Lime Legal's
Housing Law Week

General Editor: Jan Luba QC

18 March 2015 Update

HOUSING LAW NEWS

Policy Issues in Housing Law

Assured tenants
On 9 March 2015, the Secretary of State made the Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) Regulations 2015. They take effect on 6 April 2015 and introduce new forms for use with assured tenancies relating to rent increases, possession claims and the like. For a copy of the regulations and the new forms, click here

Tackling rogue private landlords
On 13 March 2015, the UK Government published a response to the outcome of its consultation on measures to tackle poor housing conditions in the private rented sector. For a copy of the response, click here. For new Government guidance issued on the same day to local authority housing officers, on how to tackle poor and illegal practices by landlords and letting agents, click here

Anti-social behaviour and housing (1)
On Monday 23 March 2015, the new injunction provisions in Part 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour etc Act 2014 (which replace ASBOs and ASBIs) will come into force.  For those defending injunction applications, the Legal Aid Agency has produced a new training tool explaining the new legal aid rules that will apply. To access that training, click here 

Anti-social behaviour and housing (2)
In a statement to the House of Commons on 10 March 2015, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government reported on progress with the UK Government’s Troubled Families Programme. He reported that “more than 105,000 families have had their lives turned around, and the programme still has three months left to run.” For the statement, click here For the associated press release, click here For the statistical data, click here

Anti-social behaviour and housing (3)
The UK Government has published its annual report on action taken to tackle gang and youth violence, including the impending changes to the rules on gang injunction. For a copy of the report, click here

Private renting (1)
Heavier financial penalties on criminal landlords can now be expected from magistrates’ court prosecutions for housing offences. On 12 March 2015, section 85 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing & Prosecution of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 was brought into force, removing the upper limit on all current fines and maximum fines of £5,000 and above in the magistrates’ courts. That includes, for example, harassment (without violence) and failure to comply with an improvement notice. For the UK Government announcement of the change, click here
 
Private renting (2)
On 11 March 2015, the Minister for Housing announced that new regulations will be laid in Parliament to require landlords to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their properties. They are expected to come into force, subject to Parliamentary approval, on 10 October 2015. The allocation of funding to fire and rescue authorities to offer free smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to local landlords will be announced shortly. For the ministerial statement, click here For the Shelter commentary, click here

Private renting (3)
On 12 March 2015, the Minister for Housing announced new regulations that would mean that any council in England wanting to introduce a landlord licensing scheme covering more than 20% of its area, or 20% of local privately rented homes, would need to get permission from the Communities Secretary. All applications for schemes above that threshold would be assessed on a case by case basis, balancing the interests and views of all parties. For the announcement, click here
For a commentary on the new draft regulations, click here For the House of Commons Library briefing note, explaining the history and operation of selective licensing schemes, click here

Warmer rented homes
The UK Government has published a draft of the Energy Efficiency (Domestic Private Rented Property) Order 2015 which will impose additional obligations on landlords who are renting property. For the draft order, click here For the draft explanatory memorandum, click here

Access to advice on housing
The Justice Select Committee of the House of Commons has published the report of its inquiry into the impact of the Legal Aid etc (LASPO) Act 2012 on access to legal aid for civil cases, including housing disputes. For a copy, click here For the Committee Chair’s comments on the report, click here Many people with housing problems raise them in constituency surgeries with their MPs.  A new guide, produced by the House of Commons Library, helps MPs to answer them. The guide provides a general introduction to the main housing problems. For a copy, click here

Social housing allocation (England)
The UK Government has published its plans to amend the rules on social housing allocation, to encourage greater mobility among council and housing association tenants. That follows an earlier consultation exercise. It will generate new regulations and new statutory guidance for England by the end of this month. For the statement of the Government’s plans, click here A helpful new free briefing paper from the House of Commons Library reviews the law, facts and issues on social housing allocation in England. For a copy click here

Homelessness
On 12 March 2015, the Department of Health announced a £55 million fund to upgrade existing accommodation for the single homeless and to provide new low-rent shared accommodation. £25 million is available for accommodation outside London and £30 million in London (£15 million from the Department of Health and £15 million from the Greater London Authority). For the announcement, click here For the prospectus and bidding arrangements, click here

