Housing Law Week
General Editor: Jan
3rd June 2015 Update
Social Housing Law & Practice Conference 2015
London 25 June 2015
Brand new programme includes:
- The Housing Manager in Court - rights of audience, evidence, adjournments, costs and appeals
- Tenancy Fraud :The Housing Manager’s role
- Thorny Problems and Solutions: succession, joint tenancy problems, safety inspection difficulties and possession cases
- ASB Update: the new cases and legislation you need to know
- What’s been Happening and what’s on the Horizon?
- Ask the Experts: 2 Q&A panel sessions to raise questions
Expert speakers: Jan Luba QC (Garden Court Chambers), Peter Marcus (Zenith Chambers), Katrina Robinson (Viridian Housing) and Michael Owen (Capsticks Solicitors)
Don’t miss out - book now whilst there are still some places available:
For further details click here
To book online click here
HOUSING LAW NEWS
Three excellent Housing lawyers - Parminder Sanghera (Community Law Partnership), Jayesh Kunwardia (Hodge Jones & Allen) and Sara Stephens (Anthony Gold) have been shortlisted as finalists for the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year 2015 award in the Housing category. A further Housing lawyer, Connor Johnston (Garden Court Chambers), has made the finals in the Newcomer category. For the full shortlist, click here The winners will be announced at the LALY Awards on 1 July 2015.
The UK Housing Minister is Brandon Lewis MP. For his details, click here However, responsibility for policy on Homelessness – and a supporting role on the Housing Bill (see below) – lies with the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Local Government) Marcus Jones MP. For his details, click here Roberta Blackman-Woods MP is the new Labour shadow Housing Minister. For her details, click here
Anti-social behaviour: the new gang injunctions
This Monday, 1 June 2015, the law relating to gang injunctions was re-written by the commencement of the Serious Crime Act 2015 section 51. For an outline of the changes and the Government’s impact assessment of them, click here For the section of the Act itself, click here For the Home Office Circular giving guidance on the new Act, click here
Housing & Immigration
On 21 May 2015, the Prime Minister gave a speech on immigration policy which contained a number of proposed changes to housing law. For a copy of the speech, click here For a commentary on the proposals, click here
A new report from Citizens Advice – Nation of renters: How England moved from secure family homes towards rundown rentals – explores how renting in England has changed, with the number of households living in the private rental sector doubling in the last ten years. For a copy of the report, click here For a commentary on the report’s analysis of poor housing conditions in the private rented sector, click here
On 27 May 2015, new obligations came into force for letting agents in England. The rules are contained in the Consumer Rights Act 2015 sections 83-88. For a copy, click here Among the new rules, letting agents must now: display fees clearly in their office and on their website; state whether they are a member of a client protection scheme; and identify which redress scheme they adhere to. The sanction is a £5,000 fine. Citizens Advice has created an on-line letting agent complaint tool through which breaches of the rules can be reported. To access that, click here Special regulations give exemption for lawyers handling lettings in the course of their legal work. For those regulations, click here Enforcement of the new rules will be by local authority officers. They have been issued with guidance in Annex D of the general guidance on enforcement in the private rented sector. For that guidance, click here
The Health & Safety Executive has found that some letting agents have been misinterpreting the risks of exposure of their tenants to legionella. For more details, click here
Professor Caroline Hunter at York University is conducting a research project seeking to: (i) explore the location of properties occupied by property guardians; (ii) analyse the claims made by property guardian companies about the rights of tenants; and (iii) find out the extent of actions taken by local authorities in relation to such properties. For more details, click here
Social Housing Allocation
The House of Commons Library has produced a new briefing note giving the facts, figures and policies on access to social housing in England for EEA migrants. For a copy, click here
Right to Buy
