POLICY ISSUES IN HOUSING LAW
Private renting in England
On 9 September 2015, the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015 were laid before Parliament. They introduce: (1) a new prescribed form for a notice seeking possession under Housing Act 1988 section 21(1) or (4); new restrictions on the use of the “no fault” eviction procedure for assured shorthold tenancies where a landlord has not complied with certain obligations; (3) the details of the new obligations that private landlords must comply with; and (4) requirements on landlords to provide tenants with a copy of Government’s booklet “How to rent: the checklist for renting in England”. The regulations only apply to tenancies in England granted on or after 1 October 2015. For the regulations, click here For the explanatory memorandum assessment, click here For a commentary on the content, click here
‘Rogue’ private landlords
In a speech delivered on 9 September 2015, the UK Minister for Housing said “We will crack down on rogue landlords and drive them out of business” and that the Government will use its “powers to tackle the small minority of landlords that continue to offer a poor service and give the whole industry a bad name“. For the full speech, click here
The House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee was due to publish the Government’s Response to its report on the Private rented sector: the evidence from banning letting agents’ fees in Scotland on Tuesday 15 September 2015. The Special Report is to be made available online: click here
This week (14-20 September 2015) is national Gas Safety Week. For more details, click here On 14 September 2015, the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 were approved by the House of Lords and will come into force on 1 October 2015. For the regulations, click here For the House of Lords debate, click here
Regulating Social Landlords
On 9 September 2015, the Homes and Communities Agency – the social housing regulator for England – published a report setting out its approach to consumer regulation over the past year, including case studies and lessons learned. Six cases of a breach of the consumer standards were considered to have met the ‘serious detriment’ test, out of a total of 589 referrals. For a copy of the Consumer Regulation Review 2014-15, click here
On 8 September 2015, the BBC reported that a FoI request had produced a response that showed 49,536 homeless households were being housed temporarily by the 33 London local authorities from March to August 2015. Around a third of them – 16,981 households – were placed outside the boroughs responsible for housing them. For the details, click here
The Mayor of London has published a Rough sleeping commissioning framework. For that document, click here For the range of services in relation to rough sleeping in London for which service providers are now invited to submit bids, click here
Letting to persons from abroad
The Association of Charitable Foundations has published the legal advice it and others had commissioned about the implications of lettings by charitable foundations and other similar landlords to persons from abroad, including those with no recourse to public funds. For a copy of the Opinion, click here
On 3 September 2015, the DWP published an updated list of all the Housing Benefit adjudication circulars issued in 2015. To access them, click here
Access for private landlords in Scotland
The Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Act 2011 (Commencement No. 7) Order 2015 brings into force on 22 September 2015 provisions within Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Act 2011 section 35 to enable a landlords to apply to the Private Rented Housing Panel for assistance in exercising their legal rights of access to a rented property, in connection with the repairing standard. For the Order, click here For the Policy Note, click here
Professor Nicholas Hopkins has been appointed as the Law Commissioner for property, family and trust law and will be joining the Law Commission on 1 October 2015. For more details, click here
HOUSING LAWS IN THE PIPELINE
Welfare Reform and Work Bill
This UK Government Bill was published on 9 July 2015. It makes provision about: (1) the benefit cap; (2) social security and tax credits; (3) loans for mortgage interest; and (4) social housing rents. It had its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 20 July 2015 and will be considered in detail by a public bill committee in September and October. For the Bill, click here For the explanatory notes, click here To follow the progress of the Bill, click here. For the documents relating to the Bill (including several impact assessments), click here The Committee which will review the Bill has issued a call for written evidence. For the details, click here For the schedule of witnesses who will be giving oral evidence over the next few weeks, click here
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 On 4 July 2015 the Chancellor and the Prime Minister released a joint statement indicating that their plans, “which will form part of the Housing Bill to be introduced this autumn, include steps to build discounted homes for first time buyers on all reasonable sized developments, unlock public land for hundreds of thousands of new homes and back small builders with planning changes” (emphasis added). For the statement, 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 has completed its examination of the Bill and has made 37 recommendations. The Bill is expected to resume its Committee Stage in the Assembly (Stage 2) on 30 September 2015.
