13th July 2016
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Affordable housing
On 6 July 2016 the Local Government Association published research which indicated that 4 million working people will need access to some type of affordable housing even if the country achieves full employment by 2024. The LGA’s report is available from the Association on request. For more details of its contents, click here

Housing supply
On 5 July 2016 the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper considering the measures put in place by the Coalition and current Government to increase the supply of housing in England for younger first-time buyers. To read the briefing, click here

Council house sales
On 8 July 2016 the Local Government Ombudsman asked the South Oxfordshire District Council to reconsider its response to a report by the LGO concerning the historic sale of two council houses. The homeowners both lived out of the area when they bought their ex-local authority homes some years ago. They were aware that there was a so-called Section 157 restriction on the properties but the council did not inform the solicitors of the full extent of that restriction, which was that the homes should only have been sold to people living in a specific area. The council also did not check if the homeowners were entitled to buy the properties. The LGO recommended that the District Council pay fifty per cent of the difference to both homeowners, if the values of the properties were affected. It has not agreed to do this. For more details, click here

Housing and council tax benefits – overpayment
On 7 July 2016 the Local Government Ombudsman criticised the London Borough of Lewisham after it did not carry out the remedy it had previously agreed to provide. In 2015 the LGO had received a complaint from a woman about how Lewisham council tried to reclaim what it said were overpaid housing and council tax benefits. Following that investigation the council agreed to apologise to the woman, deal with her appeal properly and review its procedures. Instead of dealing properly with the woman’s appeal, it mistakenly instructed enforcement agents to recover the debt. The council later recalled the enforcement agents and has now removed their fees. For more details, click here

On 7 July 2016 the House of Commons Library published a ‘social indicators page’ concerning homelessness in England. Of the 14,780 households in England accepted as homeless and in priority need in the first quarter of 2016 (a rise of approximately 9% on the figure for a year ago) 31% had lost their previous home due to the end of an assured shorthold tenancy, 28% due to relatives/friends no longer being able or willing to provide accommodation, 11% due to a violent relationship breakdown, 3% due to rent arrears and 1% due to mortgage arrears. For the details, click here For a further House of Commons Library briefing paper providing statistics on statutory homelessness in England, explaining local authorities' duties to assist homeless households and including an overview of, and comment on, Government policy in this area, click here For a tool allowing a reader to view collected homelessness statistics for individual local authorities in England, click here

Accessible homes
On 8 July 2016 The Guardian published a letter from  Habinteg Housing and other organisations and industry bodies, calling for government and the industry to recognise the importance of accessible homes for disabled people. To read the letter, click here For more information about the Accessible Homes campaign, click here

Private renting – illegal evictions
On 8 July 2016 Citizens Advice published figures showing that the number of people who had consulted Citizens Advice during the 12 months to March 2016 for help with illegal evictions in privately rented homes had risen  by 47%, from 1,415 to 2,087. For the press release announcing the figures, click here

Anti-social behaviour – Wales
On 8 July 2016 Carl Sargeant, Communities and Children’s Secretary in the Welsh Government, called on social landlords, housing associations and local authorities to help tackle the causes of anti-social behaviour. He said that early intervention, partnership working, and information sharing were key to finding solutions to the problem. For more information about the Welsh Government's approach to combating anti-social behaviour, click here

Housing associations
On 11 July 2016 the Homes and Communities Agency published its latest release of regulatory judgments and notices, giving the regulator’s official view of each social housing provider. To access the release, click here

Housing benefit
The Housing Benefit and State Pension Credit (Temporary Absence) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 amend the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, in particular regulation 7(11) and (12) (which relate to persons who enter residential accommodation on a trial basis for the purpose of ascertaining whether the accommodation satisfies their needs) and regulation 7(13) (which relates to temporarily absences from a dwelling in circumstances specified by the regulations). For the 2016 regulations, click here

Right to buy – Wales
On 6 July 2016 Carl Sargeant, Communities and Children’s Secretary in the Welsh Government, explained in an article in The Guardian the reasons as to why the first minister has announced that the government will introduce a bill to abolish the right to buy within the next year. He said that the introduction of the right-to-buy policy in 1981 has led to Wales losing more than 138,000 of its social housing stock. To read the article, click here

Renters’ Rights Bill
This is a Private Members’ Bill introduced in the House of Lords by Baroness Grender which seeks to provide tenants and prospective tenants with certain rights, including affording access to a local housing authority’s database of rogue landlords, ending certain letting fees and providing for certain mandatory electrical safety checks. The Bill had its Second Reading on 10 June 2016 and will enter the Committee stage on a date to be announced. For the Bill as introduced, click here To read debates at all stages of the Bill’s passage, click here For progress of the Bill, click here

City West Housing Trust v Massey; Manchester & District Housing Association v Roberts [2016] EWCA Civ 704

The Court of Appeal has considered two “cannabis-farm” cases in order to revisit whether or not a possession order made in the wake of a serious criminal offence at a property should be outright or whether its execution should be suspended on conditions (an “SPO”) under the court’s “extended discretion”.

