Issue 85 - 25 February 2008

Monday 25 February 2008

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Recent Housing Law News

On 21 February 2008 the Ministry of Justice published The Importance of Housing for Women Prisoners. The booklet outlines why those working with women prisoners should pay particular attention to their housing needs and offers support in seeking to maintain and gain housing on discharge from custody. For a copy of the booklet click here

On 19 February 2008 the government launched a consultation exercise on implementation of the Sustainable Communities Act. The Act received royal assent in October 2007 and allows people to raise issues of local concern that require action by the Government. It provides a channel through a local council to ask the Government to act. For a general guide to the Act click here The consultation on statutory guidance and regulations to be issued under the Act closes on 12 May 2008. For a copy of the consultation paper click here

On 18 February 2008 the Children & Young Persons Bill completed its Committee stage in the House of Lords. The Bill substantially amends the key provisions that apply when accommodation is provided for a child under sections 17 and 20 of the Children Act 1989. For details of the Bill's provisions and parliamentary progress click here

On 8 February 2008 the latest statistics on possession claims by mortgage lenders and landlords were published. They show that, compared to the same quarter a year earlier, the number of mortgage possession claims in Sept-Dec 2007 had increased by 14% and the number of landlord claims by 5%. For a copy of the detailed report click here

On 7 February 2008 the report Housing Statistics 2007 was published. This annual compendium covers a wide range of housing topics. It reports that seventy per cent of households are owner-occupiers, 18 per cent are social tenants and 12 per cent are private renters - the proportion of private renters has risen from 10 per cent in 2001 whilst the proportion of social renters has fallen from 20 per cent - the proportion of owner-occupiers has remained stable. For the full report click here

Also on 7 February, the Audit Commission published the results of its service assessments of all local authorities for 2007. Only 4 local authorities fell below minimum requirements for council housing services (Herefordshire, Liverpool, Rutland and Slough). The proportion of councils performing below minimum requirements in housing (3 per cent) was greater than in any other service assessment area in 2007. For further details click here

On 5 February 2008 the new Housing Minister, Caroline Flint MP, gave a speech to the Fabian Society intended to open a controversial debate about the link between social housing and worklessness. For the full text of the speech click here: . A week later she further developed her theme in an article in the New Statesman. To read the piece click here

On 1 February 2008 the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights Committee published The Work of the Committee in 2007 and the State of Human Rights in the UK. An Annex setting out current human rights concerns in the UK deals with discrimination in housing at paras 12-14. For a copy of the report click here

Recent Cases

Mansfield DC v Langridge [2008] EWCA Civ, [2008] All ER (D) 180 (Feb), 13 February 2008. The council brought a possession claim against the defendant, a secure tenant, alleging anti-social behaviour. Pending the trial, it provided him with other accommodation on a licence to expire on the hearing date of the possession claim. The possession claim succeeded. The defendant refused to leave the accommodation provided on licence. In proceedings brought for possession of that accommodation, the Court of Appeal held that as all the conditions of Housing Act 1985 section 79 were satisfied the defendant enjoyed security of tenure. The new possession claim was dismissed.

R v Harris [2008] EWCA Crim, [2008] All ER (D) 190 (Feb), 13 February 2008. Tenants signed an agreement to rent rooms for a fixed period of 6 months. Before that period expired, the defendant landlady purported to give them notice ending at an earlier date and then attempted to forcibly enter their rooms and drive them to leave. At her trial for an offence contrary to the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 s1(3), a judge ruled that she had no case to answer. The Court of Appeal allowed a prosecution appeal. The notice to quit had been of no effect and the tenants were in occupation by dint of their tenancy. They were protected by the 1977 Act.

Complaint against Sheffield Council. Local Government Ombudsman. 13 February 2008.The council agreed that certain blocks of flats, previously designated for elderly tenants, could be re-designated for general needs housing if that proved appropriate after scrutiny of a range of factors. The complainant's block was re-designated and young disruptive tenants moved in. She complained that they made her very distressed, frightened and upset. The council could not produce evidence that the required pre-designation scrutiny had been undertaken. The ombudsman found maladministration and recommended compensation. For the full report click here

1066 HA v Ward [2008] EWHC (QB), [2008] All ER (D) 125 (Feb), 8 February 2008. In a stock transfer, the defendant ceased to be a secure council tenant and became a housing association assured tenant. Later, the association sought possession under Housing Act 1988 Schedule 2 Ground 9 (suitable alternative accommodation) - a ground not available against a secure tenant. The tenant's appeal against a possession order made on that ground was dismissed. Post-transfer he had signed a new tenancy agreement which did not contain the same restriction on the landlord's ability to rely on grounds for possession as his earlier one had. The accommodation offered was suitable. The judge had been entitled to reject a defence that more spacious accommodation was needed because the tenant was also an artist.

