Issue 47 - 12th February 2007

Monday 12 February 2007

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Last Week's Housing Cases

Watchman v Ipswich BC [2007] All ER (D) 109 (Feb), 8 February 2007. Despite a history of rent arrears and other debt, Mrs Watchman took out a mortgage to buy her home. The instalments were higher than the rent. When the rate of repayments increased and her husband lost her job, Mrs Watchman's account fell into arrears and she was evicted by the mortgage lender. On her homelessness application, the council found that she had become intentionally homeless because - given her financial history - it was inevitable from the outset of the mortgage that she would get into arrears and lose the home. The Court of Appeal upheld that decision. The council had been entitled to find that it was the taking-out of the mortgage (and not the loss of the job) that had caused the homelessness.

Alker v Collingwood HA [2007] All ER (D) 98, 7 February 2007. The claimant had been injured when a glass pane in her front door broke. The glass was not safety glass but had complied with contemporary construction standards when the property was built. However, the use of the glass in doors had been recognised as a hazard since 1963. The tenancy agreement required the landlord to keep the house in good condition and reserved a right to enter and carry out both repairs and improvements. The tenant sought damages relying on Defective Premises Act 1972 section 4. A judge upheld the claim but the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal. The glass had not been broken or cracked prior to the accident so was not in "disrepair". The tenancy terms to keep in repair, maintain and keep in good condition did not impose an obligation to keep premises up to modern standards of reasonable safety. There had been no "relevant defect" for the purposes of section 4.

Brent LBC v Doughan [2007] All ER (D) 83 (Feb), 6 February 2007. The council applied for a possession order against the defendant (a secure tenant) on the grounds of nuisance and an order for his committal to prison for breach of an anti-social behaviour injunction (by verbally abusing a neighbour at a railway station). The judge refused both orders. The Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal. The judge had made no error in deciding that although there had been some noise and annoyance, it was not reasonable to order possession in the context that in 18 months there had only been 2 or 3 incidents. The railway station had not been within the area delineated by the injunction and accordingly the incident there could not amount to a breach of it.

R(Wilson) v Wynchavon DC [2006] EWCA Civ 52, 6 February 2007. The council had served "stop" notices, under its planning powers, directed to ending the use of land for stationing traveller's caravans. No equivalent stop notice could be served to prohibit occupation of conventional housing. The claimant sought a declaration of incompatibility in that this amounted to discrimination against travellers contrary to Art 14 ECHR. The Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal against the rejection of that claim. Although there had been discrimination between occupiers of static and mobile homes, the Government had successfully established that it was proportionate and justified. For the transcript, click here

R(Spiropoulus) v Brighton & Hove CC [2007] All ER (D) 75 (Feb), 6 February 2007. The claimant was entitled to housing benefit (HB). The council wished to pay it by crossed cheque. The claimant did not have and did not wish to open a bank account and sought judicial review of the council's decision. The claim was dismissed. The council had made an arrangement with a local bank to enable claimants to open accounts. It had not unreasonably exercised its discretion under HB Reg 91. The claimant had no reasonable explanation for not opening a bank account. The HB Guidance Manual contained a typographical error and should read "However, you should [not] send crossed cheques to claimants without a bank account". The council had been wrong to apply the original printed wording but the error did not require the decision to be quashed.

Chaplin v Hicks Developments Ltd [2007] EWHC (Ch) 41, 5 February 2007. This is another case on whether title to a trip of land had passed under the rule of "adverse possession" from the owners to the occupiers. For the transcript, click here

Coming Up

28 February 2007 Public Sector Housing Law, 10th Annual Conference in London. For details, click here

28 February 2007 Homelessness and Allocations, a LAG training course. For details, click here

1 March 2007 Eligibility for Social Welfare Assistance, a free Garden Court Chambers seminar. For details, click here

15 March 2007 Private Law Possession Claims: Public Law Defences, a free Garden Court Chambers seminar. For details, click here

27 March 2007 Homelessness & Lettings. A Lime Legal Conference. For details click here

29 March 2007 Housing and Anti-Social Behaviour. A Jordans Conference. For details click here:

30 March 2007 Social Housing Law & Practice: A Lime Legal Conference. For details click here

"Free" Advice from Specialist Housing Counsel

For the period 1 January 2007 to 30 March 2007, solicitors firms or advice agencies which have LSC Contracts (or are LSC Quality Mark holders) will be able to seek and obtain written advice from counsel on Housing cases without having to first call the Garden Court Chambers Call Counsel advice line. Click here for more details under the heading "New Service": Click Here for more details

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