Issue 161 - 14th December 2009

Monday 14 December 2009

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The Latest Housing Law News

Homelessness: the latest quarterly statistics on homelessness in England were released on 10 December 2009. They show further reductions in the number of applicants in respect of whom councils accepted the main housing duty and in the number of households in temporary accommodation. Despite the fact that the use of bed and breakfast accommodation has been outlawed for most households, over 2000 applicants were still in B&B at the end of September 2009. A further 4350 were "homeless at home". For the full statistics, click here.

Money for Housing: the pre-budget statement on 9 December 2009 brought several announcements relating to Housing including: (1) the Standard Interest Rate used to calculate Support for Mortgage Interest will be maintained at 6.08 per cent for a further six months helping around 220,000 homeowners and (2) funding for stalled developments through the 'Kickstart' programme will be used to help build 3,000 homes under the HomeBuy Direct scheme. For further details, click here.

Council house rents from April 2010: also on 9 December 2009 the Government announced that for the second year running it proposes to halve the guideline rents increase for council housing tenants. The consultation on guideline rents for 2010-11 will be for an average of 3.1 per cent, rather than the 6.1 per cent previously agreed with local authorities. For the letter notifying councils of these proposals, click here. For the full set of consultation documents, click here.

Helping homeowners in mortgage arrears: new figures released by the Government on 9 December 2009 indicate that (1) over 33,000 borrowers are benefiting from extended forbearance where lenders were accepting less than contractual monthly payments or where loans had been modified to make monthly payments more affordable for the borrower (2) 6,000 of these loans were deferring interest as part of an arrangement equivalent to the Homeowners Mortgage Support scheme, and only 15 have needed the formal backstop of HMS and have been registered for the Government-backed guarantee following the 5 month qualification period (3) since April 2009 over 7,000 households have received free, independent money advice where HMS and other options were discussed. For further details, click here.

Repair and Improvement: in December 2010 the Government's Decent Homes strategy comes to an end. On 8 December 2009 the Minister for Housing announced "a full scale assessment" of the strategy would be undertaken. It is now clear that the target of achieving decent homes across the whole of the social rented sector will not be met. Not least because 27 local authorities have actually seen an increase in their non decent stock, 13 still have over half their stock non decent and 10 still have a third of their housing stock non decent. For further details, click here.

Tenants and Water Charges: on 8 December 2009 the final report of the Walker review of Water Charging was published. The report notes that 34% of bad debt for water charges is owed by former tenants. It recommends that the landlord becomes responsible for the provision of information to the water companies about tenants. This would provide a clear incentive for the landlord to identify the tenant to the water company on occupation of their property. The report suggests that if a landlord does not provide information within 21 days of occupation they should then become liable for the tenant's water bill. For a copy of the report, click here.

New Housing legislation: although the Queen's Speech contained no commitment to further housing legislation in England, the position in Northern Ireland could not be more contrasting. A Housing (Amendment) Bill is presently making its way through the Northern Ireland Assembly and has just completed its Committee stage. For the content of the Bill and details on its progress through the Assembly, click here. But on 7 December 2009 the Minister for Social Development launched a consultation exercise on a further Housing Bill to be introduced in 2010. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here. The consultation ends on 26 February 2010.

Affordable Housing: on 8 December 2009 the latest statistics on gross affordable housing supply in England were released. They show that 55,770 additional affordable homes were supplied in 2008-09 - up 4 per cent from 53,480 additional affordable homes supplied in 2007-08 (revised). This is the highest number of new affordable homes provided in England since 1996-97 and the Government's target remains 112,000 new affordable homes over the next two years.. For the full statistics, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

10 December 2009
Barratt Developments v Wakefield MDC
[2009] EWHC 3208 (Admin)
With the aim of increasing the availability of affordable housing in its district, the council adopted a policy in its local development plan document setting a target of 30% affordable homes on new housing developments seeking planning approval before 2026. The claimants argued that the policy was unlawful because, in the current economic climate, requiring developers to build at least a third of their homes for social housing purposes would render private housing development uneconomic. The High Court found that although the policy was not happily drawn and had the capacity to confuse, it was lawful as the stated target followed national policy and was capable of flexible interpretation. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