(Although both cases concerned assured tenancies under s.9 Housing Act 1988, the relevant law is identical for secure tenancies under s.85 Housing Act 1985.)

The two cases are strikingly similar. Both involved substantial cannabis farms at social rented properties in Greater Manchester, and consequent criminal convictions. In both possession trials, the battleground was solely whether the inevitable order should be suspended or outright, both landlords seeking outright possession.

The court found that each tenant lied on oath at trial. In Massey, the tenant lied “without excuse” about knowing about her partner’s cannabis farm in her house, showed no willingness to co-operate with her landlord, and showed no remorse. However, because she was prepared to accede to eleventh hour conditions (compliance with tenancy; partner to stay away from the property overnight; the landlord’s right to inspect the property at short notice) the district judge suspended the possession order.

Similarly, although much about the evidence of Mr Roberts – who claimed the cannabis farm was imposed on him by a gang – was heavily doubted at trial, the judge nonetheless made a possession order suspended on similar terms of inspection and tenancy compliance.

Both landlords appealed to circuit judges, and this is where the paths of each case diverged: in Roberts, the circuit judge (HHJ Armitage QC) overturned the District Judge’s order as perverse, replacing the SPO with an outright order. He found the District Judge had been wrong to have inferred any sound basis for cogent evidence of reform from Roberts’s dishonest evidence, further ruling that reasons for belief in a tenant’s reform should not rest on positive and expensive obligations on a landlord (e.g. inspection).

Meanwhile, in a neighbouring courtroom in Manchester’s County Court, HHJ Platts agreed with the District Judge’s SPO order in Massey, ruling that the District Judge had not overstepped the bounds of his discretion, despite indicating that a different judge – himself included – may well have made an outright order at trial.

Both City West and Mr Roberts were given permission to appeal by the Court of Appeal, to clarify two main issues:
  1. how should district judges exercise their discretion when a tenant’s evidence has been dishonest?

  2. and

  3. can prospects of reform be “cogent” if based on promised compliance with conditions “external” to the tenant, for example, additional property inspections by the landlord or police?
The Court of Appeal decided that both District Judges had been entitled to make the orders they originally made so that Mr Roberts gets his suspended order back, while Ms Massey’s order continues to be suspended.

In doing so, the Court of Appeal gave some reticent guidance, acknowledging that this was not as much guidance as either landlord in this case had asked for, nor would any future judge’s failure to follow it be an automatic basis for appeal.

In giving the leading judgment, Lady Justice Arden revisited the Court of Appeal’s last major examination of this issue in Sandwell MBC v Hensley [2008] HLR 22, where an SPO made against a tenant convicted of running a cannabis farm at his property was converted into an outright order. LJ Gage ruled:

unless there was cogent evidence providing a real hope that the defendant had mended his ways, the [landlord] was in all the circumstances entitled to an outright order.

Acknowledging a difference between Hensley (where the tenant himself was the cannabis farmer) and the two present cases (where the drug-grower was a third party), Arden LJ here ruled that:

…the fact that the tenant was not the person who cultivated the cannabis is likely to mean that the tenant relies on his or her lack of knowledge of, or control over, the cultivation

As for future cases, Arden LJ offered some cautious but not cast-iron guidelines:

  1. any case involving the consideration of an SPO depends to some extent on its own circumstances, as well as the law;

  2. to be “cogent”, a tenant’s evidence of reform prospects must be not just credible, but persuasive (of the sound basis for reform);

  3. there is no principle that persuasive evidence of future compliance must come from the tenant themselves; the tenant conceding to an external condition such as additional inspection by the landlord would be acceptable, although, any “external” condition depends on the limited resources of the landlord;

  4. dishonesty in a tenant’s evidence is not an automatic bar to the making of an SPO: “Even a tenant who genuinely wants to comply may give false evidence… because they think the truth is unlikely to be plausible or acceptable.

