Issue 158 - 23rd November 2009

Monday 23 November 2009

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The Latest Housing Law News

Legal aid for Housing cases: the terms on which legal aid will be provided in Housing and other civil law casework from October 2010 were announced this week. The Legal Services Commission published the new Standard Civil Contract under which it will purchase such legal services. For a copy of the contractual terms, click here. The detail relating to Housing cases is in Part 10 of the Civil Specification to the Contract (paras 10.15-10.30) and the rules for funding the Housing Possession Court Duty Schemes are at paras 10.31-10.70. For a copy of Part 10 of the Specification, click here. For an overview of the new documentation, click here.

Housing and anti-social behaviour (1): on 20 November 2009 the Secretary of State for Communities launched a new package of measures to tackle housing-related anti-social behaviour including: (1) ensuring tenants are supported to challenge landlords, councils and the police where they are failing or not acting quickly enough; (2) a new housing anti-social behaviour action squad to work with landlords on the ground to spread and embed good practice (see below); (3) new guidance for social landlords to provide them with a detailed understanding of how to use their powers effectively; and (4) a revised, Respect Standard, on tackling anti-social behaviour, which will be become binding on social landlords for the first time. For a copy of the full announcement, click here.

Housing and anti-social behaviour (2): on 20 November 2009 the Home Secretary introduced a new Crime and Security Bill to address anti-social behaviour, domestic violence and gang violence. It includes: (1) parenting assessments where 10- to 15-year-olds are being considered for an ASBO - and parenting orders where they have breached their ASBOs; (2) extending injunctions for violent gang members to those who are under 18; and (3) giving police the power to apply for an order to remove an alleged perpetrator of domestic violence from their home or premises for a fixed period of time. The police will be able to apply to a magistrates' court for an eviction order in respect of alleged domestic violence, ousting the alleged perpetrator for 28 days with no right of appeal. For details of the Bill, click here.

Housing and anti-social behaviour (3): on 20 November 2009 the Tenant Services authority (TSA) announced that it was establishing an action squad of experts to work with social landlords to tackle anti-social behaviour. For a copy of the announcement, click here.

Homeless Young People: Shelter England's Children's Legal Service has produced a briefing on the legal issues around housing for young people. For a copy of Responding to youth homelessness following the G v Southwark judgment, click here.

Overcrowding and under-occupation: on 18 November 2009 the Homelessness Action Team at the TSA published a new self-assessment guide for social landlords to help them address the issues of under-occupation and overcrowding in their stock. For a copy, click here.

Help for homeowners: in a speech to the Council of Mortgage Lenders on 13 November 2009 the Minister for Housing announced that to help head off pressures that could risk a rise in repossessions next year, the Government are: (1) expanding the Government's repossessions campaign into 2010 and into another 34 local hotspot areas, to make sure those most at risk get advice early; (2) extending the Mortgage Rescue Scheme, by increasing the number of Housing Associations involved; (3) tightening protections in Court with the new checklist that all lenders must complete to show repossession really is a last resort; and (4) toughening up rules - and FSA regulation - for lenders dealing with borrowers in arrears. For a copy of the speech, click here.

Rents in social housing: on 16 November 2009 the TSA wrote to all housing association chief executives about rent increase limits from April 2010. For a copy of that letter, click here. Given that an RPI-based formula produces a prospective reduction of 0.9%, associations have until the end of December to make special representations to the TSA for relief from the imposition of the guideline. The detail is in Rents, rent differentials and service charges for housing associations 2010-2011. For a copy, click here.

