Issue 167 - 15th February 2010

Monday 15 February 2010

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The Latest Housing Law News

Still no security of tenure for council site residents. The Housing & Regeneration Act 2008 section 318 would extend security of tenure to residents of official local authority gypsy and traveller caravan sites. On 10 February 2010 a civil servant at Communities & Local Government (CLG) indicated that ministers had decided that the government would not be able to find Parliamentary time for a commencement order to be laid before the 2010 general election. For more details, click here. On 11 February 2010 the Homes and Communities Agency, which is responsible for Gypsy and Traveller Site Grants that fund new social rented sites and the refurbishment of existing social rented sites, announced that its 2010/2011 bidding round would be open until 30 April 2010. For the announcement, click here. For the guidance for bidders, click here.

Mortgage possession claims: on 11 February 2010 the Council for Mortgage Lenders (representing the primary mortgage lenders) released figures indicating that its members had taken possession of 48,000 mortgaged homes in 2009. For the details, click here. Official statistics for mortgage possession claims in the county courts over the last quarter were released on the same day. For those figures, click here. The Government announced that it would keep in place all the present measures designed to assist defaulting borrowers. For that statement, click here. Latest figures indicate an upturn in the number of buy-out and rent-back arrangements made by housing associations. For the figures for the Mortgage Rescue Scheme in England, click here.

Shared ownership: on 1 February 2010 the Homes & Communities Agency released details on the new standard model shared ownership leases to be used by social housing agencies from April 2010. For the announcement, click here. For copies of the new model leases, click here.

Private Renting: on 3 February 2010 the Government announced a programme of measures to give private tenants extra help and protection. The package includes: a new housing hotline offering free help and advice for private tenants; a 'tripadvisor' style word-of-mouth website comparing landlords; a requirement for written tenancy agreements in all tenancies; increasing the number of tenants protected under the most commonly used tenancy agreement; a National Register for Landlords to help tenants make basic checks on their prospective landlords; and better regulation of letting and managing agents. For a copy of the detailed paper The private rented sector: professionalism and quality - consultation: Summary of responses and next steps, click here. On the same day, HM Treasury launched a consultation document on investment in the private rented sector. The consultation closes on 28 April 2010. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Area Renewal: several new reports published this month review the activities undertaken in the New Deal for the Communities (NDC) Partnership areas from the start of the housing renewal programme in 1999. For Tenure and change in deprived areas: Evidence from the New Deal for Communities areas, click here. For Interventions in housing and the physical environment in deprived neighbourhoods, click here.

Housing and Anti Social Behaviour: on 9 February 2010 the Government launched a new information programme for tenants and residents on tools and powers available to control anti-social behaviour. This has included media advertising and 10million leaflet drops. For a copy of the leaflet, click here. The Minister for Housing also issued "a rallying call for an army of community champions to challenge anti-social behaviour in their neighbourhoods". For that announcement, click here. For the latest update on the housing-related ASB measures, click here. On 3 February 2010 the Government announced that £1m was being distributed across 17 local authority areas with particularly high levels of empty housing where derelict homes are a catalyst for crime and anti-social behaviour. For a list of the 17 areas, click here.

National Tenants Voice: the closing date for applications for the posts of Chief Executive and independent Board Members of this new national representative organisation for tenants is 19 February 2010. For further details, click here.

ALMOs: on 9 February 2010 the Audit Commission released a list of those ALMOs which have achieved the best results on inspection of housing services. For a copy of the list, click here.

Tenant Services Authority: on 5 February 2010, ahead of the roll-out from April 2010 of its full powers as cross-domain regulator of social housing, the TSA outlined its priorities for the next three years in the Draft corporate plan 2010-13. For a copy, click here.

Council house rent increases: on 3 February 2010 the Government issued the Housing Revenue Account subsidy determination for 2010/2011. It is intended that this will achieve a guideline rent increase of 3.1% from April 2010. For further details, click here.

Homeowners in Debt: where a debtor has defaulted on a judgment debt and has a charging order on their property, should there be a minimum level of debt before the creditor can apply to force the sale of the debtor's property? If so, at what level should the threshold be set? Those are among the questions posed by a Government consultation initiated on 5 February 2010 relating to Orders for Sale. Responses are sought by 30 April 2010. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Housing & Discrimination: what would detailed guidance on equality and discrimination in Housing matters look like if and when the Equality Bill is enacted? That question is answered by draft non-statutory guidance from the Equality & Human Rights Commission. Views on the consultation drafts are invited by 16 April 2010. For copies of the consultation documents and further details, click here.