Discretionary housing payments
On 9 March 2015, the Minister for Disabled People told the House of Commons that in relation to Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) “Last year, two thirds of local authorities did not spend all the money that the Government allocated to them. If the money is not spent, it returns to central Government and to whence it came—that is, to the taxpayer.” For the relevant exchanges, click here The House of Commons Library has published a new briefing note which explains the funding position on DHPs and considers evidence (to date) on how they are allocated. For a copy, click here

Housing benefit
On 11 March 2015, the latest official data on HB overpayment and fraud were released. For the figures in the Housing Benefit Recoveries and Fraud National Statistics, click here On 13 March 2015,  the UK Government published the Housing Benefit subsidy guidance manual 2014 to 2015. It explains the subsidies DWP pays councils for certain costs of the Housing Benefit scheme. For a copy, click here For the March 2015 issue of the DWP’s Housing Benefit Direct (issue 157), click here

Housing statistics
The House of Commons Library has published a useful list of sources of statistical data on housing. For a copy of the list, click here

Housing Laws in the Pipeline  

Housing Ombudsman (Power to Settle Disputes between Neighbours and Tenants)
This new Private Members Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 3 March 2015. It would provide a discretionary power to enable the Housing Ombudsman to attempt to resolve disputes between occupants of neighbouring properties in cases where nuisance is caused by tenants. For the initial debate on the Bill, click here A second reading has been scheduled for 27 March 2015. To follow the Bill’s progress, click here

Household Safety (Carbon Monoxide Detectors) Bill
This Private Members Bill would introduce a requirement that a functioning carbon monoxide detector be installed in all newly built and all rented residential properties. A second reading has been put back to 27 March 2015. For a copy of the Bill, click here For details of the progress of the Bill, click here

Private Rented Sector (Decent Homes Standard) Bill
This Private Members Bill would require private landlords to ensure that any property they let meets the requirements of the Decent Homes Standard. It is moved by Conservative MP Laura Sandys. For her description of the Bill’s proposals, click here For the debate on its introduction, click here For more details of the Bill itself, click here The Second Reading had been scheduled for Friday 6 March 2015.

Carers Bedroom Entitlement (Social Housing Sector) Bill
This Private Members Bill will now have its second reading debate on 27 March 2015. It would provide that people in receipt of Universal Credit and Housing Benefit and accommodated in the social housing sector should be entitled to an additional bedroom related to caring responsibilities or overnight care. For a copy of the Bill, click here For more details of the progress of the Bill, click here

Consumer Rights Bill
This is a government bill that relates to housing by: (1) repealing and replacing laws dealing with unfair terms in tenancy agreements and other contracts; and (2) requiring letting agents to publish their fees. For more details about the bill and its progress, click here The bill has completed its House of Lords stages and the final consideration of Lords Amendments by the House of Commons took place on 9 March 2015. Royal Assent is expected shortly. The Act is then expected to come into force in October 2015. The UK Government is consulting on the draft guidance it proposes to issue on the new unfair terms provisions. For the consultation papers, click here 

Deregulation Bill
This is a UK Government bill that relates to housing by: (1) reducing the qualifying period for right to buy; (2) removing the power to require preparation of housing strategies; and (3) amending the law on tenancy deposits. It was scheduled for further and final consideration in the Lords on 16 March 2015. For more details about the bill and its progress, click here For the Government amendments passed on 11 February 2015 inserting provisions relating to retaliatory eviction into the Bill (and to achieve the other changes described above), click here For the Bill as it appears with the amendments included, 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 There is a consultation exercise associated with the content of the Bill, see below.