Housing (Amendment) Bill
This is a Bill introduced in the Assembly on 30 June 2015 by the Northern Ireland Executive. It would make provision for the better sharing of information relating to empty homes or to anti-social behaviour and provide for the registration of certain loans as statutory charges. For a copy of the Bill, click here For the explanatory memorandum (listed under ‘All associated documents and links’), click here For a commentary on the Bill, click here Thee Bill has been referred to the Committee for Social Development which has responsibility for the Committee Stage of the Bill. For further details of that stage, click here
Houses in Multiple Occupation Bill
This is a Bill introduced in the Assembly on 7 September 2015 by the Northern Ireland Executive. It would make provision for and in connection with the licensing of houses in multiple occupation In Northern Ireland. For a copy of the Bill, click here For the explanatory memorandum, click here
Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill
This is a Private Members Bill introduced by Karen Buck MP. It would amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that residential rented accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation. It had a First Reading on 24 June 2015 and its Second Reading is scheduled for 16 October 2015. For details on the progress of the Bill, click here For a commentary on its content, click here
Local Government Finance (Tenure Information) Bill
This is a Private Members Bill introduced by Dame Angela Watkinson MP. It would amend the Local Government Finance Act 1992 to make provision for collecting information about tenure and the details of private landlords. It had a First Reading on 24 June 2015 and its Second Reading is scheduled for 30 October 2015. For details on the progress of the Bill, click here
Crown Tenancies Bill
This is a Private Members Bill introduced by Mark Pawsey MP. It would provide that Crown tenancies (mainly of properties owned by Government Departments) may be assured tenancies for the purposes of the Housing Act 1988, subject to certain exceptions, and would modify the assured tenancies regime in relation to certain Crown tenancies (including by provision of a new ground for possession). It had a First Reading on 24 June 2015 and its Second Reading had been scheduled for 11 September 2015 but was objected-to and has now been put back to 6 November 2015. For a copy of the Bill, click here For the Explanatory Notes, click here For details on the progress of the Bill, click here For the House of Commons Library Briefing note that has been prepared for the Second Reading, click here
Obar Camden Ltd v Camden LBC
8 September 2015
Challenges to local authority decision-making in housing cases often focus on the content of the reports which officers make to council committees. This planning case contains a useful summary of the principles by which the courts will scrutinise such officer reports. For the judgment, click here
Boston BC v Simon Vivien Bourne
7 September 2015
The defendant landlord owned two properties operated as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in the council’s area. One property had dangerous electrical wiring and gas piping. Dampness persisted throughout. A washing machine and a fridge were operating in the open in the garden, connected to the electricity supply inside the house. No fire detection system had been installed, tiles were missing from the roof and the chimney stack was in a dangerous condition. At the other house, there were exposed light fittings, damp and a toilet soil pipe was leaking. Council officers served improvement notices in respect of each property. Boston Magistrates’ Court found the defendant guilty, in his absence, of failing to comply with the improvement notices. He was fined £2,000 on each of the offences with costs of £4,480.79 and a £200 victim surcharge. For details of the prosecution, click here
Health and Safety Executive v Rent4U Ltd
3 September 2015
The defendant landlord failed to arrange annual gas safety inspections at one of its properties from 2007 and 2014. The tenant and her young son were put at risk of suffering carbon monoxide poisoning for those seven years. An inspection of the gas boiler at her home found it was in a condition classified as ‘immediately dangerous’. At Trafford Magistrates’ Court, the company was fined £4,000 with £7,000 costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. The court was told that Rent4U had previously been served with two Improvement Notices by HSE in 2013 after failing to arrange annual gas safety checks at two other properties. For details of the prosecution, click here