On 26 May 2015, the qualifying period for a social housing tenant to exercise the right to buy was cut from 5 years to 3 years in England by the coming into force of the Deregulation Act 2015 section 28. For a copy of that section, click here To reflect the change, the UK Government has republished its leaflet promoting the right to buy. For a copy, click here For the official UK Government website on the Right to Buy, click here For the revised booklet, Thinking of Buying Your Council Flat?, click here
Short term lets in London
On 26 May 2015 it became lawful to arrange short term lets of residential accommodation in London without planning permission. That was the effect of commencement of the Deregulation Act 2015 sections 44 and 45. For a copy of the sections, click here For the UK Government announcement on the day the rules changed, click here
A new House of Commons Library Briefing paper provides a useful comparison of statutory provision for the homeless across the four UK countries. For a copy, click here
The Homes & Communities Agency has revised its model leases for shared ownership. The amendment reflects changes to the pre-emption right of the landlords. For all the details, click here
Discretionary Housing Payments
A new report from the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) looks at the way some aspects of social security – including Discretionary Housing Payments – are now administered at a local level rather than through a national scheme. The review considers the effects of the recent changes, draws conclusions and makes recommendations. For a copy of the report, click here
The latest local reference rents set for each area of England and Wales have been published. For the official figures, click here
Housing in Wales
On 19 May 2015, the Welsh Government announced that it is to invest £108 million in raising the quality of social housing in Wales and will repeal the right to buy in Wales. For the announcement, click here
On the same day, regulations came into force enabling councils in Wales to exclude from their allocation schemes those applicants whose anti-social behaviour could or would have led to the making of a possession order under the new ‘absolute’ statutory ground. For those regulations, click here
HOUSING LAWS IN THE PIPELINE
This UK Government Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech on 28 May 2015 but has yet to be published. For the official outline of its content, click here The official briefing about the Queen’s Speech contains the details at pages 27-29. For that, click here For a commentary on the likely content of the Bill, click here
Renting Homes (Wales) Bill
This is a Welsh Government bill introduced in the Welsh Assembly. For a copy of the Bill, click here For the Explanatory Memorandum, click here To monitor the progress of the Bill, click here The Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee began its deliberations on the Bill on 22 April 2015. It heard evidence from Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Simon White, the Bill manager in the Welsh Government and Neil Buffin, senior lawyer in the Legal Services section of the Welsh Government. For the transcript of the evidence session, click here The Minister subsequently wrote to the Committee to provide additional information. To read the letter of the 7 May 2015, please click here and scroll to the foot of the page where it is listed under ‘Documents’. On 30 April 2015, the Committee heard evidence from the Law Society and the National Union of Students. For their evidence, click here On 6 May 2015 evidence was given by the Chartered Institute of Housing, Community Housing Cymru, Welsh Local Government Association, Cymorth Cymru, Tai Pawb and the Residential Property Tribunal (Wales). For that evidence, click here On 14 May 2015 the Committee heard from the Country Land and Business Association, Guild of Residential Landlords, National Landlords Association, Residential Landlords Association, Association of Residential Letting Agents, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Citizens Advice Cymru and Shelter Cymru. For that evidence, click here On the same date, the Minister wrote to the Committee addressing a number of issues raised by the Bill, including its compatibility with Articles 6 and 8 of Human Rights Act 1998 Sch 1. For that letter, click here and scroll to the foot of the page where it is listed under ‘Documents’. For the evidence submitted by the Housing Law Practitioners Association, click here To watch Justin Bates presenting HLPA’s evidence on 20 May 2015, click here
Look what’s on the agenda!
