The Last Week in Housing Law
On 17 March 2008 the House of Lords passed an amendment to the Children & Young Persons Bill the effect of which is to create a statutory duty on the Borders & Immigration Agency to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (particularly homeless unaccompanied asylum seekers) who pass through its care. The government opposed the change on the grounds that "it would give a further legal basis for litigation". To read the debate click here (and scroll down the page)
On 18 March 2008 the Government launched a consultation paper on measures to improve regulation of the house building industry and, in particular, to step-up local authority enforcement of building control measures so as to police shoddy builders out of the system. The consultation ends on 10 June 2008. To download the consultation paper and the associated regulatory impact assessments click here
Also on 18 March 2008, the Government published its Youth Taskforce Action Plan designed to increase the effectiveness of measures to address anti-social behaviour by young people and their families. The plan commits government to "ensure anti-social behaviour is tackled through effective use of enforcement powers". For a copy of the plan click here
On 19 March 2008, the Housing Corporation published initial findings of an on-line survey of local housing authorities designed to capture their views of local housing associations. The figures suggest that more than a third of respondents rated housing management services by associations as neither very effective nor even "effective". For more detail click here
On 20 March 2008, the Housing Minister launched a further initiative to improve levels of employment among those entering social housing and to tackle worklessness. A fund of £70m is to be distributed to 69 homeless projects "to ensure that those getting hostel accommodation are also supported and encouraged to find employment". For more details of the announcement click here:
Last Week's Cases
S v Floyd  EWCA Civ 201, 18 March 2008. An assured tenant with mental health issues suspended payment of rent in a dispute over a rent increase notice. The landlady sought possession once the arrears reached over £7000. The housing benefit department of the local council held £8000 in unpaid housing benefit awaiting authority from the tenant to release it. A district judge granted possession under Housing Act 1988 Schedule 2 Ground 8. A circuit judge dismissed an appeal. The Court of Appeal held that the earlier judges may have been wrong to have directed themselves that the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 could not be an answer to a mandatory possession claim and called for an early review by the House of Lords. In the event, the with-holding of rent had not been related to the tenant's disability so no issue under the DDA arose. For the judgment click here
Porter v Shepherds Bush HA  EWCA Civ 196, 19 March 2008. A secure tenant lost his tenancy on breach of the terms of a suspended possession order made for rent arrears. Later, he cleared the arrears of rent. The issue arose as to whether that act automatically discharged the order or enabled him to apply to discharge it. The Court of Appeal held that the wording of the order (made in 1997) in standard form N28 meant that the order had become unenforceable on clearance of the arrears. It had not been discharged and could not be discharged. The court's powers under CPR 3.1(2)(a) to enlarge time could not be used to undo that effect and recent authorities on secure tenancies were to be preferred to the old Rent Act case of Payne v Cooper  1 QB 174. The former tenant was and remained a trespasser. For the judgment click here
R(Yazar) v Southwark LBC  EWHC 515 (Admin),  All ER (D) 273 (Mar), 19 March 2008. The claimant, a single parent who had considerable social needs, applied for a transfer to ground floor accommodation. Southwark operated a choice based letting scheme with 4 bands including in Band 1 "Social Services Nominations (Families)". Although the claimant had letters from social services officers recommending her inclusion in Band 1, a formal nomination was refused. The High Court held that Southwark's scheme unlawfully failed to spell out clearly how the Social Services Nominations procedure worked. When, in future, a decision was lawfully notified to refuse a nomination reasons for such refusal did not need to be given automatically - but should be given on request.
R(Faarah) v Southwark LBC  EWHC 529 (Admin),  All ER (D) 290 (Mar), 19 March 2008. Before Southwark moved to a choice based letting scheme (see above) it had a points-based scheme in which date of registration in a particular medical needs category was important. On the changeover, a new medical needs category was introduced in virtually identically terms but giving all those on the scheme new (later) registration dates. The High Court held that the council was acting unlawfully in unfairly failing to recognise earlier registration dates under the identical category of its earlier scheme. Moreover, the relevant provisions did not form part of its published scheme in breach of Housing Act 1996 s167(8).
26 March 2008 Recent Developments in Housing Benefit. London meeting of the Housing Law Practitioners Association. For details click here
31 March 2008 Housing Bill. House of Commons Third Reading. For details of the amendments put down for debate - including a new government clause abolishing the "tolerated trespasser" concept - click here
UNTIL 31 MARCH 2008 ONLY: 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 31 March 2008. For full details click here.
28 April 2008. Defending Possession Proceedings. A LAG training course in London. For details click here