Government & Legislation: Last week
On Monday 11th December 2006 the latest Homelessness statistics for England were published. They indicate the lowest number of acceptances by local authorities for 20 years. For the 3rd Quarter 2006 data click here
For access to statistics for earlier periods click here
To accompany the statistics, Communities & Local Government published Policy Briefing 17 which includes the following text on homelessness prevention.
"Preventative approaches appear to have been particularly successful in achieving a reduction in the number of homeless acceptances. However, the Government has always emphasised that while homelessness prevention is important, local authorities should not delay making inquires under section 184 of the Housing Act 1996 as soon as they have reason to believe that someone who is seeking accommodation or assistance in obtaining accommodation is or may be homeless or likely to become homeless within 28 days. [Where a person is accepted as owed a duty under the homelessness legislation ,prevention initiatives may still have a valuable role in helping an authority improve outcomes for homeless applicants]
For a copy of the bulletin click here
On Tuesday 12th December 2006 the Government announced approval for a further round of choice-based letting schemes including the new pan-London Capital Moves scheme. This will bring the number of local housing authorities with CBL schemes to over 200. For the Press Release click here
On Wednesday 13th December 2006 a new national standard for sustainable design and construction of new housing was launched. Code for Sustainable Homes is intended to introduce a voluntary "step-change" by the house building industry to produce accessible and climate friendly homes. For the Code click here. For a copy of the Regulatory Impact assessment click here
On Thursday 14th December 2006 the Government announced an independent review of regulation of social housing provision to be conducted by Professor Martin Cave. The review will cover all the present arrangements for regulating social housing providers putting the "needs of tenants" at the heart of the process. The review team have already issued a call for submissions (to be made by 16 February 2007).
For a copy click here
Cases: Last week
Jones v Cleanthi  EWCA Civ 1712, 12 December 2006. The tenant under a lease of a flat in a large building enjoyed a right of access (with other tenants) to a rear outdoor area used to store refuse containers. In response to a council notice, issued under HMO fire-safety powers, the landlord erected a solid wall blocking access to that area. The tenant attempted to enforce her rights but a county court judge and a High Court judge (on appeal) found that her rights had been extinguished. The Court of Appeal held that the rights had not been lost for all time but because the landlord had acted in compliance with a statutory notice he had committed no actionable wrong.
Reichmann v Beveridge  EWCA Civ 1659, 13 December 2006. Part-way through a five year lease, the tenants became unable to afford their rent and abandoned the property. In defence to the landlord's subsequent claim for rent for the remainder of the term of the lease, the tenants argued that the landlord had failed to mitigate the loss by terminating the lease and re-letting. The Court of Appeal held that, in the absence of wholly unreasonable conduct, a landlord was entitled to maintain the lease and sue for the rent payable under it until the expiry of the original term.
Richmond Court (Swansea) Limited v Williams  EWCA Civ 1719, 14 December 2006. A disabled tenant sought the consent of her landlords to the installation of a "chair-lift" along the communal staircase, to ease her access to and from her flat. The landlords refusal was met by a claim of disability discrimination which was upheld by the judge. The Court of Appeal allowed the landlords' appeal. Until recently amended, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 did not impose a duty on a landlord to make or allow reasonable adjustments to take account of the needs of the disabled. The landlords' refusal was unrelated to the disability of the tenant - its evidence was that it would have refused consent to any other tenant.
"Free" Advice from Specialist Housing Counsel: for the period 1 January 2007 to end March 2007, solicitors or advice agencies who have Contracts with the LSC (or are LSC Quality Mark holders) will be able to obtain written advice from counsel on Housing cases without having to first call the Garden Court Chambers CallCounsel advice line. This applies to NON URGENT cases only for which the client does not already have a public funding certificate. The maximum turnaround time will be 21 days.
Requests should be sent by letter to the Housing Clerks at Garden Court Chambers. The letter should be headed "Specialist Support Service", give a Legal Services Commission Contract number, and briefly describe both the problem and the question(s) to be answered (enclosing any relevant documents).
Note: this will be the last Housing Law Bulletin until the New Year. We extend Season's Greetings to all our readers