Homelessness Conference 2015
London, 19 June 2015
- The up to date Policy Picture
- Threshold: Latest Developments
- Limiting, transferring and performing housing duties owed to the Homeless
- The Crunch Issues in Practice:
- Using the Private Sector
- Homelessness – Future Developments
- Ask the Experts
*Additional Session: “Temporary Accommodation: What is going on within and outside London”
HOUSING LAW CASES
Southend Council v Victor HG Robbins
21 May 2015
The defendant was a private landlord. The council served an improvement notice, under the Housing Act 2004 section 11, requiring remedial work to address excess cold and risk of falls associated with stairs and steps. On 12 November 2014 the defendant was found guilty of failure to comply with that order and fined £2,500 with a £120 victim surcharge and £670.39 costs. The council carried out works in default at a cost of £1,604.30. A second notice required repair to the roof and work to ensure that the property was water-tight, met building regulations and had no penetrating damp. At Southend Magistrates’ Court, the defendant was found guilty of non-compliance with that second notice and fined £3,500 with a £120 victim surcharge and £460 in costs. The council was also awarded the costs of the work in default on the first notice. For details of these prosecutions, click here
Haile v Waltham Forest LBC
20 May 2014
When pregnant, Ms Haile surrendered her tenancy of a bedsit in a hostel for single people and moved to insecure accommodation from which she later became homeless. She later gave birth to a daughter. The council decided that she had become homeless intentionally because she had surrendered her tenancy and ceased to occupy the hostel which was available for her occupation, and which it would have been reasonable for her to continue to occupy until she gave birth. Her appeals were dismissed by the reviewing officer, the county court and the Court of Appeal but allowed by the Supreme Court. She successfully argued that the birth of her baby broke the chain of causation between her deliberately leaving the hostel and her state of homelessness when her application was considered. To watch the case being argued, click here For the judgment, click here For the official summary, click here For a commentary, click here
Mears v Shoreline Housing
20 May 2015
Shoreline granted a substantial repair and maintenance contract to Mears. The agreement was signed six months after work started and retrospectively applied. A dispute developed relating to £300,000 said to have been overpaid for 12,000 small jobs. Shoreline withheld that sum from further payments and Mears sued for it. The High Court allowed the claim. Shoreline was estopped from denying that the claimed basis of payment had been effectively agreed or was otherwise enforceable. For the judgment, click here
Brent LBC v Martin Joseph Hetherton and Michael Durham
19 May 2015
The first defendant was a private landlord. The second defendant was a surveyor and the landlord’s planning agent. An issue arose as to whether a studio flat had been let to tenants for more than four years. The defendants submitted, to the council and the Planning Inspectorate, tenancy agreements to cover the years 2008, 2009 and 2011. It was discovered that the tenancy agreements were fake because they were created on ‘Law Pack Forms' which were not actually published until 2012. At Willesden Magistrates' Court, the defendants pleaded guilty and were each fined £3,000 with costs of £2,286. For more details of the prosecution, click here
Sovereign Housing Association v Rutherford
12 May 2015
The Housing Association obtained an anti-social behaviour injunction as a result of the defendant’s harassment. It contained an exclusion area and a power of arrest. On a fourth set of breaches for entering the exclusion area over a period of ten months (during which the defendant had been in prison for approximately five months) an immediate prison term of 42 days for each breach was imposed. For the judgment, click here
Oliver v Sheffield City Council
12 May 2015
The council carried out £10 million worth of remedial works involving re-cladding 40 deck-access blocks containing 1,000 flats. It sought to recover a share of the costs from the 80 leaseholders of flats which had been bought under the right to buy. One of those, Ms Oliver, said it was unreasonable to incur the expenditure and that a more modest programme of regular repairs to the original cladding ought to have been undertaken instead. She failed at both the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal. But the council had received a £1.5 million grant from the CESP towards the work. The Upper Tribunal ruled that Ms Oliver was entitled to be credited with the appropriate share of the CESP funding in respect of the work to her building. For the judgment, click here
Hertfordshire District Council v Jane Cleverly
8 May 2015
The defendant was a landlady. The council served her with an improvement notice under Housing Act 2004 section 11 requiring works to install fixed heating in a property that she was letting. At Stevenage Magistrates’ Court, she pleaded guilty to not complying with the notice. She was ordered to pay a fine of £500, costs of £794.57 and a £50 victim surcharge. For details of the prosecution, click here
Hammersmith & Fulham Council v Susan Smith
5 May 2015,
