Issue 74 - 22 October 2007

Monday 22 October 2007

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Housing News: The Last Week

On Monday 15 October 2007, the Housing Minister announced the establishment of "The Office for Tenants and Social Landlords" which will become the new regulator in the social housing sector. From 2009 its jurisdiction will extend to housing associations and from 2011 it will also cover local authority landlords. It is not yet clear in what form (if at all) the Housing Corporation, Audit Commission and the present ombudsmen will retain their present functions in policing the social landlord sector. The announcement appears in Hansard at Column 47WS. For a copy of the press announcement click here.

Also on Monday, the Health & Safety Executive leant its support to Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week. Its Press Release reminds practitioners of the rules relating to the repair and inspection of gas appliances in rented accommodation. For a copy click here.

On Thursday 18 October 2007, the Housing Ombudsman launched his Annual Report for 2007. Repairs and anti-social behaviour were the most common subjects of complaints investigated. For a copy of the report, which contains a range of case-digests, click here.

Also on Thursday, the Government launched a web-based resource on Youth Homelessness. It contains downloadable tools and case studies to help those trying to address homelessness among young people. To access the new site, click here.

Last Week's Cases

Southwark LBC v Onayomake [2007] EWCA Civ, [2007] All ER (D) 287 (Oct), 19 October 2007. The council brought a possession claim for the council flat in which the defendant had lived with his late mother. His defence asserted a right to succeed. It was met by a reply that his mother had not been a tenant but a tolerated trespasser. At a case management conference (CMC) it transpired that neither party had complied with directions for disclosure of documents or exchange of witness statements. Only the council had filed the required pre-trial checklist. The defendant's solicitor failed to attend the CMC. A district judge struck out the defence. That judge also then refused an application for relief from sanctions (when the solicitor's explanation for late attendance had been given) and granted possession. A circuit judge dismissed an appeal. The Court of Appeal allowed a second appeal. The strike-out had been a disproportionate response to the defendant's default. At most, an "unless order" should have been made. The possession order was set aside and the claim remitted for trial.

Gidvani v London Rent Assessment Panel [2007] EWHC (Admin), [2007] All ER (D) 263 (Oct), 18 October 2007. A landlady applied for the registration of an increased rent. The Rent Officer fixed a lower rent than that sought and the landlady appealed. The Rent Assessment Committee dismissed an appeal. The High Court dismissed a further appeal. The Committee had made no error of law in taking into account an inspection report and the issue of "scarcity".

Harouki v Kensington & Chelsea RLBC [2007] EWCA Civ 1000, 17 October 2007. A three bedroomed flat was occupied by a woman, her husband and their five children. It was statutorily overcrowded and the tenant was committing an offence by permitting it to be overcrowded. She applied to the council for homelessness assistance on the ground that her flat was not "reasonable to continue to occupy". The council did not consider her to be homeless. A judge dismissed an appeal against that decision. The Court of Appeal dismissed a second appeal. In assessing whether the flat had been "reasonable to continue to occupy" the council had been entitled to take account of the fact that there were many families even more severely overcrowded in its area. For a copy of the judgment click here.

Hunte v E Bottomley & Sons Ltd [2007] EWCA Civ, [2007] All ER (D) 220 (Oct), 16 October 2007. The owners of an industrial estate let a café on the estate to tenants. The lease gave a right of way over the estate road. Pursuant to plans for redevelopment of the estate, the landlords closed-off one end of the road then the other, relying on a proviso to the lease reserving the power to regulate traffic flow. The Court of Appeal held that blocking the road could not be brought within the proviso and amounted to a breach of the covenant for quiet enjoyment.

R(Gilboy) v Liverpool CC [2007] EWHC (Admin) 2335, 15 October 2007. Having received allegations of anti-social behaviour, the council decided to bring a possession claim against a demoted tenant. When he disputed the allegations and applied for a review, a council officer conducted the review and upheld the decision to bring the claim. The tenant sought a judicial review claiming that the procedure breached his right to a fair and independent determination of his civil rights (ECHR Art 6) as explained in Tsfayo v UK. The High Court dismissed the claim. It was bound by domestic authority to find that a review procedure with access to judicial review complied with Art 6. For a copy of the judgment click here.

This Week

Tuesday 23 October 2007. Enforcing Building Regulations. Are cowboy builders breaching the Building Regulations but avoiding prosecution? The Government proposes extending the scope for local authority enforcement of the rules. The deadline to submit responses is this Tuesday. Click here for the consultation paper.

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

Next Week

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

Next Month

14 November 2007. Housing Law Update. The HLPA members meeting in London. Click here for details.

20 November 2007. Postponed Possession Orders and all that. An Advanced HLPA Seminar covering latest developments for members. Click here for details.

20-22 November 2007. Lettings and Homelessness. The Chartered Institute of Housing's three-day conference in Nottingham. For the details click here.

23 November 2007. Managing Social Housing without Discrimination. A Lime Legal Housing Conference. 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.

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