NEW HOUSING LAW CASES

Aster Communities Ltd v Akerman-Livingstone
11 March 2015
The claimant housing association provided temporary accommodation for a disabled man who was homeless. However, his disabilities prevented him from engaging properly with the process of obtaining alternative housing. When the association brought a possession claim, he lodged a defence contending that evicting him was an act of disability discrimination. The Supreme Court held that his defence should have been considered at a trial and gave guidance on the handling of claims against disabled tenants and defences to them. For the judgment, click here For an official summary, click here

Brent LBC v Tarrek Aslam and Saira Aslam
10 March 2015
The defendants were the private landlords of a house. Council officers found that it was in an ‘appalling state of disrepair' with issues including: persistent leaks from the bathroom; windows in need of repair; a collapsed ceiling; and severe damp and mould growth. An improvement notice was served, under Housing Act 2004 sections 11 and 12, but was not complied with. At Willesden Magistrates' Court, the defendants were convicted of non-compliance and were ordered to pay a total of £5,260 in fines and costs. For details of the prosecution, click here

Uddin v Islington LBC
10 March 2015
In a disrepair claim, the council had been held liable in damages for breach of its repairing obligations in respect of a ground floor flat. The structure had been damaged by rising damp. The council appealed. The Court of Appeal held that the judge was entitled to find that, whether or not a damp-proof course had previously been inserted, there was a duty to repair the structure. The existence of damp indicated a failure to repair. The judgment is noted on LAWTEL but not yet fully reported.

R (Mahoney) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
9 March 2015
The claimants lived in caravans. When required to leave them, they would normally have received home loss payments. But the Land Compensation Act 1973 section 33(2) precludes the making of a home loss payment to a caravan dweller, unless no suitable alternative site is available on reasonable terms. The High Court dismissed a claim that this additional requirement was discriminatory and incompatible with article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, read together with article 8 and article 1 of the First Protocol. For the judgment, click here

Jones v Canal And River Trust
6 March 2015
Mr Jones was a canal boat owner who lived on his boat. The Trust brought a claim to remove the boat from its canal. A judge struck-out a defence based on Article 8 (right to respect for a home). The High Court dismissed an appeal against that ruling. For the judgment, click here

Davis Solicitors LLP v Raja & Anor
5 March 2015
The claimant solicitors acted for the defendants in a disrepair case and sued to recover their fees. The defendants counterclaimed, alleging breach of duty of care and negligence by the claimant. The counterclaim was resisted. A judge gave the defendants judgment for £21,613. The claimant solicitors lodged an appeal but it was struck out for non-compliance with directions. The solicitors applied for relief from that sanction but were unsuccessful. The High Court dismissed their appeal. For the judgment, click here
 
Brent LBC v Khetani and Patel
3 March 2015
The defendants bought a house in the council’s area. Without planning consent, they converted it into five flats for letting. The council served an enforcement notice requiring works to return the property to single use, but the defendants failed to comply.  At Willesden Magistrates’ Court, they were fined £6,000 each and ordered to pay £613 each towards the council's costs. If they do not comply with the notice, further penalties may follow. For details of the prosecution, click here

Hammersmith & Fulham Council v Kathryn Dow
13 February 2015
The defendant was a private landlady. Her tenants returned home to find that she had removed their belongings and changed the locks. She claimed there had been a carbon monoxide leak and that she had booked the tenants into a hotel. No such leak was found. It was later discovered that she had booked the tenants’ belongings into a self-storage facility before the date of the claimed leak. Two days after the locks were changed, new tenants were moved in. At City of London Magistrates’ Court the defendant was found guilty of illegal eviction and given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, with £10,794 in costs and compensation. In a separate civil claim against Ms Dow, heard at West London County Court, one of the original tenants was also awarded £13,970 damages towards their lost deposits, interest and court costs. For details of the prosecution, click here

Ranza v Northern Ireland Housing Executive
13 February 2015
The applicant wanted to appeal to the county court about a homelessness decision. Her appeal was lodged three days out of time. She applied for an extension of time. That was refused. On her appeal against that refusal, the High Court held that her personal circumstances (which led to delays as she attempted to obtain legal advice and to complete legal aid forms), the difficulties encountered in obtaining legal advice from a charitable organisation, and the need to obtain legal aid were all individually and/or cumulatively good reasons for the late appeal. It allowed an appeal and exercised its discretion to extend time. For the judgment, click here

 
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HOUSING LAW CONSULTATIONS  

On 13 March 2015 the UK Government launched a consultation seeking proposals and ideas on how it can help stock transfer housing associations borrow more to build additional homes. For the consultation paper, click here Responses should be made by 31 May 2015.

