Issue 56 - 30th April 2007

Monday 30 April 2007

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Government & Legislation: Last week

On 27 April 2007 the Government outlined the new scheme for provision of information to leaseholders about service and administration charges which will come into force on 1 October 2007. The enabling legislation (Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 section 153 and Schedule 11) has been triggered by a commencement order: for a copy click here
Two separate sets of regulations have been made. For those relating to service charges click here For the regulations on administration charges click here An overview of the changes is given in the Government's press release. For a copy, click here

Today, 30 April 2007 it becomes unlawful to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of housing, access to housing or by subjecting a person to eviction or other detriment. The provisions are contained in regulation 5 of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. For a copy, click here . The regulations are accompanied by a useful explanatory memorandum. For a copy click here

Last week's Cases

Vesely v Levy [2007] EWCA Civ 367, 27 April 2007. The trustees of a trust established for the benefit of a person with mental health problems bought a flat for her to occupy. They allowed Miss Vesely to live in it with the disabled person on the basis of a shared contribution to household expenses with the disabled person. They did so because the companionship and care she brought led to an improvement in the disabled person's condition. Miss Vesely had exclusive occupation of several rooms in the flat and she later claimed that the arrangement amounted to a tenancy in her favour. That claim was rejected by the judge and by the Court of Appeal. It held that although there had been exclusive possession of some rooms, and that a tenancy may arise even without payment of rent, the very special circumstances of this case negatived the normal inference of a tenancy from the grant of exclusive possession. For the transcript click here

Stack v Dowden [2007] UKHL 17, 25 April 2007. Who owns what beneficial interests in a house or flat acquired to provide a family home for a cohabiting couple? That is the question answered in this long awaited review of the subject delivered by the House of Lords. For a copy of the judgment click here

Riverside Housing Association v White [2007] UKHL 20, 25 April 2007. Assured joint tenants received notices increasing their rent from the first Monday in April. Their tenancy agreement defined the rent variation date as the first Monday in June. The House of Lords decided that, on a true construction of poorly drafted tenancy conditions, the parties had agreed on an annual increase that could be on any date in the 12 months following the first Monday in June and that accordingly the notice was valid. It rejected the landlords' case that time was not "of the essence" in relation to a rent review date. For a copy of the judgment click here

Rowley v Rugby BC [2007] All ER(D) 215 (Apr), 25 April 2007. Ms Rowley and her partner gave up their privately rented flat and applied to the council as homeless. They said that their landlord had told them he was selling with vacant possession. After enquiries of the landlord, the homelessness officer invited the couple to sign and return a tear-off slip on a letter which set out that they had given up the tenancy, had given the landlord a month's notice and were moving to be nearer their family. On that slip being returned, a decision was issued that they had become homeless intentionally. That decision was upheld on review and an appeal against it was dismissed. The Court of Appeal dismissed a further appeal. The couple had unequivocally agreed the facts put to them in the letter. The initial decision contained no flaw or "deficiency" triggering regulation 8(2) of the Review regulations even though that term was to be construed broadly.

Eren v Haringey LBC [2007] All ER (D) 191 (Apr), 24 April 2007. Having separated from her husband, the claimant left the matrimonial home (a private rented flat). Two applications made to Enfield LBC resulted respectively in findings that she was not homeless and, later when the tenancy had been surrendered, that she had become homeless intentionally. Later the claimant applied to Haringey. She did not disclose the former matrimonial home, her applications to Enfield or the accommodation that council had temporarily secured. Haringey obtained the Enfield file. The claimant alleged that she had been in fear of her husband and that another woman had impersonated her in giving-up the keys. The council decided that her account was inconsistent with that earlier given to Enfield and lacked credibility. She had become homeless intentionally. The county court judge allowed an appeal but the Court of Appeal upheld the council's decision. The Haringey reviewing officer had given the application a full and fair assessment and not simply rubber-stamped the Enfield decision.

Complaint against Nottingham Council (05/C/02965) On her homelessness application, a young single parent was given priority for an urgent allocation of council accommodation. She was made a single offer of a house from which the previous tenant had been evicted for failing to maintain the premises and the garden. At the date of letting, the floors were soaked in urine, the walls smeared with human faeces and the garden completely overgrown. The ward councilor described the condition of the house as "stomach turning". The complainant felt she had no option but to take it. Subsequently, the council's contractor estimated £11,500 of works were needed. The Ombudsman was "appalled" that anyone should be invited to view a house in this "dreadful condition". Compensation of £2450 was recommended. For the full report click here

Complaint against Basildon Council (06/A/13667). A council tenant suffering from severe arthritis complained of enduring cold and damp conditions as a result of roof leaks and the failure to repair the windows and roof of a bungalow. The ombudsman found that maladministration caused a delay of 19 months in undertaking the necessary remedial words. Compensation of £1000 was agreed. For the full report click here

Coming events

30 April 2007: Homelessness (Introduction and Practical Procedure). An introductory level evening training session for HLPA members. Click here for details

2 May 2007: Housing Disrepair. A Legal Action Group Training course. For details click here

16 May 2007: Introduction to Housing Law. A Legal Action Group Training course. For details click here

7 June 2007: Housing Allocation and Homelessness. Two half-day London seminars from Jordans. For details click here

Garden Court Seminars

Due to the huge popularity of our housing seminars we are now running the following repeats:

"Eligibility" issues In Housing (repeat)
Tuesday 15 May 2007 from 18:30 to 20:00
Click Here to book a place

Private Law Possession Proceedings and Public Law Defences: How do they work? (repeat)
Thursday 14 June 2007 from 18:30 to 20:00
Click Here to book a place

Eligibility for Social Welfare Assistance (repeat)
Thursday 21 June 2007 from 18:30 to 20:00
Click Here to book a place

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