14th September 2016
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Housing Benefit
On 7 September 2016 the DWP released figures which show that at January 2016 (the beginning of quarter 4, 2015/16) the total value of Housing Benefit overpayments was around £1.88 billion. This represents an increase of £295 million (19%) on this point the previous year. During 2015/16 the total value of HB overpayments recovered was £659 million; an increase of £70 million (12%) in comparison to those overpayments recovered in 2014/15. The total value in the latest quarter (January to March 2016) at £171 million is the highest recorded so far. To access the statistics, click here

Asylum seekers

On 13 September 2016 the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee held an evidence session for its inquiry on accommodation for asylum seekers. For details, click here

Rough sleepers
On 7 September the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper providing an overview of the support and services – including accommodation, health, welfare, training, employment and voter registration – that are available for rough sleepers, and the challenges rough sleepers can face in accessing them. To read the briefing, click here

Rough sleepers (2)
On 8 September 2016 CIH published a feature on the CR Zero 2020 campaign led by Evolve Housing + Support with Crisis, Expert Link, Homeless Link and Thames Reach which seeks to end chronic rough sleeping in Croydon by 2020.To read the item, click here

Bedroom Tax – Scotland
On 6 September 2016 Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, outlined to the Scottish Parliament the government’s programme for the next parliamentary session. The government will introduce a Social Security Bill which will, she said, abolish the ‘bedroom tax’. To read the First Minister’s statement, click here

Registered Social Landlords – Scotland
In her statement of 6 September 2016 the First Minister also announced that the government would introduce a Housing Bill to ensure that Registered Social Landlords continue to be classified in a way which enables them to borrow money to invest. For the statement, click here

Right to Buy
On 10 September 2016 the DCLG announced that the first housing association tenants have become homeowners under the new Voluntary Right to Buy scheme. A handful of sales have gone through in recent days in London and Merseyside following a pilot project involving five housing associations. For the DCLG announcement, click here For a BBC News report, click here

Right to Buy (2)
On 7 September 2016 the BBC Reality Check feature investigated the claim by Jeremy Corbyn that ‘only one new house has been built for every five council houses sold under the right-to-buy policy’. For the analysis of the effectiveness of the Right to Buy policy, click here

Private renting costs
On 9 September 2016 Your Move published figures which show that the average rent in England and Wales now stands at £846 per calendar month, the highest figure ever recorded by Your Move. Year-on-year rent increases hit 5.2%, reversing the recent trend. The South East saw rent increases of 14.9 % over the year, suggesting Londoners are moving out of the capital. (Last week we referred to latest ONS figures which showed that private rental prices paid by tenants in Great Britain for July 2016 rose by 2.4% in the 12 months to July 2016, unchanged compared with the year to June 2016.) For the Your Move figures, click here For the ONS figures, click here

Housing costs and poverty

On 6 September 2016 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a report – UK poverty: Causes, costs and solutions – which explains the nature of poverty in the UK and what causes it, highlights trends and projections, and makes recommendations for tackling, amongst other issues, the high costs driving poverty, including housing. To read the report, click here

Welfare benefits and housing tenants
On 7 September 2016 a group of London’s largest housing providers wrote to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, calling on him to undertake a fundamental review of the welfare benefit system. The call followed the conclusion of a three-year research study by g15 – the group representing housing associations in the capital which provide homes for one in ten Londoners – into the lives of people living in social housing. To read the letter, click here To read the research, 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

Crown Tenancies Bill

This is a Private Members’ Bill introduced in the House of Commons by Wendy Morton which seeks to provide that ​Crown tenancies may be assured tenancies for the purposes of the Housing Act 1988, subject to certain exceptions; to modify the assured tenancies regime in relation to certain Crown tenancies; and for connected purposes. The Bill is being prepared for publication and is due to have its Second Reading on 16 December 2016. For progress of the Bill, click here

