Issue 156 - 9th November 2009

Monday 9 November 2009

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The Latest Housing Law News

Housing and anti-social behaviour: on 31 October 2009 the Prime Minister said "every single one of the most chaotic families in Britain will be subject to a family intervention project with clear rules and clear sanctions, if the rules are broken. Every time a young person breaches an anti-social behaviour order, there will be an order, not just on them but on their parents as well, to send a clear message that there will be tough and uncompromising consequences if you break the rules". For a copy of the transcript of his podcast, click here.
The policy is likely to lead to a substantial increase in the number of Family Intervention Tenancies (FITs). Guidance and case studies on the use of FITs are given in ASB Focus Issue 6 (November 2009). Click here for a copy.

Housing for teenagers: local authorities in London have been participating in a survey to gauge the effect of the House of Lords judgment in R(G) v Southwark LBC dealing with the responsibility of children's services departments for homeless young people. On 13 October 2009 the London Councils' Leaders' Committee noted that the case had major national costs implications and asked that the Local Government Association take up the implications for local authorities with central government. For the officer's report, click here. For the minutes, click here.

Housing benefit: under changes introduced last week, child benefit is now disregarded as income for Housing Benefit purposes. For the amending regulations, click here. For Circular A17/2009, detailing the changes, click here. For the November 2009 issue of Housing Benefit Direct, click here.

Homelessness and Housing for ex-offenders: on 2 November 2009 the Government published Homelessness prevention and meeting housing need for (ex)offenders: A guide to practice. For a copy, click here.

Housing facts & figures: on 6 November 2009 the Government published Housing and Planning Key Facts - November 2009. For a copy of this useful digest, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

6 November 2009
R(Weaver) v London & Quadrant Housing Trust
Supreme Court
An appeal panel of three Justices of the Supreme Court has refused the Trust permission to appeal against the Court of Appeal judgment that the Trust's management and termination of a tenancy was not a 'private' act and that, accordingly, the Human Rights Act 1998 applied to such an act because it was a body undertaking certain public functions. For the Court of Appeal judgment, click here.

5 November 2009
Central Bedfordshire v Taylor
Supreme Court
A panel of three Justices has refused the occupiers' application for permission to appeal against a decision that their eviction would not infringe their human rights. For a copy of the Court of Appeal judgment, click here.

5 November 2009
South Pacific Mortgage Ltd v Heath
[2009] EWCA Civ 1135
The defendant owned a house with £19,000 outstanding on the mortgage. She wanted to raise additional funds so borrowed £29,000 under a new mortgage by which the earlier mortgage was redeemed and the balance paid to her. At the time, loans over £25,000 were not regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974. She defaulted on the new mortgage and the claimant brought possession proceedings. By defence, she asserted that there had been two agreements for the purposes of the 1974 Act in the arrangement for £29,000 credit - a loan designated to repay the earlier mortgage and a loan for unspecified purposes. As each was for less than £25,000, the Act had applied but not been complied with. The Court of Appeal held that there had been a single agreement to which the Act had not applied. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

23 October 2009
Scrowther v Watermill Properties
[2009] EW Misc 6
The claimant had been a secure council tenant. She had then exercised the right to buy her house at a discount. Three years later, unemployed and heavily in debt, she entered into a form of equity release scheme under which she sold the house to the defendants, retained sufficient to clear her debts, released 25% of the purchase price to the defendants and continued in occupation as an assured shorthold tenant of the defendants at an above market rent. She quickly fell into arrears with her rent and the defendants obtained and executed a possession order. She then claimed return of the retained 25% (amounting to over £30,000). The defendants asserted that it was not repayable where there had been breach of the tenancy agreement. The court ordered return to the claimant of the retained sum. The agreement had not complied with Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989 section 2 and its terms were not fair in breach of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

22 October 2009
R(S) v Hampshire CC
[2009] EWHC Admin 2537
The claimant was a very severely disabled boy aged 11. He lived with his mother. His needs under the Children Act 1989 section 17 were assessed in 2008 but the assessment was subject to a complaint which was upheld. In 2009 a further assessment was produced, reaching similar conclusions to the earlier one despite changes in the claimant's circumstances. He sought judicial review. The High Court refused permission to seek judicial review. The claimant had available, and should have again used, the alternative remedy of a complaint under the complaints procedure in the Children Act 1989 Representations Procedure (England) Regulations 2006. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

