2013 02 Housing

Friday 1 March 2013

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Sharif v Camden LBC [2013] UKSC 10 (Lord Hope, Lord Walker, Lady Hale, Lord Kerr, Lord Carnwath): The issue raised by this appeal was whether a family housed in two separate units of a hostel were accommodated “together” for the purposes of s176 Housing Act 1996. By s175 of that Act, a person is homeless if he has no accommodation which is available for his occupation. By s176 accommodation will not be available for a person’s occupation unless it is available for occupation by him “together with… any other person who normally resides with him as a member of his family”. This extended meaning of “available for occupation”, by virtue of s176, runs through the whole of part VII, applying also to accommodation provided by a Local Authority pursuant to ss188 and 193. The family in this case, it was accepted, were owed the full homelessness duty under s193(2). Camden purported to discharge this duty though the provision of the two hostel units. The Supreme Court decided that the statutory test for whether accommodation is available for occupation may be satisfied by two units of accommodation “if they are so located that they enable the family to live “together” in practical terms”. This is a question of fact for the Local Authority subject to review on public law grounds. (Click here for judgment.)

Barons Finance Limited and Reddy Corporation Limited v Timmy Makanju [2013] EWHC 153 (QB) (HHJ Mackie QC): A permission decision in a mortgage possession case. One of a number of cases, referred to by the judge as the “Barons cases”, which have been sent to the Mercantile Court to coordinate, and worthy of note in the event that practitioners find themselves dealing with similar cases involving this Claimant. The cases typically involve “loans… made to people who have arrived in this country quite recently and are under severe financial pressure, at high rates of interest usually secured by charges on the borrowers’ homes.” The Claimant obtained a possession order in respect of the Defendant’s flat in 2009. In 2012 the Claimant sought to execute a warrant pursuant to this order and the Defendant applied to suspend this warrant. This was refused and the Defendant sought leave to appeal against this refusal. The judge recognised that, in substance, the appeal was against the possession order itself, and granted the Defendant leave to amend his grounds. The judge went on to grant permission to appeal out of time, expressing the view that the Defendant had a real prospect of success on the basis that: (i) the forms and procedures used by the Claimant did not comply with the requirements of the Consumer Credit Act 1974; (ii) the transaction under scrutiny was not exempt from the requirements of the Act (as had been argued in other linked cases); and (iii) the Claimant appeared to have been unlawfully carrying out business without a licence under the Act. (Click here for the judgment.)

R (AT, AG and HG) v Islington LBC [2013] EWHC 107 (Admin) (Philip Mott QC sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge): The Claimant and her husband lived with their two children in an overcrowded one-bedroom flat suffering from mice infestation and damp penetration. The older child had been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and the younger with Down ’s syndrome. Accordingly, the family had a need for assistance from both children’s services and housing. In relation to children’s services, both children were assessed to be children in need within the meaning of the Children Act 1989. The core assessments recognised that the family had a need to be rehoused and provided for this need to be met through the allocation of housing by the Defendant’s housing department. In relation to housing the Claimants were registered on the Defendant’s allocation scheme but had not yet been allocated a property. The Claimant sought judicial review arguing that the Defendant had failed to comply with its duties under s17 Children Act 1989 and s11 Children Act 2004, and challenging various matters in respect of the application for housing. Owing to developments shortly before the hearing, only the Children Act issues were pursued. The Claimant argued that the core assessment was unlawful in that it had failed to include, inter alia, the timeframe for rehousing, steps to ensure that the family gets priority for ground floor housing, a plan to manage the move to new housing, and a contingency plan (including alternative accommodation) in the event that the family were not allocated suitable alternative accommodation imminently. The judge granted permission but refused the substantive application, deciding that the timetable for rehousing was outside of hands children’s services and that contingency planning for the event that the family were not rehoused imminently could be dealt with by way of regular reviews of the plan. The case illustrates the tensions between the duties owed by housing and children’s services to families who are plainly in need, yet do not have sufficient priority for an allocation of social housing. (Click here for judgment.)

Street homelessness: The Latest DCLG data on the number of people sleeping rough was published on 6 February 2013. The Autumn 2012 total of street “counts and estimates” (see below) in England was 2,309; an increase of 6% from the 2011 figure of 2,181, which was, in turn, an increase of 23% from the 2010 figure of 1,768. The totalcomprises a figure from every local housing authority in England. Of these, 43 authorities conducted a count and 283 provided an estimate. (Click here for the data.)

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