Homelessness Reduction Bill

This is a Private Members’ Bill introduced in the House of Commons by Bob Blackman which seeks to amend the Housing Act 1996 to make provision about measures for reducing homelessness; and for connected purposes. The Bill is being prepared for publication and is due to have its Second Reading on 28 October 2016. For progress of the Bill, click here The House of Commons Select Committee for Communities and Local Government heard oral evidence concerning the Bill on 5 September 2016. For a record of proceedings, click here The Committee will hear further oral evidence on 14 September 2016. For details, click here

Housing (Tenants' Rights) Bill
This is a Private Members’ Bill introduced by Caroline Lucas which seeks to establish a Living Rent Commission to conduct research into, and provide proposals for, reducing rent levels in the private rented sector and improving terms and conditions for tenants; to require the Secretary of State to report the recommendations of the Commission to Parliament; to introduce measures to promote long-term tenancies; to establish a mandatory national register of ​landlords and lettings agents; to prohibit the charging of letting or management agent fees to tenants; and for connected purposes. The Bill is being prepared for publication and is due to have its Second Reading on 20 January 2017. For progress of the Bill, click here


Cieicierska v Brent LBC County Court (5 September 2016)
The County Court sitting at Central London – HHJ Bailey
The appellant, a Polish national and single parent of three children, was accommodated by Brent in its district under the main housing duty at s.193(2) Housing Act 1996. She was made a final offer of private rented sector accommodation in Telford.  The offer letter informed her that she could accept the offer and seek a review of the suitability of the accommodation, or refuse the offer. It informed her that she should travel to Telford the following week in order to sign for the tenancy and move into the property.

The day before the appointment in Telford, the appellant's solicitors wrote to the respondent stating that she was accepting the offer “under protest” and seeking a review of the suitability. She was ill and unable to travel the following day.

Representations were made that Brent should continue to secure s.193(2) accommodation for her until her request for a review had been determined.  The Council’s response was that she should travel to Telford and sign for the tenancy. It subsequently ascertained from her employer that she had not been at work on the day of the appointment, apparently corroborating that she had been ill. Two days after the appointment, Brent notified her that it had discharged its duty towards her since she had refused a suitable private rented sector offer.

The appellant sought a review of that decision and made representations that the accommodation in Telford was not suitable and that she had not refused. The review decision decided that the offer had been suitable and that she had refused. It stated that an acceptance “under protest”, together with her failure to attend the appointment, was not an acceptance but a refusal
She appealed to the county court on the issue of suitability of the offer and that the Council was wrong in law to find that she had refused.

HHJ Bailey heard argument on the issue of acceptance/refusal and quashed the review decision. It was obviously perverse for Brent to have decided that she had refused the offer. He rejected Brent’s submissions that her apparent acceptance had been conditional upon her being permitted to remain in interim accommodation and that the offer letter had specified that the offer could only be accepted by travelling to Telford and signing the tenancy. As a result, he did not need to hear argument on whether the decision that the offer had been suitable was wrong in law.
Summary by Liz Davies, barrister, Garden Court Chambers

SN v LB Waltham Forest (5 September 2016)
The County Court sitting at Central London – HHJ Hand QC

The Appellant had been found intentionally homeless for a second time (following a previous successful appeal before HHJ Luba QC) and had filed an appeal pursuant to s.204 Housing Act 1996.The Appellant has two young children, one of whom suffers chronic constipation and daily vomiting.  The Appellant suffers from high blood pressure.  In its three successive decisions (each one considering further information provided by the Appellant), the council refused to accommodate the Appellant pending appeal.

The focus of the appeal was a narrow one, namely whether the council had properly considered limb 3 of the “Mohammed test”, namely the personal circumstances of the Appellant and, more particularly, the consequences of a refusal to accommodate.