The Latest Housing Case Law

12 February 2010
Draycott v Hannells Letting Ltd
[2010] EWHC 217 (QB)
The claimants took an assured shorthold tenancy and paid a deposit of £2700 on 4 March 2008. The deposit was held by the letting agents as stakeholders. The deposit was not registered with a tenancy deposit scheme until 19 May 2008 and the tenants were not notified until 21 May 2008 (well beyond the 14 days from payment allowed by Housing Act 2004 section 213). In November 2008 the claimants sought return of the deposit and other relief under section 214 of the Act. The county court upheld the claim but the High Court allowed an appeal. The sanctions in section 214 could not be obtained where the tenancy deposit requirement had been met before the claim was issued, even if the 14 day time limit had been breached. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

11 February 2010
Barber v Croydon LBC
[2010] EWCA Civ 51
Mr Barber, a single man, applied to the council for homelessness assistance. It decided that he was vulnerable given his mental health history. He was provided with non-secure council accommodation in performance of the council's duty. Following a one-off incident in which the caretaker was abused, the council gave notice to quit and claimed possession. The judge granted an outright order. The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal and dismissed the possession claim. In breach of its own procedures for tackling anti-social behaviour where the perpetrator was vulnerable, the council had failed to consult the relevant statutory agencies or take their advice as to whether other measures, short of eviction, might control the behaviour. That gave rise to a successful defence under "gateway (b)" set out in Kay v Lambeth LBC. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

4 February 2010
Birmingham CC v Qasim
Supreme Court
The council brought claims for possession against seven tenants. It contended that their tenancies were granted by a housing officer without authority, outside the terms of its allocation scheme, and were therefore void. The judge dismissed the claims and an appeal was rejected by the Court of Appeal. An appeal panel of the UK Supreme Court refused the council's application for permission to appeal stating that the Court of Appeal decision had been "plainly right". For a copy of the Court of Appeal's judgment, click here.

Croydon LBC v Shanahan
[2010] EWCA Crim 98
The council claimed that the defendant had failed to notify it that she had started work, with the result that she had been overpaid housing benefit and council tax benefits. It prosecuted for that alleged offence and two further offences of failing to notify an increase in her child tax credit and the commencement of working tax credit, both consequent upon her employment. The judge decided that only the first matter needed to go to the jury. The council appealed. The Court of Appeal upheld the judge. The earnings from the allegedly undisclosed wages were sufficient to eliminate entitlement to benefits and nothing would be added by trying the other charges. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

Housing Law Articles

Recent Developments in Housing Law
N. Madge and J. Luba
[2010] February Legal Action 30

Statutory failures
(commentary on recent cases relating to resident wardens)
N. Dobson
[2010] 160 New Law Journal 207

Cutting costs at any price?
(Controls on expert's fees in legal aid cases)
P. Reddin
[2010] 14 Landlord & Tenant Review 1

A second bite at the cherry
(Appeals in Housing cases)
P. Barden
[2010] 12 February Inside Housing 35
For a copy of the article, click here.

Richardson v Midland Heart - another hole in the law?
A. Hindle
[2010] 14 Landlord & Tenant Review 21

Recent Developments in Housing Law
The authors of this series of articles in Legal Action magazine have opened a discussion about its future. To read and contribute to that debate, click here.

Housing Law Books

Repairs: tenants' rights
The new edition of Repairs: tenants' rights by Jan Luba QC, Deirdre Forster and Beatrice Prevatt has been published. 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, edited by Stephen Cottle and written by other members of the Garden Court Housing Team, 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.

Housing Law Consultations

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

[Next week] Closing on 22 February 2010
The DWP consultation exercise on proposals for reform of the Housing Benefit scheme. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Closing on 12 March 2010
The CLG consultation on draft guidance to Parts 2, 3 and 4 of the Housing Act 2004 which explains the definition of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) for licensing purposes, the effect of the licensing provisions in Parts 2 and 3 of the Act and the circumstances in which management orders can be made under Part 4. For a copy of the draft, click here.

Closing on 12 March 2010
The CLG consultation on possible general consents for HMO licensing and selective licensing by local authorities. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Closing on 24 March 2010
The CLG consultation on changes to the Code for Sustainable Homes. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Closing on 28 March 2010
The Ministry of Justice consultation on a proposal to require mortgage lenders to obtain a court order or the consent of the borrower before repossessing and selling residential owner-occupied homes. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Closing on 28 April 2010
The HM Treasury consultation on investment in the private rented sector. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Closing on 16 April 2010
The Equality & Human Rights Commission consultation on non-statutory guidance under the Equality Bill. For copies of the consultation documents and further details, click here.

Closing on 30 April 2010
The Ministry of Justice consultation on minimum thresholds of debt default necessary to found Orders for Sale of debtor's homes. For a copy of the consultation paper, click here.

Closing on 30 April 2010
The FSA consultation on proposals to help ensure that mortgage borrowers in arrears are treated fairly. For a copy of the consultation papers, click here.

Housing Law Events

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

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

[Next week] 25 February 2010
Public Law and Housing
A LAG Training Day in London
For the details, click here.

17 March 2010
Possession Claims and the Elusive Defence
An HLPA evening meeting in London
For the details, click here.

15 April 2010
Judicial Review Conference
A conference organised by Garden Court Chambers in London (to be repeated in Birmingham in July 2010).
For the details, click here.

29 April 2010
Homelessness: getting past the gatekeepers!
A Garden Court Chambers evening seminar.
For the details, click here.

 

 

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