Issue 143 - 13th July 2009

Monday 13 July 2009

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The Latest Housing Law News

Housing Possession Claims: in the first quarter of this year (January to March 2009) over 61,000 possession claims were brought in the county courts of England & Wales and over 38,000 warrants for possession were issued. Both figures represent increases against the last quarter of 2008. The details were given in a statistical report issued by the Ministry of Justice and published on 9 July 2009. For the full report, click here.

Duty Schemes on Possession Day: on 30 June 2009 the Legal Services Commission published its response to (and conclusions on) its consultation about Civil Bid Rounds for 2010 Contracts The paper sets out the face-to-face civil legal aid services the LSC intends to commission from 2010 when the existing Unified Contract (Civil) ends. The paper also deals with LSC-funded county court duty schemes. All the existing schemes will be extended to run to September 2010. They will then be subjected to a tendering exercise in which only Housing contractors will be able to bid, with preference going to those holding combined Housing/Debt/Welfare Benefits contracts. For a copy of the paper, click here.

Fire safety in social housing: on 7 July 2009 the Housing Minister wrote to local housing authorities providing an update on the investigation into the fire that took place in Camberwell, London, on 3 July 2009 and drawing attention to measures that social landlords can take. For a copy of the letter, click here. He wrote again on 10 July 2009 identifying a particular feature of similar blocks that may need attention. For a copy of that letter, click here. The Tenant Services Authority has written to RSLs providing advice to them on practical measures they should take. For a copy of that letter, click here. For the dedicated website indicating the other measures that central government is taking arising from the Camberwell fire, click here.

Housing and Migrants (1): on 9 July 2009 the Government announced that the £70m Migration Impacts Fund was being distributed between almost 200 projects selected from over 330 proposals. Some relate to private sector housing. The press notice said: "There is no evidence of unfair access to migrants in social housing. However, in some areas local authorities report concerns that the housing used by migrants can be overcrowded or in poor condition. This can lead to local tensions and cohesion issues. Funding is being targeted at this by cracking-down on rogue landlords that will improve the quality of neighbourhoods for all residents." No further details were given but for the full statement, click here.

Housing and Migrants (2): A new report published by the Equality & Human Rights Commission on 7 July 2009 shows that the vast majority of people who live in social housing in Britain were born in the UK. The study found that less than two per cent of all social housing residents are people who have moved to Britain in the last five years and that nine out of ten people who live in social housing were born in the UK. For a copy of the research report, click here. The EHRC findings echo those of the National Housing Federation which said on 1 July 2009 that the claim that migrants were increasingly jumping the queue for affordable housing at the expense of local people was a 'dangerous myth'. The Federation found that around 4.6% of housing association lettings in England went to migrants last year - and the figure was virtually identical in the previous two years. For the Federation's statement, click here. This and similar material has been used by some commentators to suggest that in its recent pronouncements the Government has irresponsibly legitimised the false perception of migrant queue-jumping. See, for example. L. Davies "Same old blame game", available by clicking here.

Choice in social housing: although the notion of "choice" has recently featured strongly in social housing allocation it has appeared less relevant in the context of Social Housing management since the demise of the Tenant's Choice scheme -originally contained in the Housing Act 1988. A new report, Choosing Choice, published for the Tenant Services Authority, indicates how the TSA could use its statutory powers to secure more choice for tenants after the allocation process. For a copy of the report, click here.

Accommodation for failed asylum seekers: this week the UK Borders Agency launched a pilot scheme to provide immediate accommodation to street homeless failed asylum seekers on the same day that an application is received. The pilot is based in Birmingham. More details of this and other developments relating to "section 4 support" are given in the July 2009 issue of the Asylum Support Appeals Project Newsletter. For a copy, click here.
Housing Benefit backdating: When changes to the HB/CTB backdating rules were introduced in October 2008, the Government said that it would review their impact at the end of 2009 before making a yet further reduction in the maximum backdating period for working age claimants from six to three months. Until 31 July 2009 the DWP will be collecting evidence to inform this review and has provided a questionnaire which housing advisers and rights agencies can use to submit views, case studies and other evidence. For the details, click here.