Welsh Government has initiated a consultation on the future of the Right to Buy in Wales. The consultation runs until 16 April 2015. For the consultation arrangements, click here
For the consultation paper itself, click here
 
The Competition and Markets Authority is seeking views on draft guidance relating to the new unfair terms provisions of the Consumer Rights Bill (see above) currently being debated in Parliament. For the consultation documents, click here Responses should be made by 5 pm on 30 March 2015.

The Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee of the Welsh Assembly is consulting on the contents of the Welsh Government’s Renting Homes (Wales) Bill. For the consultation documents and details, click here Any submissions should arrive by 27 March 2015.

The Welsh Government has published its consultation draft of its new statutory Code of Guidance on Homelessness & Allocations. For details of the consultation exercise and arrangements for responses, click here The deadline is 23 March 2015.
 

NEW HOUSING LAW ARTICLES & PUBLICATIONS

Recent Developments in Housing Law. Jan Luba QC & Nic Madge [2015] March issue Legal Action magazine. Available in print and on-line for Legal Action subscribers. To read the article, click here

Navigating the residential seas (immigration checks by landlords) Julie Gattegno and Anna Ralston [2015] Estates Gazette 6 March pp130-131

The 'right to move' could be the way out of the social housing trap Hannah Fearn [2015] The Guardian Housing Network 13 March. To read the article, click here

Blackpool council's plan to cut benefits is no way to tackle the housing crisis Sam Lister[2015] The Guardian Housing Network 12 March. To read the article, click here   

THE HOUSING LAW DIARY

18 March 2015
Supreme Court hands down its judgment in SG & Ors v DWP on whether the benefit cap discriminates against lone parents and domestic violence victims? For the judgment, click here

23 March 2015
New arrangements to replace ASBOs and ASBIs take effect (see above)

23 March 2015
Consultation closes on the draft Code of Guidance on Homelessness & Allocations for Wales (see above)

27 March 2015    
Consultation closes on the contents of the Welsh Government’s Renting Homes (Wales) Bill (see above)

30 March 2015
Consultation closes on draft guidance relating to the new unfair terms provisions of the Consumer Rights Bill (see above)

6 April 2015            
The new forms to be served on assured tenants come into force (see above)
 

RECRUITMENT

Housing Solicitor

Minimum 1 year post qualification) required to join busy housing team.
An excellent and broad knowledge of housing law is essential as well as being a team player with client care skills and able to work under pressure.

Please send CVs to Mrs Omur Izzet at omur.izzet@davidlongsolicitors.com
Closing date: 2 April 2015

Housing Caseworker / Solicitor / Legal Executive

Location:             Oldham & Rochdale
Salary:                 £21,519 - £27849 (qualification bar at £23,708)
Hours:                  35 per week
Contract type:      Fixed term until 31/03/2016 (possibility of extension subject to     performance)
An opportunity has arisen within Oldham CAB to become part of the Legal Advice team providing specialist housing advice across both Oldham and Rochdale bureaus. The role will involve providing complex casework along with representation at local County Courts; there may also be a requirement to participate in the County Court duty scheme.
Oldham CAB is an equal opportunities employer.
For a job application pack, please email Bridget.Guilfoyle@penninewestcab.org.uk or telephone 0161 620 9317 ext. 8998
Closing Date: Monday 23rd March 2015 – midday
Interview Date: Week commencing Monday 30th March 2015

Housing Solicitor Vacancy (locum maternity cover)

Greenwich Housing Rights seeks a 3+ years PQE Housing Solicitor to join its specialist casework team to provide locum maternity cover. 

Fixed-term 9 month contract which will ideally start before 17 April 2015 (possibility of extension)
Experience of running a busy publicly-funded caseload is essential.  Experience of community care and public law will be an advantage.
Salary: £31,000 p.a. + 5% pension contribution
Closing date for applications: 27 March 2015

Apply by email to chris.minnoch@grhr.co.uk  or call 020 8854 8848 to request an application pack. 
For full details click here

Advertise your housing jobs at no charge simply email info@limelegal.co.uk
for more information.

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