21 October 2009
Complaint against Waltham Forest LBC
LGO investigation 08/016/986
The complainant was a teenager. She had been a victim of rape when 13 and at age 15 had been sexually assaulted by a neighbour. She lived with her mother but their relationship had broken down. The council agreed to move the family away from the neighbourhood in light of the neighbour's abuse but the mother refused. The complainant then left the family home. When she applied as homeless, the council found her a place in a hostel and then in bed and breakfast accommodation where many of the other residents were older men. When she was offered a tenancy by a housing association, she was provided with no support in establishing her new home. She complained through the council's complaints procedure about her treatment but the children's services department did not accept all the adverse findings made by a review panel. The Local Government Ombudsman found lamentable failings in the delivery of services under Children Act 1989. Only when the first complaint had been made had the council accepted that she was a "child in need". There had been contact with social services for four years while the complainant had been a teenager. She had dealt with six different social workers and despite her background as a troubled and depressed young person who had suffered serious sexual abuse, the council's "Children's Services continually turned her away". Compensation of £7000 was recommended. For a copy of the investigation report, click here.

13 October 2009
Sedgefield BC v Dickinson
[2009] EWHC 2758 (Admin)
The defendant had been in receipt of housing benefit. When the council discovered he had also been working and in receipt of working tax credits, it brought a prosecution for failure to notify a change of circumstances contrary to Social Security Administration Act 1992 section 112(1)(a). The defendant's case was that he had notified five previous changes in circumstances and had notified the latest one by completing and sending the appropriate form to the council. The council's records confirmed the earlier notifications but had no trace of the final one. The defendant accepted that he had expected his benefit to go down and he had taken no further action when it had not done so. The justices accepted that he was credible and had quite possibly posted the form. He was acquitted. The council appealed by case stated contending that the statute would be undermined if a claimant could simply assert that he had posted a form. The High Court dismissed the appeal. The burden had lain on the council to establish the offence beyond all reasonable doubt. The justices had simply found that it had not done so.

12 October 2009
R(C and C) v Nottingham City Council
[2009] EWHC 2766 (Admin)
The claimants were a very young couple. At age 16, the male claimant had applied as homeless when his relationship with his family broke down and the council had placed him in a homeless persons' hostel. He began a relationship with the female claimant, also 16, who lived with her father. The father asked her to leave. When she applied as homeless, she was placed in the same hostel and the couple shared a room. The female claimant became pregnant and both claimants were evicted following their arrest for drugs offences. Although charges were later dropped, the council decided that they had become homeless intentionally. The claimants sought judicial review and a declaration that they had been children in need owed the accommodation duties in Children Act 1989 section 20. Additionally, they complained that the council (a unitary authority) had no protocol between housing and social services for jointly assessing the needs of young homeless people. The High Court refused permission to claim judicial review. The accommodation had been provided by the housing department and not social services so it could not be said that they had been accommodated under section 20, even if they should have been. Although the failure to have a protocol was in breach of Homelessness Code of Guidance (2006) para 12.6, the council was working on a protocol and expected to adopt one in the near future.

Housing Law Articles

Recent Developments in Housing Law
J. Luba and HHJ Madge
[2009] November LEGAL ACTION p22

In good health
(Leaseholder Service Charges)
D. Longbottom
[2009] 6 November Inside Housing p41
For a copy, click here.

Housing Law Consultations

[THIS WEEK] Closing on 12 November 2009
The Ministry of Justice consultation exercise on the use of legal aid funds for experts, including experts in housing cases. 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

17-19 November 2009
Lettings & Homelessness
A CIH Conference.
For the details, click here.

18 November 2009
Housing Law Update
The HLPA meeting
For the details, click here.

27 November 2009
Annual Conference
Social Housing Law Association
For the details, click here.

30 November 2009
Crime & Anti-Social Behaviour
A NHC Conference in Harrogate
For the details, click here.

2 December 2009
Residential Landlord & Tenant
A Professional Conferences event
For the details, click here.

4 December 2009
Social Housing Management Conference 2009
A Lime Legal event (Manchester).
For the details, click here.

9 December 2009
Social Housing Management Conference 2009
A Lime Legal event (London).
For the details, click here.

15 December 2009
The Housing Law Conference
An HLPA event
For the details, click here.

16 December 2009
Housing Disrepair
A LAG training day.
For the details, click here.

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