Issue 96 - 19th May 2008

Monday 19 May 2008

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The Latest Housing Law News

Another Housing Bill and another Housing Green Paper: The Government's Draft Legislative Programme for the Parliamentary Session 2008/2009 was published on 14 May 2008. The document, Preparing Britain for the Future, outlines an intention to publish a Housing Reform Green Paper "towards the end of 2008" and to include in the next Queen's Speech another Housing Bill (The Community Empowerment, Housing and Economic Regeneration Bill). The deadline for responses to the proposals is 6 August 2008. For a copy of the document, click here.

More help for house-purchasers: the Housing Minister has announced that, with immediate effect, the "key worker" qualifying condition for the Homebuy programme has been dropped. Now, all first time buyers with a household income of £60,000 a year can to apply to buy a share of a home. For the details of this and other measures announced on 14 May 2008 and designed to boost the "first time buyer" market, click here.

Social Housing & Worklessness: on 13 May 2008 the Department for Work and Pensions published the research report Social Housing & Worklessness: Key Policy messages. The authors found that the social housing tenants they interviewed faced multiple disadvantages but that the majority of respondents reported that living in social housing did not present a barrier or disincentive to work. For a copy of the report, click here.

Resolving Housing Disputes: the final report of the Law Commission's work on this topic, Housing: Proportionate Dispute Resolution, was published on 13 May 2008. In the light of responses to its consultation paper, the Commission has reigned-back from the suggestion that possession cases, homelessness appeals and housing judicial review work should be transferred to the Tribunal system. Instead, it recommends a series of pilot projects. For a copy of the report, click here.

The New Social Housing Regulator: on 13 May 2008 the Housing Minister announced the appointment of the first Chair of the new Office for Tenants and Social Landlords (OFTENANT). For the details, click here.

Housing Needs of Children & Young People: cross-departmental non-statutory guidance has been issued to Housing providers and social services authorities designed to encourage greater collaboration in meeting the housing needs of the young. A copy of the document, Joint Working between Housing and Children's Services, is available by clicking here.

Right to Buy In Wales: the Government has initiated a pre-legislative scrutiny of proposals to give the Welsh Assembly law-making powers in respect of the right to buy (not least so that the power can be used to suspend the right to buy in certain parts of Wales). For a copy of the Wales Office scrutiny document, click here.

Sale and Lease-Back Inquiry: on 14 May 2008 the Office of Fair Trading announced that it was launching a market study of the practice of private companies buying-up the homes of those in mortgage difficulties and renting them back to the occupiers. Evidence should be submitted by 14 June 2008. For the details, click here.

The Latest Housing CaseLaw

13 May 2008
McCann v UK
European Court, Application no 190009/04

This is possibly the most important Housing case in a generation.

Mr and Mrs McCann were joint tenants of a council house in Birmingham. Mrs McCann left with the children and was re-housed. The council then asked her to sign a notice to quit in respect of the joint tenancy. When she did so, the tenancy ended and the council sought possession from Mr McCann. He had no defence in English property law and, on appeal, a possession order was made. A claim for judicial review of the council's actions was dismissed. He therefore never had a forum in which to make a factual case as to why he should be allowed to keep his home. The European Court decided that this had violated his right to respect for his home (under Article 8) and awarded him compensation and costs. In doing so, the Court explicitly endorsed the approach of the minority in the House of Lords cases of Qazi v Harrow LBC and Kay v Lambeth LBC. It is not yet known whether the UK Government will seek reconsideration by a Grand Chamber. For a copy of the judgment, click here.

15 May 2008
R(S) v Lewisham LBC
[2008] EWHC Admin, [2008] All ER (D) 195 (May)

The claimant had lived, in turn, in Lambeth and Hackney. She applied for accommodation to Lewisham under National Assistance Act 1948 section 21. All three councils agreed that she was entitled to accommodation but they could not agree which of them should provide it. The Secretary of State declared that the claimant had no settled residence. On a claim for judicial review, Lewisham was ordered to house pending the hearing. It sought an order requiring Hackney to meet those accommodation costs. The High Court decided that the authority subject to the section 21 duty for a person with no settled residence was the authority for the area where the person was physically present. On the day of her application to them, the claimant had physically been in Lewisham. No degree of residence in the area of the authority to which the claimant presented herself was required. Lewisham were liable to pay.

16 May 2008
R(Kromah) v Southwark LBC
[2008] EWHC Admin, [2008] All ER (D) 207 (May)
The claimant arrived in the UK as an unaccompanied minor seeking asylum. She was accommodated by a local authority in their area, initially under the Children Act 1989 and later as a care-leaver. Later, aged 21, and living in a flat in a different local authority area, she applied to the first authority for help with her rent under National Assistance Act 1948 section 21. Both that authority and the authority for the area in which she was living refused assistance. She sought judicial review. The High Court held that, pending a decision by the Secretary of State as to which of the two authorities owed the claimant a duty, the authority for the area in which she was physically living would be subject to a duty to assist.

This Week

19 May 2008
Housing Bill
The House of Lords will convene again in Grand Committee to consider further amendments to the Housing Bill. For details of the amendments proposed for debate click here.

21 May 2008
Social Housing Law & Practice Conference 2008
A Lime Legal Conference in London. For details click here.

21 May 2008
Homeless Young People & Housing.
The HLPA Members' meeting in London. For details click here.

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