Eviction from social housing: on 6 November 2009, Shelter Scotland published a briefing designed to help social landlords avoid the eviction of families with children. For a copy of the report, Eviction of children and families: the impact and the alternatives, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

13 November 2009
Brittain v Noskova and others
[2009] EWHC 2884 (Admin)
The first defendant had been convicted of money laundering. The claimant was an enforcement receiver seeking to recover her assets under a confiscation order. In breach of a restraint order that had been made in 2003, the first defendant had let one of her properties to the second and third defendants on assured shorthold tenancies. The receiver sought to obtain possession in the enforcement process. The High Court ruled that the confiscation provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1998 do not 'trump' the security of tenure provisions of the Housing Act 1988. No High Court writ of possession could be enforced against the tenants unless and until a possession order in the county courts had been obtained in the usual way. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

10 November 2009
R (Mehari & Kelly) v Birmingham CC
[2009] EWHC (Admin)
The claimants applied to the council for assistance with accommodation under Housing Act 1996 Part 7 (Homelessness). They then sought judicial review alleging that the council was systemically failing to comply with its duty to provide interim accommodation under section 188 and was instead considering whether applicants seeking assistance were entitled to "emergency accommodation". The council admitted that there had been mistakes in the particular cases but said that these were not the result of its policy but of individual officer errors. The High Court held that the relevant officers were only following the general practice and procedure of the council and that it was unfair to seek to blame them. The emergency accommodation request forms did not refer to section 188 nor to the criteria of that statutory provision and indicated that once an initial interview was over the applicant was to be "sent home" unless he would be at risk of harm there. There was, accordingly, a systematic failure on the part of the council to comply with its duties under section 188. An authority could not defeat the prompt engagement of section 188 by introducing filters or delays; for example, by making non-statutory enquiries or by pursuing options outside the statutory scheme. [This note based on comments at http://nearlylegal.co.uk/blog/2009/11/rumours-of-gatekeeping/#comments ]

10 September 2009
Appeal against Walsall Council
First Tier Tribunal (Social Entitlement Chamber)
The claimant was a severely disabled tenant of a two bedroom property and was entitled to local housing allowance (LHA). She needed 24 hour care which was provided by a team of six carers on rota. The carer on duty slept in the second bedroom. The council decided that the regulations did not enable it to provide LHA for a two bedroom property where the tenant was a single person. The appeal tribunal allowed an appeal. It held that the regulations were discriminatory and awarded the two bedroom rate. For further details, click here.

15 July 2009
South Somerset DC v Hughes
[2009] EWCA Civ 1245
The defendants were gypsies. In 1999 they bought a plot of land in the council's area intending to station their mobile homes on it. They made four applications for planning permission all of which were refused. Those refusals were all upheld on appeal. Two enforcement notices were issued and appeals against them were dismissed. By 2003 the families had moved onto the land and established their homes in breach of planning controls. A judge granted the council an injunction requiring them to leave the land. The defendants appealed on the ground that the council had breached its obligations to provide official sites for gypsies, forcing them to make unauthorised use of land they owned. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. The judge had taken all relevant factors into account and had included in the balancing exercise the absence of official gypsy site provision and the needs of the families. He had not been required to assess the alleged "fault" of the council.

Housing Law Books and Articles

Housing Law Handbook - 10% off
Gain a practical understanding of housing law with theHousing Law Handbook. It provides a first port of call for lawyers and advisors dealing with housing, professionals in the social housing sector, and those involved in housing management. The book covers possession proceedings, homelessness rights, the allocation of social housing, and other routes into housing. To claim your 10% discount, order online and quote promotion code GCTHLH when prompted.

Making better use of Discretionary Housing Payments
G. Mitchell
[2009] 134 Adviser November/December issue p.9
(see an analysis of the most recent DHP figures by clicking here.)

No through road
(Commentary on L&QHT v Weaver)
K. Jenkins
[2009] Inside Housing 20 November issue p37
For a copy of this article, click here.

From rip-off to respectability?
(Commercial |mortgage rescue schemes)
M. Mackreth
[2009] 134 Adviser November/December issue p.18

Sale and rent back - see you in court
S. Hancocks
[2009] 134 Adviser November/December issue p.23

Mortgage possession update
M. Robinson
[2009] 134 Adviser November/December issue p.25

Housing Law Consultations

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.

Closing on 4 February 2010
The Home Office consultation on support arrangements for asylum seekers. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Closing on 5 February 2010
The TSA consultation on all the new National Standards for Social Housing Management. For copies of the consultation paper, click here.

Housing Law Events

[This week] 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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