The defendant was a council tenant in receipt of housing benefit. She inherited a house in Surrey. She rented it out for several years, then sold it and banked the cash. She continued to claim housing benefit throughout and later applied for a payment under the council’s tenancy incentive scheme (which helps tenants buy their own home by giving them cash in exchange for their tenancy). She would have been eligible for £30,000 but on the application form she disclosed her bank balances of £213,574. She later realised her mistake and tried to withdraw her application. At Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court she pleaded guilty to six charges of fraud. She had been overpaid £12,653 in housing benefit and council tax benefit. Having repaid most of that money, she was given a 12-month community order, with 150 hours of unpaid work, and ordered to pay £1,200 costs and a £60 victim surcharge. For details of the prosecution, click here
Regenda Homes v (Anon)
1 May 2015
Following multiple reports of anti-social behaviour, Regenda sought and obtained what is believed to be the first civil injunction with a ‘positive requirement’ (as permitted by Anti-social Behaviour etc Act 2014) to be granted to a registered provider against a tenant. The order was made at Oldham County Court and contained three terms. Two of those, with a power of arrest attached, forbid the defendant from (1) causing nuisance and/or annoyance to named individuals and (2) playing music, shouting or banging at a level audible outside her property. The third term requires the defendant to engage with local authority alcohol services, and to attend all pre-arranged appointments. The order lasts for two years. For further details, click here
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A new Ombudsman?
On 25 March 2015, the UK Government launched a consultation exercise about proposals to absorb the roles of the Housing Ombudsman and the Local Government Ombudsman into the jurisdiction of a new Public Service Ombudsman for England. For the consultation paper, click here. For the Gordon report, on which the proposals are based, click here Responses should be made by 16 June 2015. For initial responses to the consultation from the housing sector, click here
ARTICLES & PUBLICATIONS
Recent Developments in Housing Law Jan Luba QC & Nic Madge  June issue Legal Action magazine. Available in print and on-line for Legal Action subscribers. To read the article, click here.
An end to revenge evictions Giles Peaker  159 Solicitors Journal Property Focus Supp pages 5 and 7
No such thing as an 'ordinary homeless person' Matt Hutchings  159 Solicitors Journal, 26 May. To read the article, click here
Stopping the scandal of 'sorry, you're just not vulnerable enough' Hannah Fearn  Guardian 22 May. To read the article, click here
The power of the trinity (public law/human rights/discrimination defences to possession claims)Mark Robinson  169 Adviser May/June issue p22
The new Civil Injunction Order Scott Greenwood  Local Government Lawyer 38 May. To read the article, click here
Open the gate (homelessness applications and gatekeeping)Mark Robinson  169 Adviser May/June issue p28
Unpicking the Deregulation Act 2015 Tessa Shepperson  159 Solicitors Journal, 19 May. To read the article, click here
Guarding the (property) guardians Christopher Bernard and Daniel Dovar  159 Solicitors Journal Property Focus Supp pages 19 and 21
8 Key Findings into Council-Administered Social Cleansing in London Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth  Novara Wire Blog. To read the article, click here
The crisis is in housing, not who owns it Patrick Butler  Guardian 27 May. To read the article, click here
Only 2 homes built to replace the 863 sold off under Right to Buy in Greater Manchester
Jon Stone  Independent 26 May. To read the article, click here
Alex Hilton: 'Most 20-year-olds want the housing crisis fixed before they are 50' Hannah Fearn  Guardian 26 May. To read the article, click here
Life in cold, damp, rat-infested rental housing is scarring – I know, I’m living it John Wilson  Guardian 26 May. To read the article, click here
There’s no place like home: the right to respect for private life and home in social care
Natalie Threlfall  BIHR Blog To read the article, click here
Having a legal right to settled accommodation empowers homeless people in Scotland Beth Watts  LSE Blog To read the article, click here
The London borough that has turned homeless people into 'criminals' Kashmira Gander  Independent 21 May. To read the article, click here
Family reunited after housing battle led to homelessness and separation Amelia Gentleman  Guardian 20 May. To read the article, click here
A Game Changer from the Supreme Court? Paul Anderson  Homeless Link Blog 19 May. To read the article, click here
Temporary Accommodation – a long way from home Kevin Garvey  Shelter Housing Policy Blog 19 May. To read the article, click here
Housing benefit cuts for under-21s would be disastrous for young people Paul Noblet  Guardian Housing Network 18 May. To read the article, click here
Seven ways social landlords can prepare for universal credit Daren Nowlan  Guardian Housing Network 19 May. To read the article, click here
THE HOUSING LAW
19 June 2015
Homelessness Conference 2015: Law & Best Practice (Lime Legal) in London – for further details click here
25 June 2015
Social Housing Law & Practice Conference 2015 (Lime Legal) in London – for further details click here
Housing Solicitor/Senior Caseworker (full time) - The Community Law Partnership
Community Law Partnership is seeking to appoint a full time Housing Solicitor/Senior Caseworker.