Health and Safety Executive v Wedgewood Design and Build Limited
3 September 2015
The defendant construction company incorrectly extended a gas flue in a residential property, potentially putting lives at risk. At Southwark Crown Court, it was fined a total of £9,000 with £7,500 costs after pleading guilty to an offence under Regulation 8 (3) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. For details of the prosecution, click here
Leicester City Council v IPS (Leicester) Ltd
1 September 2015
A private landlord was prosecuted and convicted for not having an HMO licence in respect of one of his properties which was occupied by seven people. The council then prosecuted the defendant, which was an estate agency, on the basis that it had managed the house and was responsible for conditions breaching the HMO Regulations. The company pleaded not guilty to all charges, denying it was managing agent for the house and claiming that it simply received the rents on behalf of the landlord. At Leicester Magistrates’ Court, the company was found guilty and fined £750 for each offence with £7,000 costs and a £75 victim surcharge. For details of the prosecution, click here
Wycombe District Council v Naeem Ahmad
1 September 2015
The defendant was a private landlord. Improvement notices were served on him to make repairs and improvements to his property. Council officers identified numerous hazards including an illegal, unsafe gas connection to the cooker, no safety catches on any bedroom windows, no locks on the front door or the back door and extensive long term neglect including leaking gutters and wet walls. After a contested trial at Wycombe Magistrates’ Court, the defendant was found guilty of five offences under the Housing Act 2004 for non-compliance with the improvement notices. He was fined a total of £5,500 with costs of £5,000 and a £200 victim surcharge. For details of the prosecution, click here
Brent LBC v Bernard McGowan
1 September 2015
The defendant was a private landlord. Improvement notices were served on him to make repairs and improvements after council officers identified that one of his properties had no hot water and poor heating. At Willesden Magistrates’ Court, he was convicted of failing to comply with the notice.
He was fined £1,500 with costs of £1,507 and court charges of £270. For details of the prosecution, click here
ML v Kensington & Chelsea RLBC
26 August 2015
The claimant made a claim for housing benefit on the basis that she had taken a sub-tenancy of a property from the tenant. Having investigated, and having contacted the tenant, the council decided that the agreement was not on a commercial basis and refused benefit. On an appeal, a tribunal upheld the council’s decision. It accepted the tenant’s explanation as given to the council. The Upper Tribunal allowed the claimant’s further appeal. The tribunal had failed to explain why it had rejected her evidence and why it preferred that of the tenant. The judgment also gives guidance to councils on the content of submissions to the Upper Tribunal. For the judgment, click here
Great Yarmouth BC v Stanley John Rodgers
25 August 2015
The defendant was a private landlord. Following a complaint from a tenant, a council inspection of one of his properties found five people were living in an unlicensed HMO in poor condition, including a pregnant woman. At Great Yarmouth Magistrates' Court, the defendant pleaded guilty to managing or controlling an unlicensed HMO. He also pleaded guilty to another five offences: (1) failing to comply with a duty to ensure that all means of escape from fire in the HMO were kept free from obstruction. The rear exit door was locked with no key available; (2) failing to comply with a duty to ensure that any firefighting equipment and fire alarms were maintained in good working order. The fire alarm system had missing and damaged detector heads; (3) failing to comply with a duty to ensure that the communal areas were fitted with adequate light fittings that were available for use at all times by every occupier. There were no bulbs in the light fittings in the living room, lights were not working in the dining room, there was no lighting on the stairs or the bathroom by bedroom three, there was a broken light switch in the kitchen and there was no emergency lighting provision; (4) failing to comply with a duty to ensure that the common areas were maintained in a safe and working condition. The entrance door to the HMO had a faulty lock, leaving the property in an unsecure condition; and (5) failing to comply with a duty to ensure that the common areas were maintained in a safe and working condition. The electricity meter at the premises had been bypassed. The 60amp main electricity supply was wired into a 20amp-rated junction box, with poor wiring leaving the installation in a dangerous condition. He was fined £13,333 with costs of £2,427.22 and a £120 victim surcharge. For details of the prosecution, click here
