Issue 142 - 6th July 2009

Monday 6 July 2009

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The Latest Housing Law News

More reform in Housing: in a parliamentary written statement made on 30 June 2009 the Housing Minister announced a swathe of further changes to housing law and policy including: (1) with immediate effect, all new build council housing will be excluded from the HRA subsidy system which means that councils will retain in full the rent and capital receipts from those homes; (2) a new self-financing scheme of funding for local authority housing will be introduced to replace the HRA, after a period of consultation; (3) future large scale stock transfer proposals will not gain any financial support beyond what would be provided under the self-financing scheme; and (4) the open market HomeBuy scheme is now closed to new applicants and in future the low cost home ownership programme will be directed to schemes which support new build homes. For the full text of the statement, click here.

More protection for tenants and homeowners: a raft of new housing measures was outlined on 2 July 2009 in the Government's White Paper A Better Deal for Consumers Delivering Real Help Now and Change for the Future. Among the commitments made are: (1) inviting the Civil Justice Council to produce in the autumn a definitive statement on the powers available to the court in possession cases and the circumstances in which they can be used; (2) asking the Law Commission to conduct a review of the fundamental principles of residential mortgage law; (3) evaluating by the end of the year the effects of the Mortgage Pre-Action Protocol, which was introduced in late 2008; (4) consulting on proposals to amend the law to ensure that owner-occupied homes cannot be sold by lenders without taking court proceedings; and (5) introducing new legislation at the next opportunity to fill a gap in legal protection for private tenants whose landlords are repossessed. For a copy of the White Paper, click here.

Housing Arrears Pre-Action Scheme: this scheme, funded by the Ministry of Justice, was developed at Norwich County Court in conjunction with Norwich City Council, Shelter and Norfolk Community Law Service to avoid rent possession claims being issued by Norwich City Council. The scheme in Norwich is now being extended to help prospective defendants in mortgage possession cases and the rent arrears scheme has been extended to a further five pilot courts (in Brighton, Clerkenwell & Shoreditch, Durham, Nottingham and Sheffield) where it will run until October 2009. For more details, click here.

Housing and Anti Social Behaviour: in a speech on 2 July 2009 the Home Secretary acknowledged pressure to speed up handling of anti-social behaviour cases by the courts. He said "I know that victims of antisocial behaviour, and frontline professionals feel frustrated by delays in bringing cases to court and getting them concluded. I will explore, with the Secretary of State for Justice, what more can be done to speed this process up - in particular, how we can break down any barriers there might be between the courts and people bringing cases before them. Some of the ideas we might want to look at include better training for practitioners so they can present cases in court themselves where possible, and exploring whether we could set maximum waiting times and limits to the number of times a case could be adjourned." For the full text of the speech, click here.

Help with service charges: since 6 April 2009 housing authorities have been able to offer arrangements to assist leaseholders with the payment of service charges. On 1 July 2009 the Government launched a consultation exercise seeking views on whether there should be a statutory upper limit on any administration fees that housing authorities may wish to charge when offering such equity loan or equity share arrangements. Responses are sought by 23 September 2009. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Mortgage rescue scheme: the mortgage rescue scheme in England has only seen 6 households in mortgage default move towards 'completion' of a buy-out by a housing association in the first five months of the Government's £200m scheme. For the latest monthly statistics, click here.

Encouraging best practice by social housing providers: on 1 July 2009 the Tenant Services Authority invited housing associations, local authorities and ALMOs to make bids of up to £9,000 each for the development of 'local deals' between those landlords and their tenants. The 'deals' are intended to enhance the level of landlord services in response to particular local needs and to strengthen landlord accountabilities to their local communities. Applications must be submitted by 5 August 2009. For more details, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

1 July 2009
Birmingham CC v Ali and Aweys
[2009] UKHL 36
The House of Lords has decided that a local housing authority can: (1) properly decide that an applicant for homelessness assistance is 'homeless' simply because it would not be reasonable for him to continue to occupy his present unsatisfactory home indefinitely and (2) then perform its main housing duty under Part 7 Housing Act 1996 by arranging for the applicant to stay in that accommodation for the short period for which it will be 'suitable' accommodation. A local housing authority will not be performing its duty if it simply accepts the homelessness application and adds the applicant to its allocation scheme for long-term housing. For the full judgment, click here.

1 July 2009
Moran v Manchester CC
[2009] UKHL 36
The House of Lords has decided that a woman who flees domestic violence and is taken-in by a women's refuge normally remains 'homeless' while at the refuge because it is not accommodation that it would be reasonable for her to continue to occupy indefinitely (for the purposes of Housing Act 1996 section 175(3)). For the full judgment, click here.

25 June 2009
Thompson v Humphrey
[2009] EWHC (Ch), [2009] All ER (D) 280 (Jun)
The claimant and defendant had been unmarried partners. Following the breakdown of the relationship, the claimant claimed that property bought in the defendant's name had been bought as a family home for her and her children. She claimed to have a beneficial interest in the house. The High Court rejected her claim. The claimant's evidence had not met the burden necessary to establish an interest after Stack v Dowden.

Housing Law Articles

Pulled in Two Directions
(L&Q v Weaver)
R. Latham
[2009] Inside Housing, 3 July 2009 issue, p29
For the article, click here.

There's no place like home
(McGlynn v Welwyn Hatfield DC and G v Southwark LBC)
T. Bloom and K. Markus
[2009] 159 New Law Journal p953

Spot the Difference
(L&Q v Weaver)
M. Hilditch
[2009] Inside Housing, 3 July 2009 issue, p13
For the article, click here.

Housing Law Consultations

Closing on 20 July 2009
The Tenant Services Authority has extended the deadline for comments on its discussion paper relating to consents for the disposal of housing association homes. For a copy of the discussion paper, 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
A 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.

Closing on 23 September 2009
The consultation on capping any administration fees that housing authorities may wish to charge when offering such equity loan or equity share arrangements to leaseholders needing help with service charges. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Housing Law Events

 

Thursday 9 July 2009 from 18:30 to 20:00
Essential Recent Social Security Cases from the Higher Courts
Garden Court Chambers, 57-50 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3LS
For the details, click here

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.

17 July 2009
Future of the private rented sector
AHAS National Conference
For the details, click here.

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