The council argued firstly that the merits part of the balancing act (‘limb 1’) was the overriding consideration and without merits the other factors were unlikely to outweigh an unmeritorious case.  The council further argued that it had recorded the personal circumstances and considered the medical evidence adequately so as to comply with the Mohammed test and there was no need to go further and consider endless hypothetical scenarios.
HHJ Hand QC rejected these arguments and found that:

  1. There was no hierarchy in the Mohammed test - personal circumstances were capable of tipping the balance in an appellant’s favour regardless of the merits.
  2. Local Authorities rarely accept that there are merits in an appeal and therefore the position urged upon him by the council would mean most pursuing an appeal would fall at the first Mohammed hurdle, which couldn’t be right.
  3. All three decisions were unlawful as the consequences of a negative decision had not been properly considered, despite the facts having been set out and reference being made to the evidence.
  4. Whilst a Reviewing Officer did not have to write chapter and verse, he had to properly consider what the real effect of the decision on the Appellant with her particular circumstances would be.

The Judge was also satisfied that substantial prejudice to the Appellant’s ability to pursue her appeal would be caused and so made a mandatory order under s.204(4)(6) Housing Act 1996.
The Judge accepted that where there were issues of credibility in the main appeal, and where the Appellant may have to deal with her children going into care – which would affect her ability to cope, interfere with her benefits and impact on her public funding certificate – the test was met.
Summary by Justine Compton, barrister, Garden Court Chambers

SS v London Borough of Waltham Forest (5 September 2016)
The County Court sitting at Central London – Recorder Genn
The appellant was a victim of severe domestic violence which had left her with chronic physical and mental health problems. The Council found that she was homeless but not in priority need.  Her appeal was heard by Recorder Genn who quashed the decision that the appellant was not in priority need as a result of not being deemed vulnerable under s.189(1)(c) of the Housing Act 1996. For a summary by Tim Baldwin, barrister of Garden Court Chambers who represented the appellant click here.

Enforcement Prosecution of Joint Landlords
Hounslow Council reports that two joint landlords of a bedsit have been ordered to pay substantial fines at Feltham Magistrates Court for offences relating to poor housing conditions and running an unlicensed house in multiple occupation.  It is reported that following a fire at the flat above a shop in September last year housing enforcement officers found 10 people living in “squalid conditions” with missing fire detectors, a faulty fire alarm and damaged fire doors. The landlords were ordered to pay fines and costs in excess of £10,500.  For the full report click here.

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Law Commission reform programme
The Law Commission has opened the consultation for its 13th Programme of law reform. The responses received will inform the majority of the Law Commission’s work from 2017 to 2020. The Commission is asking for the public’s help to identify areas of the substantive law of England and Wales that need reform, and to prioritise those reforms. It is also suggesting some potential projects that could form part of its Programme, and it would like to have views on these. Within these proposals is a suggestion that there might be areas of residential, commercial or agricultural landlord and tenant law which impose unnecessary restrictions, inefficiencies or costs. For more information about the Programme, including the criteria for project selection, click here For more details of the proposal concerning leasehold law, click here The consultation closes on 31 October 2016.


The Equality Act – what next? Arden Chambers [2016] Legal Action Group 12 September. To read this article, click here

Weekend Miscellaneous (Subletting and homelessness) Giles Peaker [2016] Nearly Legal 10 September. To read this article, click here

The risk of women dying is higher now than for decades, because of Tory housing policies
Dawn Foster [2016] Guardian 9 September. To read this article, click here

Recent Developments in Housing Law
Jan Luba QC & Nic Madge [2016] September 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

Buy-to-let rents rise to all-time high as demand for homes outstrips supply
Hilary Osborne [2016] Guardian 9 September. To read this article, click here

Sub-tenants and section 20 consultation Steven Eccles and Mark Robertson [2015] Local Government Lawyer 8 September. To read this article, click here

How do the housing policies of Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith measure up? Dawn Foster [2016] Guardian 8 September. To read this article, click here

How to end chronic street homelessness [2016] CIH Blog 8 September. To read this article, click here

‘Renewal’ outlines huge opportunity for Conservatives on housing
Pete Jeffreys [2016] Shelter Blog 5 September. To read this article, click here


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