Boyle v South Lanarkshire Council
25 August 2015
The Lands Tribunal in Scotland found that the applicant was not entitled to a discount based upon the “preserved” right to buy but only upon the less favourable provisions of the “modernised” right to buy. The council, having succeeded in that dispute, sought its costs. The applicant said that she could not afford to pay. The Tribunal ruled that “we are aware of no rule that impecuniosity is a reason for withholding an award of expenses” and awarded the council its costs. For the judgment, click here
HOUSING LAW CONSULTATIONS
A consultation paper from the Welsh Government seek views on establishing a National Pathway for Homelessness Services for Children, Young People and Adults who are in care or custody and will otherwise become homeless. The closing date for comments is 24 September 2015. For the consultation arrangements and the consultation paper, click here
New measures on Local Courts for Housing Cases
The Ministry of Justice is consulting on the closure of 91 courts and tribunals across England and Wales, and the integration or merger of 31 more. This represents a reduction in capacity by
139 county court rooms (17% of all county court rooms) and 63 tribunal rooms (13% of all tribunal rooms). For the consultation documents, click here The consultation closes on 8 October 2015. The Law Society has produced a series of campaigner packs to help respondents raise the issue with MPs and AMs. For details, click here
Taxation of Private Renting
On 17 July 2015, the UK Government launched a consultation on the reform of the ‘Wear and Tear Allowance’ applicable to property businesses. The reform is designed to improve the consistency and fairness in the taxation of residential property businesses. For the consultation paper, click here Responses are due by 9 October 2015.
GT Stewart Solicitors & Advocates
Three Housing Solicitor vacancies
We are a leading Legal Aid firm with vacancies in London and Kent for Housing solicitors to work within the Housing Team Department.
We are seeking the following:-
- A Housing solicitor who is very experienced in housing law or can attain Legal Aid Agency Housing Category Supervisor Status for our Dartford Office.
- Two Housing solicitors for our Camberwell office.
Interested candidates should email their CV and covering letter to email@example.com
Closing date for applications: 7 October 2015
Housing Solicitor Vacancy (Ideally, 0-3 years PQE )
Philcox Gray is a long established and well respected firm specialising in Housing & Public Law, Family & Childcare. We aim to provide high quality legal advice and representation to the local community.
We are looking for an enthusiastic solicitor who has the ability to run a busy housing law caseload. You will have specialist knowledge in all areas of housing and public law – both under legal aid and through privately funded work. You will have a willingness to take on work in a variety of aspects of housing law and to work well as part of a team.
We are a family friendly firm; we offer a competitive salary, flexible working hours, and childcare vouchers. For more information about our firm, see our website: www.philcoxgray.co.uk
Please apply by letter with CV to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to
73-75 Newington Causeway
Closing date: Monday 28 September 2015.
Housing Project Worker (part time) YMCA EAST SURREY
To apply for this position click here
To assist in the day to day running of the NextStep project for those in housing need, providing support, advice, and long-term solutions through private rented sector and resettlement.
Hours of Work:
We are looking for someone to work part time, either 16 or 20 hours per week which is the equivalent of 2 or 2.5 days per week. (Occasional evening and weekend work may be necessary to fulfil the needs of the role but time off in lieu will be given.) Preferred hours of work will be discussed at interview with shortlisted candidates.
Salary: £23,156.28 per annum (pro rata)
Benefits: The post holder will be entitled to free use of the YMCA fitness centre and half price
childcare for dependents. There is free parking available at Hillbrook House.
Closing Date for returned application forms is Monday 14th September 2015 at 9am.
Interviews are planned for Friday 18th September 2015.
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Call us on 01249 701555 or email details of the vacancy to email@example.com