2014 06 Housing

Tuesday 1 July 2014

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Haile v Waltham Forest LBC [2014] EWCA Civ 792 (Jackson, Fulford and Christopher Clarke LJJ): question whether applicant is intentionally homeless should be considered with reference to facts as they existed at time of leaving accommodation. Ms Haile was an assured shorthold tenant of a room at Lea Bridge House. It was a term of her tenancy that only one person could reside in the room. The tenancy also entitled her to use of the kitchen in the house shared with other residents. She became unhappy with the accommodation and in due course she moved out and applied to Waltham Forest as homeless. Ms Haile informed Waltham Forest on a number of occasions that she had moved out of the accommodation owing to unpleasant smells caused by the other residents cooking. Subsequently Ms Haile gave birth to a girl. At this juncture, if she had remained at Lea Bridge House, she would have had to move out since the tenancy agreement would not have permitted her to reside there with her daughter. Several months later Waltham Forest issued a review decision finding that Ms Haile was intentionally homeless. This decision was upheld on review and on appeal. The Court of Appeal dismissed a second appeal. The decision of the House of Lords in Din v Wandsworth LBC [1983] AC 657, involving the analogous provisions under the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977, remained binding. The decision as to whether an individual has made themselves intentionally homeless is to be made based on the facts as they existed at the time that they left their accommodation. If they were intentionally homeless at that point the fact that subsequent developments would have rendered them homeless in any event was irrelevant. Click here for the judgment.

Homelessness Statistics: on 19 June 2014 the Department of Communities and Local Government released its latest homelessness statistics showing that as of 31 March 2014, 58,590 homeless households had been placed in temporary accommodation, a 6% increase on the same date in 2013. Of these, 480 were households with children who had been placed in B&B accommodation for more than the statutory limit of six weeks: a decrease of 37% since the same date in 2013. Click here for the statistics.

Legal aid statistics: on 24 June 2014 the Ministry of Justice released its latest statistics on legal aid in England and Wales. In 2013-14 there were 55,943 housing cases: a dramatic decrease on previous years. In 2012-13, there had been 98,909 cases, 117,234 had been funded in 2011-12 and 126,154 in 2010-11. Click here for the statistics.

Birmingham City Council v Janet Beech [2014] EWCA Civ 830 (Chancellor of the High Court, Underhill and Briggs LJJ): undue influence and public law defence to possession proceedings. Mrs Beech lived with her mother Mrs Warren, a secure tenant of Birmingham City Council. For the purposes of ss87-89 Housing Act 1985, Mrs Warren was a successor since the tenancy had vested in her solely on the death of her joint tenant husband some years previously. Mrs Warren moved into a care home and, at the behest of Birmingham, signed a notice to quit. Birmingham brought possession proceedings against Mrs Beech. At first instance Keith J allowed the possession claim (see [2013] EWHC 518). The notice to quit was not procured through undue influence. The bringing of the claim was not unlawful on public law grounds. A defence based on art.8 did not reach the “seriously arguable” threshold. Finally, an argument that the succession regime under ss87-89 Housing Act 1985 was incompatible with art.8 and art.14 did not fall for consideration on the facts. Mrs Beech would not have been eligible to succeed in any event since she had not lived at the property in the 12 months leading up to the Mrs Warren’s death and the tenancy had not been secure at the relevant time. Mrs Beech appealed on the grounds that: (i) the notice to quit should be presumed to have been procured by undue influence since it had been obtained by one of Birmingham’s employees; and (ii) that it was invalid in any event as no formal assessment of Mrs Warren’s mental capacity had been carried out beforehand. The Court of Appeal dismissed Mrs Beech’s appeal. The relationship of tenant and landlord’s agent did not give rise to a presumption of undue influence. In relation to the failure to carry out an assessment of capacity, the evidence was that Mrs Warren had capacity at the relevant time. In these circumstances a public law defence founded on the failure to assess could not succeed as, by analogy, there would be no prospect of the High Court granting a quashing order in such a case. Click here for the judgement.

Temur v Hackney LBC [2014] EWCA Civ 877 (Jackson, Lewison and Christopher Clarke LJJ): whether a reviewing officer can make a “more adverse” decision on review. Ms Temur applied to Hackney as homeless. By decision pursuant to s184 Housing Act 1996 Hackney found her to be homeless and eligible for accommodation but not in priority need. Ms Temur requested a review of this decision arguing that she was in priority need as it was expected that her daughter would come to live with her. Around one month later Ms Temur took an assured shorthold tenancy in North London. Subsequent to this, Hackney issued a s202 decision finding that Ms Temur was no longer homeless. That decision was withdrawn by agreement. Ms Temur submitted representations relating to the adequacy of this new accommodation. Following the issue of a minded-to letter, Hackney made a further decision under s202 finding that Ms Temur was not homeless. This decision was upheld on appeal. Ms Temur appealed to the Court of Appeal arguing that it was not open to Hackney to reach an adverse decision on different grounds, and that the reviewing officer had erred in failing to consider whether the new accommodation fell short of the standards set out in Part I Housing Act 2004. The Court of Appeal dismissed her appeal. Applying the decision of the House of Lords in Mohamed v Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough Council [2001] UKHL 57; [2002] 1 AC 547, a reviewing officer must base his or her decision on the facts as they exist at the date of the decision. It follows that it is open to a reviewing officer to reach a decision which is less favourable to an applicant than the original decision. There is nothing in s202 or s203 to preclude this. In relation to the Housing Act 2004 point, there is a distinction to be drawn between the question of whether accommodation is “reasonable to occupy” and whether accommodation is “suitable” for the purposes of s206 Housing Act 1996. These are different questions posed at separate stages of the procedure under Part VII . The first question will arise in determining whether an applicant is homeless. The second question will arise in determining whether accommodation provided to a homeless applicant meets the requisite legal standard. A hazard assessment under Part 1 Housing Act 2004 was not required in answering the first question. Click here for the judgment.

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