9 December 2009
R v Horncastle
[2009] UKSC 14
Housing practitioners are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Strasbourg Court's consideration of Kay v UK in the hope that the Supreme Court will then overturn a line of more restrictive House of Lords decisions on the application of ECHR Article 8 to possession proceedings. However, in this criminal case the Supreme Court has suggested that it will not necessarily apply Strasbourg caselaw. Lord Phillips said (at [11]): "The requirement to "take into account" the Strasbourg jurisprudence will normally result in this Court applying principles that are clearly established by the Strasbourg Court. There will, however, be rare occasions where this court has concerns as to whether a decision of the Strasbourg Court sufficiently appreciates or accommodates particular aspects of our domestic process. In such circumstances it is open to this court to decline to follow the Strasbourg decision, giving reasons for adopting this course. This is likely to give the Strasbourg Court the opportunity to reconsider the particular aspect of the decision that is in issue, so that there takes place what may prove to be a valuable dialogue between this court and the Strasbourg Court." For the full judgment, click here.

7 December 2009
HSE v Severn Vale Housing Society and Lee
Gloucester Crown Court
When a tenant lit a fire, for the first time after her landlords had engaged Mr Lee, a self employed plumber, to decommission her back boiler, it exploded killing her. The work had been carried out incorrectly. The HSE prosecuted for breaches of Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 section 3. The Court sentenced the landlords to pay a fine of £50,000 and £7500 costs. Mr Lee was ordered to pay a fine of £7,500 and £1,500 costs. For more details, click here.

7 December 2009
R (Garbet) v Circle 33 Housing Trust
[2009] EWHC 3153 (Admin)
The claimant's assured tenancy agreement required her to pay service charges in respect of a resident warden service on her housing development. The tenancy agreement provided that there would be consultation before any changes in matters of housing management were made which were likely to have a substantial effect on tenants. When the warden retired, the landlords decided to replace her with a non-resident floating support warden service. The claimant sought judicial review. The High Court found an initial "disturbing lack of frankness and openness" by the landlords and their managing agents towards the residents about future intentions for warden services. It granted a declaration that the landlords had acted unlawfully in withdrawing the resident warden service without having first consulted with the claimant in accordance with the tenancy agreement. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

6 November 2009
R(Manchester CC) v St Helens BC
[2009] EWCA Civ 1348
A very severely disabled woman received care at her home paid for by social services in what was possibly "the most expensive care package in the country". In 2000 she moved from St Helens to rented accommodation in Manchester. The councils could not agree whether liability to fund her care had transferred. In 2008 the Secretary of State determined that the woman had become ordinarily resident in Manchester and St Helens decided to withdraw its funding for her home care. Manchester sought judicial review of that decision. Permission was refused on paper and at a hearing and Manchester appealed. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. Under the statutory scheme, Manchester had become liable to fund the care services. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

Housing Law Books and Articles

Repairs: tenants' rights
The new edition by Jan Luba QC, Deirdre Forster and Beatrice Prevatt can now be ordered. Price: £45.00. For full details, click here.

Housing Allocation and Homelessness - new edition
The new edition of Housing Allocation and Homelessness: Law and Practice by Jan Luba QC and Liz Davies can now be ordered. Price: £50.00. For full details, click here.

Housing Law Handbook - 10% off
The Housing Law Handbook provides a first port of call for lawyers and advisors dealing with housing. 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.

Recent Developments in Housing Law
J. Luba and N. Madge
[2009] December Legal Action 13

Repairs Round Up 2009
B. Prevatt
[2009] December Legal Action 20

Housing Law Consultations

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.

Closing on 15 February 2010
The Treasury consultation on further measures to protect mortgage borrowers. For the consultation paper, click here.

Housing Law Events: 2009

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

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

Housing Law Events: 2010

19 January 2010
Meeting Housing Needs
A conference in Bristol for South West England and South Wales
For the details, click here.

21 January 2010
Housing management
A CIH conference in London
For the details, click here.

22 January 2010
Recent Developments in Housing Law
A LAG Training Day in London
For the details, click here.

28 January 2009
Housing management
A CIH conference in Manchester
For the details, click here.

22 February 2010
Defending Possession Proceedings
A LAG Training Day in London
For the details, click here.

25 February 2010
Public Sector Housing Law
A Jordans conference in London
For the details, click here.

25 February 2010
Public Law and housing
A LAG Training Day in London
For the details, click here.

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