  5. however, a tenant who lies in their evidence runs the risk that the court will not accept assurances from them for the future;

  6. a “check-list” of factors is not appropriate, but the court may consider the following factors in any individual case:
  1. co-operation with landlord;

  2. honesty and full disclosure of any previous bad behaviour;

  3. genuine remorse;

  4. early acceptance of culpability;

  5. extent and duration of bad behaviour.
Case summarised by Peter Marcus, barrister, Zenith Chambers
For the full judgment click here

£20,000 fine for Hackney Landlord
Hackney Council reports that a joint investigation by Council investigators and police officers led to them finding that a landlord had illegally converted a two storey terraced house comprising two storeys and an attic and comprising just seven rooms into a property occupied by 28 tenants.  The tenants had to share one kitchen and one bathroom.

The landlord did not have the requisite HMO licence and there were no fire alarms. He pleaded guilty to managing an unlicensed house of multiple occupation at Thames Magistrates Court and was fined £20.000 and ordered to pay costs of £1845. For the full report click here.

Illegal Sub-letter Sentenced
The London Borough of Barking & Dagenham reports investigations showed that a former council tenant who purchased a property at a substantially discounted price and then illegally sublet the one bedroom flat, has been sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment.

The former tenant had been living with her husband and children at a different property owned by her husband and had concealed this fact from the Council when she had applied to purchase the flat under the Right to Buy scheme.

The Council is now taking steps to take confiscation proceedings in relation to the discount and the illegal rental income under The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. For the full report click here.

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Councils spend £100m helping renters hit by benefit cuts Damien Gayle [2016] Guardian 8 July. To read this article, click here

Update: What is Permission to Rent? Robin Stewart [2016] Anthony Gold Solicitors Blog 8 July. To read this article, click here

Recent Developments in Housing Law Jan Luba QC & Nic Madge [2016] June issue of Legal Action. Available in print and on-line for Legal Action subscribers. For the latest issue, click here For back-issues, click here

How can women flee domestic abuse if they have nowhere to go? Dawn Foster [2016] Guardian Housing 8 July. To read this article, click here

London housing crisis: mayor and big business in 'furious agreement' Dave Hill [2016] Guardian 6 July. To read this article, click here

Who has an interest in your property? Joseph Henry [2016] Hodge Jones & Allen Blog 7 July. To read this article, click here

Housing Solicitor Vacancy

Hodge Jones & Allen LLP: A Leading Firm of Solicitors Based in Euston, London NW1

An exciting opportunity has arisen for a solicitor (0 - 4 years PQE) to join our award winning, dedicated and dynamic social housing team.  To be successful in this role it is essential that you have good experience and working knowledge of social housing law.

You will be expected to be competent in litigation with excellent client care skills.  In addition, you will have excellent communication and written skills, be a good team player, be able to manage a varied caseload and work well under pressure. 

Ideally the successful candidate is likely to have previous experience and good knowledge of legal aid funding in the context of social housing law. Experience with property litigation would be desirable.

The firm offers a competitive salary & benefits, as well as excellent career prospects, broad training, first-class IT facilities and comprehensive administrative support.
Please apply by sending a covering letter and CV to Emma Antoniades at the following email address eantoniades@hja.net

Closing date for applications: 27 July 2016


Housing Solicitor Vacancy

Burke Niazi Solicitors is seeking to recruit a housing solicitor to join their team at the South London office in Catford.

We have an established and respected Housing department and are seeking +3 years PQE housing solicitor who is already a LAA supervisor or meets the required standard.  Other property experience is a distinct advantage.

Salary according to experience.

Apply with covering letter and CV to harrietkaiser@burkeniazi.com

Closing date – 15th July 2016.

No agencies.

Website – www.burkeniazi.com


Henry Hyams

Housing Lawyer - Full or Part-Time

We are seeking a Housing Lawyer with at least 3 years’ relevant experience (preferably to meet legal aid supervisor requirements) to work with a small but dedicated team on predominantly publicly funded cases.

We have contracts with the LAA to provide Legal Help matter starts in housing from both our main and branch offices in Leeds City Centre. We are one of three organisations providing representation under the Housing Duty Solicitor Scheme at a very busy Leeds County Court.

Much of our work is court based and the successful candidate will be a confident advocate able to deal with a mixed housing law caseload including possession claims, homelessness, disrepair, anti-social behaviour, unlawful eviction and judicial review. The position would suit either a solicitor or experienced caseworker preferably with knowledge of legal aid funding and CCMS.

In return we offer a competitive salary and benefits package commensurate with qualifications and experience. We are committed to publicly funded work and foster a caring and compassionate ethos in which to work. Please apply with your CV and covering letter to Caroline Clarke c.clarke@henryhyams.com stating your salary expectations

Lime Legal Limited, Greengate House, 87 Pickwick Road, Corsham, Wiltshire, SN13 9B