Issue 151 - 28th September 2009

Monday 28 September 2009

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The Latest Housing Law News

Mortgage Protocol bites this week: from Thursday 1 October 2009 the judges hearing mortgage possession claims will expect to be presented by the lender's representative with two copies of the completed Mortgage Pre-Action Protocol Checklist (Form N123). The new forms are required by a new paragraph 5.5 in the Practice Direction to CPR Part 55 (Possession Claims). The 50th update to the CPR also makes small textual changes to paragraph 6 of the Protocol itself. For a copy of that update, click here.

New mortgage possession claims: also from Thursday 1 October 2009 any new possession claims issued will need to have complied with amended CPR Part 55 (Possession Claims). The rules have been amended to ensure that all occupiers - including tenants - of any mortgaged property subject to possession proceedings are notified of the proceedings and hearing date. A new requirement is also introduced obliging lenders to notify local authorities when possession proceedings are commenced. For access to CPR Part 55, click here.

Legal advice on Housing matters: on 24 September 2009 the Ministry of Justice published its implementation plan for dealing with the recommendations generated by the Study of Legal Advice at Local Level, itself published earlier this year. The plan sets out the steps being taken to research the impact of the move to fixed fees for advice work, concerns about the "cherry-picking" of easy cases, and the work being carried out relating to the development of CLACs and CLANs. For a copy of the implementation plan, click here.

Possession claims in the County Court: the official court statistics for 2008 were published on 24 September 2009. They reveal increases in the numbers of both mortgage arrear and rent possession claims. Bailiffs repossessed 63,000 properties. The number of charging order applications (designed to secure debts against property) jumped by 25% to 165,000. Excluding these cases, only a further 6100 housing claims were started in the county courts. For the full report, click here. For those interested in the latest trends, court statistics for the second quarter of 2009 were released on 24 September 2009. For a copy of that quarterly report, click here.

More help from housing associations (RSLs) for mortgage defaulters: on 24 September 2009 the Housing Minister called for RSLs to step-up the help they provide to mortgage borrowers in trouble. Between April and June 2009, 605 households applied to sell and rent back their homes through the Government's Mortgage Rescue Scheme - but only 46 received an offer from an RSL. He confirmed that grants to RSLs looking to buy and rent back properties to struggling homeowners will be raised from 55% to 65% of the property purchase price with immediate effect. For the statement, click here.

Consumers of Social Housing: on 21 September 2009 the Tenant Services Authority published Existing Tenants Survey 2008: comparisons by landlord type and over time. The document contains a snapshot of the state of tenant satisfaction, and dissatisfaction, in the social housing sector. Among a mass of data produced, the survey team found that 80% believe being a tenant of a housing association, local authority or an ALMO is better than owning your own home or renting from a private landlord and that 92% of shared owners have not increased their equity share since purchasing their property, and 25% have been living in their home for at least ten years. For the full report, click here.

Homelessness Update: the September 2009 issue of the HAT Update from the Homelessness Action Team at the Tenant Services Authority contains items on Allocations, Illegal Occupation, Overcrowding and Under-occupation among other topics. To download a copy, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

15 September 2009
Gauci v Malta
[2009] ECHR 1280
The applicant owned a flat. From 1975 to 2000 it was let under a 25-year agreement. When that expired, the tenants were asked to leave. They then exercised their right to a statutory tenancy pursuant to a 1979 Act. Under that Act the maximum rent payable by statutory tenants was 420 euro per annum. The market rent was 280 euro per month. The applicant discovered that the tenants had other accommodation and he wanted the flat back for his daughter. But under the 1979 Act he had no ground for possession. The tenants were likely to remain indefinitely and the tenancy carried succession rights. He complained that his right to his enjoyment of his flat had been lost contrary to Art 1 Prot 1 of the European Convention. The European Court agreed. It held that the rent and security of tenure provisions of the 1979 Act cast a disproportionate and excessive burden on the applicant. He had no procedural means to get back his flat, the tenancy could run on indefinitely with no certainty that he could ever recover possession, and meanwhile the tenants were only paying an exceptionally low rent. The court awarded over 16,000 euro compensation for his loss to date, and costs. For the judgment, click here.

18 September 2009
R(NA) v Croydon LBC
[2009] EWHC (Admin); [2009] All ER (D) 117, CO/1939/2009
The claimant entered the UK as an unaccompanied minor seeking asylum. He sought accommodation and other assistance from the council claiming that he was 15 and producing an Afghan identity card to that effect. The council concluded that he was probably over 17 and that assessment was upheld on review. The High Court quashed the assessments. The review decision had been delayed in breach of the council's procedures and it had been conducted unfairly. No concerns about the identity document had been put to the claimant and no adult had accompanied him to the review interview. The initial assessment had been flawed by a mistake about the identity card and undue reliance on the claimant's physical appearance.

25 September 2009
Complaint concerning Corby Borough Council
Local Government Ombudsman Report 08 004 517
Following receipt of a complaint from Mrs C, the council's anti-social behaviour staff wrote to her neighbour, Mrs A. The letter ought not to have been sent. The Ombudsman said that: "it accused her and her visitors of "constantly" blocking the access to Mrs C's property without a clear evidential basis for this and it said that she was not maintaining her garden without any evidence at all. It also said that the extractor on her cooker hood caused a nuisance to Mrs C without consideration as to the extent to which this was used, the setting on which it would be used and without the expert advice of Environmental Health Officers who can advise on matters of "statutory nuisance". While I would defend the right of any Council to remind its citizens of their responsibility not to cause a nuisance to others, to state as fact that nuisance was being caused as opposed to alleged, when there was no factual basis for this, was maladministration." For this and other failings, the Ombudsman recommended compensation of £1000. For a copy of the full report, click here.

Housing Law Consultations

Closing on 9 October 2009
The consultation on the Government's proposed statutory directions to the TSA as to the standards it sets for social landlords. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Closing on 14 October 2009
The consultation on proposals to extend the protection of tenants who find themselves facing eviction when their landlords default on mortgage payments. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Closing on 23 October 2009
The consultation on the new Housing Allocation Code of Guidance for England. For a copy of the consultation draft, click here.

Closing on 30 October 2009
The consultation on extending the remit of the new social housing regulator (the Tenant Services Authority) to cover council housing as well as housing associations. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Closing on 26 November 2009
The consultation exercise on proposed changes to the Approved Document for Part J (Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems) of the Building Regulations. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Housing Law Events

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

30 September 2009
Using the Housing Act 2004 (HMOs to TDS)
A HLPA training seminar
For the details, click here.

8 October 2009
Obtaining Accommodation outside of the Housing Act 1996
A Garden Court Chambers evening seminar
For the details, click here.

9 October 2009
Housing & Support for Migrants
A LAG training day
For the details, click here.

13 October 2009
Social Housing Allocation
A Lime Legal 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.

15 October 2009
Introduction to Disrepair
A HLPA training seminar
For the details, click here.

15 October 2009
Housing for Persons from Abroad
A Garden Court Chambers evening seminar.
For the details, click here.

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