2013 01 Housing

Friday 1 February 2013

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Ibrahim v Wandsworth LBC [2013] EWCA Civ 20 (Mummery LJ, Etherton LJ, Sir Stephen Sedley): this case dealt with the approach which the courts should adopt to “a plainly deficient homelessness decision” in circumstances where the deficiency has had no adverse consequences for the applicant. Ms Ibrahim was evicted from her privately rented accommodation at the end of an assured shorthold tenancy. On making a homeless application to Wandsworth BC she was found to be intentionally homeless. The decision was plainly deficient in that it classified her as being in priority need but concluded that the only duty she was owed was that of advice and assistance. On the council’s findings of fact, she was in fact entitled to be accommodated for a reasonable period while she sought alternative accommodation. On review, the reviewer upheld the intentionality finding but, without picking up on the original error, correctly stated the law relating to which duty Ms Ibrahim was owed. On the face of it, this should have triggered the obligation under Regulation 8(2) of the Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Review Procedures) Regulations 1999 to notify Ms Ibrahim, before upholding the decision, so that she could make representations. The reviewer did not do this. On appeal to the county court under s.204, the judge dismissed the appeal holding that the error “was not of sufficient importance to justify engaging regulation 8(2)”. On appeal to the Court of Appeal, the court upheld the judge’s decision but for different reasons. Mummery and Etherton LJ took the view that the alleged deficiency was not a “relevant decision” and therefore did not fall within regulation 8(2) at all since: (i) Ms Ibrahim had not raised the issue on review; (ii) it was not a decision which the reviewer upheld; and (iii) the reviewer did not make any decision on the same matter against the interests of Ms Ibrahim. Sedley LJ agreed that the appeal should be dismissed but was highly critical of Wandsworth’s review process and of the requirement that Ms Ibrahim should have raised the issue upon review. The judgement contains a detailed discussion of the requirements of regulation 8. Adrian Marshall-Williams was counsel for Ms Ibrahim. (Click here for the judgment.)

Sims v Dacorum Borough Council [2013] EWCA Civ 12 (Mummery LJ, Etherton LJ, Sir Scott Baker): Mr and Mrs Sims were the secure joint tenants of Dacorum BC. The marriage broke down. Mrs Sims left the property and later, unilaterally, served a notice to quit on Dacorum, thereby bringing the joint tenancy to an end. Subsequently Dacorum obtained a possession order. Mr Sims appealed against the possession order and the appeal was transferred to the Court of Appeal. It was argued on behalf of Mr Sims that the rule in Hammersmith and Fulham LBC v Monk[1992] 1 A.C. 478 – to the effect that the service of a notice to quit by one joint tenant is sufficient to determine a periodic joint residential tenancy – was incompatible with his rights under Article 8 and Protocol 1, Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It was conceded by counsel for Mr Sims that Monk was binding on the court. The issue was whether permission should be granted to appeal to the Supreme Court. The appeal was dismissed and permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was refused. The court took the view that the rule in Monk is ECHR compatible and that the point was not one of general public importance. (Click here for judgment.)

Wolverhampton City Council v Helen Shuttleworth (HC) (unreported), 27 November 2012: this case has not yet been reported and this note is based, with thanks, on Nearly Legal’s report. Ms Shuttleworth was an introductory tenant of Wolverhampton CC. Wolverhampton served a notice seeking possession stating:

You have the right to request a review of the landlord’s decision to seek an order for possession. Any request must be made within 14 days of service of this Notice. To make a request for a review you should complete the enclosed form and return it to your local housing office.

During the possession proceedings it was argued on Ms Shuttleworth’s behalf that the notice was defective in that it failed to comply with the requirements of s128 Housing Act 1996. The notice stipulated that any review request should be made on the enclosed form i.e. in writing, whereas s128 contains no such requirement. At first instance, this argument succeeded and the possession claim was struck out. On appeal by Wolverhampton the High Court allowed the appeal. The notice, by use of the word “should” as opposed to “must”, did not stipulate the only form of review and there was nothing to stop the council stipulating the form of review so long as they were prepared to accept requests for reviews made in other ways. (Click here for the NL report.)

Repossession statistics: Latest data on Landlord and mortgage possessions. Released by the DCLG on 7 January 2013. In the third quarter of 2012 there were 13,747 mortgage possession claims issued and 9,653 possession orders made. In respect of Landlord possessions, 37,818 claims were issued and the courts made 25,031 orders. In both cases, the number of possession orders made was down on the previous quarter. (Click here for the data.)

Affordable housing supply: The latest DCLG data on affordable housing supply. Released on 7 January 2013. The data shows that between 1 April and 30 September 2012, 11,432 new affordable homes were completed by programmes funded by the Homes and Communities Agency and the Greater London Authority. This is a decrease of 11% compared to the 12,778 completed in the same period in the previous year and 42% down on the 19,565 completed in the same period in 2010. (Click here for the data.)

“Housing the next generation”: On 10 January 2013, Planning Minister Nick Boles marketed plans to release more land for development as the solution to the problem of the lack of affordable housing. (Click here for the text of his speech to the Policy Exchange.)

“Housing the next generation”: On 10 January 2013, Planning Minister Nick Boles marketed plans to release more land for development as the solution to the problem of the lack of affordable housing. (Click here for the text of his speech to the Policy

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