing Law Events

10 July 2009
Introduction to Housing Law
A Legal Action Group training event
For the details, click here.

15 July 2009
Housing Law: the Legal Update 2009
Northern Housing Consortium Conference (York)
For the details, click here.

15 July 2009
Relationship Breakdown & Housing
An HLPA meeting in London
For the details, click here.

 

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