We have a Legal Aid Agency Contract for Housing work. The post holder will be giving advice and assistance on housing law to tenants, homeless people and others in housing need, including casework and litigation. No advice is given to Landlords. You must be able to maintain files and to manage cases effectively.
For full details of the vacancy, salary scale and application form visit:
Location: Birmingham City Centre, 4th Floor, Ruskin Chambers, 191 Corporation Street, Birmingham, B4 6RP
Closing date for applications is Friday 12th June 2015.
Assistant Solicitor Vacancy with Lester Morrill Solicitors
Assistant Solicitor, 2-4 PQE, with expertise in Housing Law to conduct a mixed caseload of Legal Aid and privately funded work within the firm’s Social Welfare Law department. Caseload includes work on the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme. Experience of Public Law and Community Care Law desirable. Apply with CV and salary expectations to Helen Butterworth, Lester Morrill, 27 Park Square West, Leeds, by email to email@example.com (direct applications only: strictly no canvassers). Lester Morrill Solicitors is committed to equal opportunities.
Closing date: 4 June 2015.
Vacancy for Principal Solicitor – Housing
Brixton Advice Centre (London) is seeking an experienced housing solicitor with at least 3 years PQE and with experience of supervising and managing casework under an LAA contract in Housing and Community Care.
Hours: Full-time (part-time considered)
Salary: Up to £37,330 (incl ILW) depending on experience
30 days annual leave a year plus bank holidays.
The role requires the supervision and professional development of qualified and non-qualified legal advisors in the Housing and Community Care team. The Solicitor will be report to the Director and will play an active role in the leadership and future strategy of the Centre.
Please contact Patrick Torsney by email firstname.lastname@example.org for an application pack
Brixton Advice centre is an equal opportunities employer
Closing date: 5 pm, 19 June 2015
Vacancy for a Locum Housing Solicitor/Caseworker
If you wish to discuss this vacancy, please email Vivien at email@example.com with your name and telephone number to request a call.
Lambeth Law Centre is recruiting for a locum housing solicitor or caseworker to cover maternity leave. This would be preferably for 5 days a week, although 4 days a week will be considered. The locum post is likely to be for 12 months with the possibility of extension.
Lambeth Law Centre is committed to providing high quality legal advice and representation. Applicants will need to have experience of managing a client caseload, providing housing advice and conducting litigation, and a track record of billing legal aid certificated and legal help work.
Salary offered will be in the range of ca. £30,000-£32,300 p.a. for a full-time appointment.
For queries or to request an application form, please email Tara at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once completed, send your application to the same email address or by post to: Tara Malcolm, Lambeth Law Centre, Unit 4 The Co op Centre, 11 Mowll Street, London SW9 6BG.
Lambeth Law Centre is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applications from all sections of the community.
Closing date for applications: Friday, 12th June 2015
For details click here
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