Issue 87 - 10 March 2008

Monday 10 March 2008

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Issue 87 - 10 March 2008

(Published on Monday, 10 March, 2008)

Housing News

On 6 March 2008 the Government published the latest research on the impact of Home Information Packs in areas in which they were piloted. The researchers found that 58 per cent of buyers would have liked the opportunity to have seen the HIP earlier in the buying process. However, estate agents were either not showing the packs or providing them too late to consumers to make a difference. Out of the 40 per cent of buyers who saw the HIP last year in the trials, half viewed it after they made an offer on their property. For a copy of the research report click here . For the press statement containing the Government's response to the report click here.

Recent Cases

Hassan Omar v City of Westminster [2008] EWCA Civ, [2008] All ER (D) 38 (Mar), 3 March 2008. The appellant's baby had been born prematurely. In a period while he was still taking the baby to hospital for weekly tests, the council offered accommodation in performance of a duty owed to him as a homeless person. The offer was refused on the basis that it was too far from the hospital and the appellant's support network. The council decided that the offer had discharged its duty. On a review of that decision, the reviewing officer sought and obtained an updated report from the hospital indicating that the baby by then needed no more than normal care and, taking that into account, the review failed. The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal. The question for the reviewing officer was whether the offer had been suitable and had or had not been reasonably refused when it was refused. That required a review limited to the facts as at the date of the refusal. What had since become the position was irrelevant.

R(Niypo) v Croydon LBC [2008] EWHC Admin, [2008] All ER (D) 24 (Mar), 4 March 2008. The council decided that the claimant (a single parent with two dependent children) had become homeless intentionally. It also decided that the duty it owed her (under Housing Act 1996 section 190(2)) could be met by (1) providing temporary accommodation for 10 days (expiring on 21 December 2007) and (2) giving her advice about crisis loans, registering with estate agents and access to bed and breakfast or other temporary accommodation. The council agreed to extend provision of accommodation to 1 January 2008 and after the claimant had sought judicial review offered a further extention to 5 March 2008. The High Court dismissed a claim for judicial review. Although the initial 10 days had been unlawfully short, by the date of trial the claimant had had a period that the council was entitled to say had given her a reasonable opportunity to find her own housing.

R(Shrewsbury & Atcham BC and Congleton BC) v Secretary of State [2008] EWCA Civ 148, 4 March 2008. The Secretary of State issued a White Paper encouraging proposals to be made to her for new unitary local authorities in areas where there where two councils for the same area (local district or borough councils and county councils). Current tenants of such councils would become tenants of the new unitary councils. She received and considered proposals before the statutory powers to approve them had been made. Two borough councils challenged that process. The Court of Appeal dismissed their appeals. The evidence showed that the Secretary of State had considered the proposals afresh after the statutory powers had been enacted. For a copy of the decision click here.

Complaint against Warrington Council (06/C/09304). A tenant bought her council home by exercising the right to buy. Two years later the council notified her that the house had been built on a contaminated landfill site and that she would need to contribute to decontamination costs. She incurred the costs of taking legal advice before the council acknowledged that it had been wrong to send her the claim. The council declined to reimburse her legal costs but on receiving the ombudsman's draft report agreed to pay £1500. For a copy of the press notice and report click here.

Complaint against Birmingham Council (07/C/01179). In the course of repair work, the council's contractors caused damage to a tenant's decorations. The contractors said that they did not do "making good". The council itself refused to do the re-decoration or pay the tenant's costs of redecorating. The Ombudsman found that making after repairs was within the council's legal responsibility and that it had been wrong to suggest otherwise in its conditions of tenancy and in its dealings with tenants and their advisers. For a copy of the press notice and report click here.

This 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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