Issue 86 - 3 March 2008

Wednesday 5 March 2008

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Housing News

On 29 February 2008 the Civil Justice Council issued a draft pre-action protocol for mortgage arrears possession claims. The protocol is intended to ensure that before proceedings are commenced all reasonable steps have been taken to avoid the necessity for litigation. Responses to the draft are sought by 23 May 2008. For a copy of the consultation document click here

Also on 29 February 2008, the government published its latest statement on housing policy in the form of a summary of responses received to the Housing Green Paper. The paper also sets out what steps the Government has taken since the Green Paper was published where relevant to the issues raised by consultees. For a copy of the document, Homes for the Future: more affordable, more sustainable: Summary of Responses to the Housing Green Paper, click here

On 27 February 2008 a new report from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health was published exploring local authority practice in enforcing the housing condition provisions of the Housing Act 2004. The CIEH survey of local authority regulatory activity under the Housing Act 2004 reviews the level of local authority activity, the number of prosecutions, and issues around licensing in the private sector. It notes that the number of staff available and the number of complaints local authorities receive from residents were a greater influence on enforcement activity than addressing risks to health and safety in homes. For a copy of the report click here

Also on 27 February 2008, the Government increased its encouragement to social landlords (particularly registered social landlords) to share intelligence of anti-social behaviour and criminal behaviour with other members of their local Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs) by working together to share resources and expertise on anti-social behaviour. For a copy of its new guidance, Registered Social Landlords and Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships: Improving Engagement, click here

On 25 February 2008 the Government launched a new Ageing Strategy focusing on the work that is being done in the short and longer term to improve housing and neighbourhoods to make them better meet the needs of older people. For a copy of the strategy document, Lifetime Homes, Lifetime Neighbourhoods: A National Strategy for Housing in an Ageing Society, click here

On the same day the government also published Disabled Facilities Grant: The Package of Changes to Modernise the Programme outlining its responses to a consultation exercise of the future of disabled facilities grants. For a copy of the paper click here

On 19 February 2008 the report Survey of Needs and Provision: Services for Homeless Single People and Couples in England was published by CRASH, together with the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG). It contains independent research carried out by Homeless Link and the Resource Information Service. It gives an accurate picture of the overall extent of services for the homeless, including hostels, day centres and supported accommodation. For a copy click here

Recent Cases

R(Omar Ahmad) v Newham LBC [2008] EWCA Civ 140, 29 February 2008. The Court of Appeal has dismissed Newham's appeal against a declaration that its choice-based housing allocation scheme is unlawful. The council had a banded scheme supplemented by a direct letting arrangement. The court held that neither element (nor the two combined) enabled applicants to have their cumulative housing needs recognised in accordance with the statutory obligation that they be given a reasonable preference if satisfying one or more of the categories in section 167(2) Housing Act 1996. The judgment gives guidance which may enable Newham and other authorities to draw up schemes which lawfully accord choice while recognising need. For a copy of the judgment click here

R(Baker) v Secretary of State for Communities [2008] EWCA Civ 141, 28 February 2008. The Court of Appeal has rejected a further challenge to a planning inspector's dismissal of an appeal against the refusal of planning permission to gypsy families to station their mobile homes on Green Belt land. The court was satisfied that in substance the inspector had had regard to the duty under section 71(1)(b) of the Race Relations Act 1976 to promote good race relations. Other criticisms of her findings were also rejected. For a copy of the judgment click here

Harouki v Kensington & Chelsea RLBC, House of Lords, 28 February 2008. The claimant has lodged a petition seeking leave to appeal in this important case concerned with homelessness arising from conditions of overcrowding. For a copy of the Court of Appeal judgment, click here

M v Hammersmith & Fulham LBC [2008] UKHL 14. When M, at age 17, was locked-out of her parental home she applied to the council for help. She was dealt with exclusively by the housing department and was assisted under Part 7 Housing Act 1996 (homelessness). That department did not refer her to social services or arrange a Children Act assessment. The House of Lords rejected her claim that she should be treated as though she had been accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (so as to attract the benefit of leaving-care provisions). Although the council had not adopted a joint housing-social services protocol for assessment as envisaged by statutory guidance and had failed to make a referral that should have been made, the result was that M had never been dealt with by social services at all. For a copy of the judgment click here

Dartmouth Court Blackheath Ltd v Berisworth Ltd [2008] EWHC 350 (Ch), 27 February 2008. A block was divided into 72 flats. It had common parts, a caretaker's office, garages and an electricity substation. The landlord transferred to the defendant the garages, office and substation in April 2003 and in December 2003 granted the defendant a lease of the roof and other common parts of the block (so that the defendant could build new flats on top of the building). In a claim by the leaseholders, the High Court declared that the second transaction had been a disposal within Part 1 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1987. The lessees had had a right of first refusal and enjoyed a right to acquire that lease from the defendant. For a copy of the judgment click here

Next Week

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

Later this month

19 March 2008. EU Law for Social Welfare Lawyers and Advisers. A LAG training course 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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