Issue 63 - 18th June 2007

Monday 18 June 2007

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Government & Legislation: The Last Week

On 11 June 2007 the Government published Homelessness Statistics June 2007 and Local Authority Survey of Homelessness Prevention - Policy Briefing 19 reporting the findings from a January 2007 survey showing the changing nature of local authority homelessness services and reflecting a shift from provision of Part 7 services to prevention. For a copy click here

On 12 June 2007 the Government began consulting on proposals to strengthen and consolidate discrimination law. For a copy of the consultation paper Discrimination Law Review: A Framework for Fairness: Proposals for a Single Equality Bill for Great Britain click here. The most important housing-related proposal is a new statutory right for disabled tenants to carry out adaptations to rented premises. If the proposal survives consultation, it is estimated in the first year some 29,000 tenants will exercise this new right attracting an additional £27m in Disabled Facilities Grants. For the Regulatory Impact Assessment containing the details click here. The consultation runs until 4 September 2007

On 13 June 2007 Citizens Advice published The tenant's dilemma- Warning: your home is at risk if you dare complain based on CAB case work with private tenants facing an unacceptable choice between continuing to live in homes with substantial disrepair or enforcing their right to have action taken and running the risk that their landlord will evict them in retaliation. The report recommends that a private landlord should not be able to evict a tenant, using the Housing Act 1988 section 21 notice procedure, where the tenant has recently taken steps to enforce statutory rights regarding disrepair or health and safety issues. For a copy of the report click here.

On 14 June 2007, the final Regulatory Impact Assessments were published detailing the likely consequences of the new statutory controls over service charges and administration charges (passed on to leaseholders by freeholders and management companies) that come into force on 1 October 2007. For copies click here

Last Week's Cases

First Mortgage Securities Ltd v Smith [2007] All ER (D) 100 (Jun), 12 June 2007. Mr Smith owned a property subject to mortgage. The lender claimed that he had defaulted in his repayments and was in arrears. It obtained and enforced a possession order and then sold the property. Mr Smith later discovered that the lender had possibly miscalculated the payments due and he tried to set aside the possession order. The new owners resisted that application. The Court of Appeal held that the possession proceedings would not be re-opened. The new owners had bought good title from the lender. Mr Smith's remedy lay in a claim for damages against the lender or its advisers.

R (Heffernan) v Rent Service [2007] EWCA Civ 544, 13 June 2007. A council referred an assured tenant's rent to the Rent Service. The tenant lived in the centre of Sheffield. The Rent Service determined a "local reference rent" substantially lower than the contractual rent and the tenant was paid that reduced amount. He disputed the use of the whole of the geographic area occupied by the city of Sheffield as the "locality" of his home. The High Court allowed his judicial review claim but, on appeal, the Court of Appeal dismissed it. It held that the Rent Service had been entitled to identify as wide a locality as the whole city even though it comprised areas with widely different rents and different local social circumstances. For the transcript click here.

Williams v Birmingham CC [2007] All ER (D) 144 (Jun) 14 June 2007. Following her eviction from a council house which had been her home for over 25 years, Ms Williams applied as homeless. The council accepted it owed her the main housing duty (Housing Act 1996 s193) and said it would make a single offer of suitable accommodation. It then offered accommodation in another part of its area. Ms Williams sought a review on the basis that her son (aged 7) would have a long and difficult journey on several buses to reach his school. The reviewing officer decided that a change in a child's school was a not uncommon occurrence when a family moved homes and that a change of school for this child would not disrupt his personal or educational development. Ms Williams appealed contending that the reviewer had failed to explore the real difficulties the school journey would pose for her son. That appeal was dismissed in the county court and by the Court of Appeal. Given the unchallenged finding by the reviewer that this particular child would not suffer on changing schools, there had been no need to make enquiries into his difficulties in reaching his existing school from a new home.

Accent Foundation Ltd v Lee [2007] All ER (D) 143 (June), 14 June 2007. Following a complaint from one of its tenants - that the defendant (her brother) had assaulted her - the claimant landlord obtained an Anti Social Behaviour Injunction with a power of arrest preventing the defendant from causing nuisance or annoyance to his sister, his mother (who was also a tenant) and other tenants. The injunction also forbade him from visiting the sister or mother or entering the area where they lived. Later the defendant was invited to stay with his sister (which he did) and then with his mother (which he did). The landlord applied to commit for contempt and the judge imposed a 28 day suspended sentence. The defendant was then invited to stay with his mother again (which he did). A judge then activated the suspended sentence and added a further 28 days. The defendant appealed contending that the contempt had been "waived" by his mother and sister. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. The injunction had been granted for wider public protection and breach could not be waived by the two relatives. The evidence was that the neighbours had been adversely affected by the defendant's presence.

Coming Events

19 June 2007: How to run a Housing Judicial Review: A HLPA Intermediate training Seminar. For details click here

21 June 2007: Eligibility for Social Welfare Assistance (repeat) Garden Court Chambers evening seminar. Click Here to book a place

05 July 2007: Housing Law - The Legal Update 2007. A training conference to be held in Leeds. For details click here

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