Issue 70 - 24th September 2007

Monday 24 September 2007

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Housing News: The Last Week

On Monday 17 September 2007 Shelter released an analysis of the extent to which London Borough Councils were failing to meet targets on the provision of new affordable housing in their areas. Only 5 councils had produced more than 50% affordable homes among new-build housing. For the details click here

On Tuesday 18 September 2007, the latest developments on home information packs were set out in Progress - the Government's internet newsletter. From 10 September 2007, all homes marketed in England and Wales with 3 or more bedrooms have needed a Home Information Pack (HIP), which includes a home energy rating. The newsletter contains links to the Enforcement Guidance issued to local authority trading standards officers who - with the Office of Fair Trading - will enforce the legislation. For the details click here

Last Week's Cases

South Cambridgeshire DC v Secretary of State [2007] EWHC 2117 (Admin).18 September 2007. Mr and Mrs Brown were gypsies. They bought a plot of land and stationed two caravans on it in which they lived. On appeal, a planning inspector recommended the grant of planning permission for that use subject to strict personal conditions given the compelling personal circumstances of the family (which included a very severely disabled child) and the absence of alternative sites. The Secretary of State confirmed the recommendation and the local council appealed. The High Court dismissed the appeal. The inspector's decision contained no error of law. There was no burden of proof on the family to prove the absence of alternative sites. The inspector had been entitled to rely on the evidence before her. For the full judgment click here

Complaint against Sandwell MBC. 18 September 2007. The complainants were council tenants who had been the victims of anti-social behaviour by a neighbour. The neighbour damaged their wall and garden gates (one of which he smashed through their car window). They complained that despite the fact that they had captured the incident on CCTV and reported it to the council and the police (leading to the neighbour's prosecution conviction for criminal damage), the council had failed to take any action beyond writing a letter to the neighbour about complying with his tenancy agreement. The Ombudsman upheld the complaint. The council had failed to even consider inviting the police to secure an ASBO on conviction or themselves taking any of a range of other available measures. The effect was to demonstrate to residents "that the council was not prepared to tackle antisocial behaviour even when there was clear evidence". He recommended £750 compensation and other measures. For the full report click here

Complaint against Eastleigh BC.18 September 2007. The complainants and their four children were evicted by bailiffs executing a possession order obtained by their mortgage lender. They complained that although they applied to the council for homelessness assistance they were provided with no accommodation in the 7 weeks (spanning Christmas) that it took the council to determine their application. Various friends and relatives allowed the family to sleep on their floors and the male complainant slept in a car for 3 weeks. The council said it had offered B&B which had been declined. The ombudsman rejected the council's account as there was no evidence to support it. Interim accommodation should have been provided and the decision on the application should have been made within the 30 day maximum suggested by the Code of Guidance. He recommended £3000 compensation. For the full report click here

Collis v Secretary of State [2007] EWHC Admin, [2007] All ER (D) 124 (Sep), 20 September 2007. A council decided to make a stock transfer of one of its housing estates to a housing association. It also decided to exercise compulsory purchase powers to acquire the interests of leaseholders of flats on the estate. The Secretary of State confirmed the CPOs that it made. The High Court dismissed a challenge to the orders based on the alleged deficient wording of the council's resolution.

Mansfield DC v Langridge [2007] EWHC (QBD), [2007] All ER (D) 129 (Sep), 21 September 2007. The defendant was the council's secure tenant of a house. The council took possession proceedings on nuisance grounds and, pending the trial of that claim, granted the defendant a licence to occupy alternative accommodation: a flat in a supported housing scheme. The judge in the nuisance claim made a possession order and the council then served notice to end the licence. The High Court, on appeal, rejected the defendant's case that the alternative accommodation had itself been held on a "secure" licence: Housing Act 1985 section 79. The parties had always understood that the flat was only provided temporarily pending the outcome of the possession claim and it did not constitute a "separate" dwelling.

This Week

28 September 2007. Housing court or Housing tribunal? Should all possession cases, homelessness appeals and housing-related judicial reviews be transferred to administrative tribunals? That is an option on which the Law Commission wants your views this week. Click here for the details.

28 September 2007. A new council landlord? The Government is minded to implement proposals to form new unitary councils in nine areas of England. What will happen to tenants of the existing councils in the new structures for those areas? A consultation paper invites views by the end of this week on the right way to implement the changes. Click here for the details.

28 September 2007. National Standards for Housing Benefit. The present national indicators for measuring Housing Benefit performance by local authority benefit departments are to be replaced in April 2008. The DWP is consulting on what the replacement indicators should contain and responses are needed this week. For the details click here

Specialist Housing Advice (for Free)

Firms and agencies holding LSC Contracts or Quality Marks can obtain free written or telephone advice on Housing Law matters from the team of Specialist Housing Barristers at Garden Court Chambers from now until at least April 2008. For full details click here

Specialist Housing Law Training

Firms and agencies holding LSC Contracts or Quality Marks can send delegates to a host of reduced-cost specialist training sessions this Autumn/Winter in a range of Housing subjects. The trainers include specialists from Shelter, One Pump Court, Doughty Street and Garden Court Chambers. For the full brochure of events click here

Coming Soon

17 October 2007. Tenancy Agreements. A Chartered Institute of Housing Conference. Click here for details

17 October 2007. Housing & support for migrants. A Legal Action Group training Event. Click here for details.

23 October 2007. Homelessness. An Advanced HLPA Seminar covering latest developments for members. Click here for details.

29 October 2007. Possession Proceedings and Rent Arrears. A Garden Court Chambers seminar (provided by the LSC) in Manchester. Click here for the details

30 October 2007. Anti Social Behaviour in Social Housing. A Lime Legal Conference. Click here for details

31 October 2007. Successful Housing Litigation. A Jordan Publishing Conference. Click here for the details


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