Issue 84 - 4 February 2008

Monday 4 February 2008

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Last week

On 30 January 2008 more information was published about the condition of rented and owner-occupied housing in England. The figures from the 2006 condition survey indicate that there are 1.3 million social sector non-decent homes and 1.4 million private sector vulnerable households living in non-decent homes. Some 4.8 million homes (22%) have category 1 hazards as assessed under the hazards rating system. For the press report click here. For the Headline Report containing the full details click here . For an update on how information about housing conditions is being gathered see Housing Surveys Bulletin Issue 2 (click here for a copy).

On 31 January 2008, the Commons Public Bill Committee considering the Housing etc Bill 2008 completed consideration of the Bill and dozens of proposed amendments. The Committee's debates can be accessed by clicking here. The Bill will now move to its Commons Report Stage when further amendments may be proposed and considered.

On the same day, the Government published the results of research into Intensive Family Support Projects (IFSPs). The projects sought to provide families at risk of eviction because of anti-social behaviour with intensive support to address their often multiple and complex needs. The research suggests that 70% of families using the schemes had managed to sustain or achieve positive change with no further complaints about their behaviour. For the Housing Research Summary click here.

Recent Cases

Wragg and others v Surrey County Council [2008] EWCA Civ 19, 1 February 2008. Four council park rangers applied to buy their rented council homes. The council refused on the basis that their contracts required them to occupy the homes for the better performance of their duties - an exception to secure status made by Housing Act 1985 Schedule 1 para 2. The Court of Appeal said that the exception had two elements: (1) that the contracts of employment required the tenants to occupy the particular houses and; (2) irrespective of what the contracts said, the occupation of the houses was for the "better performance" of the employees' duties. On the facts, both requirements were made out and the rangers had no secure status and no right to buy. For the full judgment click here.

Boss Holdings v Grosvenor West End Properties [2008] UKHL 5, 30 January 2008. A tenant gave a landlord notice exercising a right to acquire the freehold of a house. The landlord denied that the property was a house because the statutory definition required that the relevant building was "designed or adapted for living in". The property had been built in the 1730s had been unoccupied for several years and was very dilapidated. The upper three floors had been stripped back to walls. The House of Lords found that it was a "house". It had been built as a single private residence and had been continuously occupied for some 200 years. The definition of house was not concerned with whether the building could be immediately occupied now but rather whether it had, when constructed, been designed "for living in". For the full judgment click here.

Complaint against Islington Council, 06/A/14057, 30 January 2008. The Local Government Ombudsman upheld a complaint brought by a council tenant about dampness in her home and about delayed handling of her insurance claim for damaged possessions. He found that the council had failed to address the dampness before the tenant moved in and that its subsequent attempts to tackle the problem had been ineffective. The tenant had lived in a damp home for most of three years. An 18 month delay in dealing with her insurance claim was maladministration. He accepted that the council should pay £5000 compensation and required the council either to resolve the dampness problem within 3 further months or re-house the tenant. For further details and the full report click here.

Ofulue v Bossert [2008] EWCA Civ 7, 29 January 2008. In 1976 the claimants let a house that they owned to a tenant and went to live abroad. The tenant left and let the defendants move in. They did work on the house, paid the rates but paid no rent. In 2003 the owners brought a possession claim and the defendants asserted that they had acquired title by adverse possession. The Court of Appeal upheld a finding that the occupiers had acquired title. Although in earlier proceedings they had asserted that they were tenants that had not amounted to an acknowledgement of the claimants' title. For the full judgment click here.

Austin v Southwark LBC [2008] EWHC (QBD), [2008] All ER (D) 239 (Jan), 29 January 2008. A secure tenant lost his tenancy by breaching the terms of a suspended possession order and became a tolerated trespasser. He then died. His brother, who would have succeeded to the tenancy, applied to be substituted as defendant in the original possession claim so that he could apply to revive the tenancy (by again postponing the date for possession) and then succeed to it. The High Court decided that no right or interest in the property or the possession proceedings had survived the deceased's death so that nothing would be gained by joining the brother to the original possession claim.

This Month

13 February 2008. Recent Developments in Homelessness Law. An LSC training day (in London) with speakers from Garden Court Chambers. For details of this event (and all other Specialist Support training) click here.

28 February 2008. Public Sector Housing Law. A Jordans Training conference in London. For details click here.

Housing Law Advice (for Free)

Free written or telephone advice on Housing Law is available to solicitors' firms and agencies holding LSC Contracts or Quality Marks from the team of specialist Housing Law Barristers at Garden Court Chambers. For full details click here.

Housing Law Training

Firms and agencies holding LSC Contracts or Quality Marks can send delegates to a host of reduced-cost specialist training sessions in a range of Housing Law 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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