Housing-related support: a Government commissioned research report published on 6 July 2009 has estimated that the £1.6bn invested in housing-related support through the Supporting People programme has saved other services £3.41bn - through reduced costs in homelessness, tenancy failure, crime, health and residential care packages. For a copy of the report, click here.

Sheltered housing: The Government's ministerial working group on sheltered housing has met twice already this year and is identifying ways to make a positive difference to the lives of people living in sheltered housing. The working group brings together representatives of sheltered housing residents, providers and service commissioners. For its membership and the latest list of projects and initiatives it is considering, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

10 July 2009
Brent LBC v Stokes
[2009] EWHC 1426 (QB), [2009] All ER (D) 105 (Jul)
The defendant was an Irish traveller. She wished to live on the same gypsy and traveller council site as her mother. Although there were no vacant pitches, she moved her mobile home onto a vacant part of the site designated for office accommodation. After tolerating her trespass for some time, the council sought possession. The defendant claimed that the site had become her home and that her eviction would infringe her right to respect under Human Rights Act 1998 Schedule 1 Article 8. A judge made an immediate possession order and the High Court rejected an appeal. The defendant had not shown that she had a seriously arguable case that the council's decision to evict was unreasonable. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

10 July 2009
Office of Fair Trading v Foxtons
[2009] EWHC (ChD) 1681
The OFT claimed that certain standard terms used by Foxtons, when contracting to provide letting and management services for landlords, were unfair. The High Court accepted that unfair terms included: (1) requiring a landlord to pay commission where a tenant continued to occupy the property after the initial fixed period of the tenancy had expired - even if Foxtons played no part in persuading the tenant to stay, and did not collect the rent or manage the property; (2) requiring a landlord to pay commission to Foxtons even after it had sold the property and; (3) allowing Foxtons to receive a full estate agents' commission for sale of the property to a tenant. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

7 July 2009
Heffernan v Hackney LBC
[2009] EWCA Civ 665
In 1996 the council served statutory notices under the Housing Act 1985 Part 6 requiring the claimant landlord to repair a house that he rented-out as flats. When the notices were not complied with, the council began a prosecution but that was abandoned when it was found that the notices had not also been served (as they should have been) on the claimant's mortgage lender. The claimant then brought a civil claim for damages to recover his alleged loss in undertaking works to the property pursuant to the 'invalid' notices. A judge dismissed the claim as he was not satisfied of the financial loss alleged by the landlord either in respect of the cost of the works or the loss of rent. The Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal but also expressed doubts as to whether liability could have been established, even if loss had been proved. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

6 July 2009
Clift v Slough BC
[2009] EWHC 1550 (QB)
The claimant complained to the council about the way in which it had responded to a report by her of anti-social behaviour she had witnessed. The council's complaints investigator rejected her complaint but was concerned about the claimant's own behaviour towards council staff which he considered violent and threatening. He added her name to the council's Register of Violent Persons, notified council staff and partner agencies of that fact, and cautioned them to be accompanied when visiting her and to take other measures when dealing with her. The claimant sued for libel and the council relied on qualified privilege - in particular its duty to protect its staff. She also alleged malice by the complaints officer. The High Court's judgment contains an exhaustive consideration of the issues, in particular in the light of the Human Rights and Data Protection Acts. The jury rejected the claim of malice but also rejected the defence of justification. They awarded £12,000 compensation. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

Housing Law Articles

Recent Developments in Housing Law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2009] July Legal Action 30

Housing Update
S. McKeown
[2009] 153 Solicitors Journal No.26 p19

ASBOs and Other Civil Orders (Recent Developments)
M. Sikand
[2009] July Legal Action 20

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

This Week

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.

Future Events

7 September 2009
Recent Developments in Housing Law
A Legal Action Group Training Day
For the details, click here

15 September 2009
Tenancy Agreements
A CIH Conference in London
For the details, click here.

16 September 2009
Community Care & Housing
An HLPA meeting in London
For the details, click here.

29 September 2009
Housing Allocation & Homelessness
A Jordan Publishing Conference in London
For the details, click here.

14 October 2009
Anti Social Behaviour & Social Housing
A Lime Legal Conference in London
For the details, click here.


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