Issue 36 - 6th November 2006

Monday 6 November 2006

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Government and Legislation

Figures released on 21 October 2006 show that more than 290,000 private dwellings in England have been empty for over 6 months. The highest proportions of empty homes were found in Burnley, Liverpool and Pendle. These numbers powerfully make the case for increased use of the Empty Dwelling Management Orders available to local authorities under the Housing Act 2004. Click Here for the Halifax Building Society press release

A substantial majority of private landlords are still unaware of the looming introduction of a mandatory tenancy deposit system to be established under the Housing Act 2004 with effect from April 2007. For the latest awareness survey details from The Dispute Service released on 18 October 2006 Click Here

Last week the Law Commission published the final report of its work on Termination of Tenancies for Tenant Default. It attaches a draft Landlord and Tenant (Termination of Tenancies) Bill and proposes the replacement of “forfeiture” with a new statutory scheme for bringing tenancies to an end by the making of a “termination claim”. Click Here for the full report:

A study commissioned by Government on the impact of service charges on the leaseholders of flats initially bought under the right to buy, reported last week. It found that significant service charges were being generated by the work of social landlords on blocks of flats which was undertaken to meet the Decent Homes Standard. A small minority of leaseholders were facing service charges in excess of £10,000.

Click here for the full report or read short summary

A summary of the research commissioned by the Youth Justice Board on Anti Social Behaviour Orders was made available last week. Click Here for a copy

Cases

F v Birmingham CC [2006] EWCA Civ 1427, 2 November 2006. In 2002 the claimant, then a young single parent, gave up the tenancy of her council flat to move to a private rented house. She failed to secure housing benefit to pay the rent and was evicted in 2003. On her subsequent homelessness application, the council found that she had become homeless intentionally by giving up her flat. That decision was upheld on review and in the county court. A further appeal was pursued on the basis that the council had not dealt with her contention that she had thought (in ignorance of the true position) that housing benefit would pay the full rent on her new home. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. The council had expressly rejected the suggestion that she had been told that the full rent would be covered by HB or that she genuinely thought it would be. The facts found showed that she moved without knowing whether HB would be paid or being bothered about the rent. She had proceeded on a “wing and a prayer”. No need had arisen for the council to consider ignorance, in good faith, of a material fact. See the transcript

Doe v Skegg [2006] All ER (D) 250 (Oct), 20 October 2006. The claimant had bought a semi-detached house from the defendants. The pre-sale enquiries asked whether the defendants knew of any disputes in respect of the property and whether they had sent any letters relating to the property. They said “no”. After moving-in, the claimants began to experience the anti-social behaviour of their neighbours. Inquiries revealed that the defendants had had the same trouble, had written to the neighbours and had threatened legal action. The Judge found that the defendants were liable for damages for their misrepresentation.

Ombudsmen

In Investigation 05/A/09641 (Thurrock Council) released on 1 November 2006 the Local Government Ombudsman discovered repeated failure by the council to accept and determine a homelessness application. The complainant had been turned away without any written decision, an application actually taken was cancelled without her consent (or notice to her) and she was incorrectly told that a refusal of an offer of accommodation made by another council could result in her being found intentionally homeless. The ombudsman recommended an apology, £2250 in compensation and better training of (and guidance to) frontline staff. He said that it was “vitally important” that the drive to meet targets “does not lead councils to adopt a gate-keeping approach whereby homeless applicants who are eligible for help are turned away”. For the details Click Here

Coming Up Soon

9 November 2006: Property Bar Association Conference.
Details from propertybar@hardwicke.co.uk

28 November 2006: Residential Property Tribunals.
Details from HLPA at www.hlpa.org.uk

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