Ashe v National Westminster Bank [2008] EWCA Civ 55, 8 February 2008. A tenant agreed to the bank taking an "all monies" charge over his lease to secure his borrowing. The last repayment was made in 1993 but the bank took no steps to enforce the security. In 1993 the tenant was made bankrupt. In 2006 his trustee sought a declaration that the bank's charge had been extinguished by 12 years adverse possession. The bank said that as the tenant was the registered leasehold owner his possession could not be "adverse". The Court of Appeal held that more than 12 years had passed since the bank acquired a right of action and that right had been extinguished. For the full judgment click here

R(Aweys) v Birmingham CC [2008] EWCA Civ 48, 7 February 2008. The council decided that the claimant's flat was no longer reasonable for him to continue to occupy and that as a result he was "homeless". Although it accepted that it owed him the main homelessness duty, it told him to stay where he was until made an offer of permanent re-housing. The Court of Appeal held that that approach was unlawful. Once the main homelessness duty had been accepted it had to be performed and the claimant had to be moved. For the full judgment click here

Holmes v South Yorkshire Police Authority [2008] EWCA Civ 51, 7 February 2008. The claimant was a serving police officer living in rent-free accommodation provided by the police authority. The authority decided to cease provision of police dwellings and told the claimant he would either have to buy the freehold or leave. The Court of Appeal rejected a claim that the claimant enjoyed security of tenure, applying the exception in Housing Act 1985 Sch 1 para 2(2). It also rejected a claim that an equitable estoppel operated to prevent his eviction. Even if the claimant had been told that a dwelling would be provided until his retirement, he had not acted to his detriment on the basis of that representation. For the full judgment click here

Laskar v Laskar [2008] EWCA Civ, [2008] All ER (D) 104 (Feb), 7 February 2008. The defendant was a secure tenant. She exercised her right to buy, nominating her daughter (the claimant) as co-purchaser. The defendant's contribution was the value of her discount (£29,000) and a further cash contribution. The daughter paid £3400 towards the purchase price of £50,000. A joint mortgage was taken for £43,000. The parties later fell-out. The daughter claimed that as joint legal owner she was entitled, presumptively, to a half share of the current value. The Court of Appeal held that the presumption had not applied. The mother was entitled to the benefit of the full value of the discount. The daughter's share of the value should be put at 33%.

Greenwood Reversions Ltd v WEF Ltd & Mehra [2008] EWCA Civ 47, 6 February 2008. The claimant landlords sought possession of a flat on the basis that a lease held by Dr. Mehra had been forfeit by his unauthorised assignment of it to WEF Ltd. The Court of Appeal rejected an appeal against the refusal of relief from forfeiture and the making of a possession order. It held that letters sent to WEF and Dr Mehra by the claimant's solicitors had not amounted to unequivocal demands for rent enabling it to be said that the right to forfeit had been waived. The judge had been entitled to find that Dr Mehra's breach was 'wilful' and that, given the history of his conduct as tenant, refusal of relief was appropriate. For the full judgment click here

Majorstake Ltd v Curtis [2008] UKHL 10, 6 February 2008. A tenant gave notice exercising his right to acquire a new lease of his flat in a block of flats. The freeholder served a counter-notice indicating that it intended to develop the flat on expiry of the current lease so as to convert it (and the flat below) into a maisonette. The House of Lords decided that a counter-notice could only be given in respect of work to relevant "premises". That either meant the existing flat or the whole block. It could not mean work to the flat and any other part of the block that the owner chose. For the full judgment click here

Blackford v Tate [2008] EWHC (QB) [2008] All ER (D) 82 (Feb), 6 February 2008. The claimant exercised his right to buy, as a secure tenant, for £12,000. The defendant alleged that the claimant had agreed to sell the property on to him for £35,000 (after the three-year period for repayment of the discount had expired) and that three annual payments had been made pursuant to that arrangement. The claimant alleged that the trust deed evidencing the agreement was a forgery, as was his signature upon it. The High Court found that the deed had been preceded by detailed solicitor's correspondence and made sense in the factual matrix. Expert evidence suggested that the signature was the claimant's and contemporaneous financial records suggested that the deed was valid.

This Week

27 February 2008. Gypsy & Traveller Law Update. A LAG Training Event in Birmingham. For details click here

Next Month

10 March 2008. Homelessness & Allocations. A LAG Training Event in London. For details click here

14 March 2008. Homelessness & Lettings, Law and Practice Conference 2008. The annual Lime Legal conference. 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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