2nd August 2017
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Independent review of building regulations and fire safety
On 28 July 2017 the DCLG announced an independent review of building regulations and fire safety following the Grenfell Tower fire. The review will look at current building regulations and fire safety with a particular focus on high rise residential buildings. It will examine: the regulatory system around the design, construction and on-going management of buildings in relation to fire safety; related compliance and enforcement issues; and international regulation and experience in this area. For the announcement, click here

First systems test of cladding and insulation – reaffirms actions for landlords
On 28 July 2017 the DCLG reported that the Independent Expert Advisory Panel has advised that the results of the first of the ‘systems tests’ (which have involved building a 9-metre-high demonstration wall with a complete cladding system including cladding panels, insulation and cavity barriers and subjecting it to a replica of a severe fire) in order to assess the fire safety of whole buildings shows that this combination does not meet current building regulation guidance. 82 buildings are currently known to have this combination of materials in their wall cladding systems – 47 of which are local authority or housing association owned or managed. The government has issued advice to every building owner known to be affected and other interested parties, and will ensure that where local fire services have advised works are essential to ensure the fire safety of a building, current restrictions on the use of financial resources will not prevent them going ahead. For the announcement, click here For the advice to building owners, click here For the fire test report itself, click here For the response of the Local Government Association in respect of the test and the review of building regulations (above), click here

Unfair practices in the leasehold market
On 26 July 2017 the law firm Hart Brown, in response to the DCLG consultation into tackling unfair practices in the leasehold market, raised the issue of building developers insisting on or encouraging the use of a ‘pet solicitor’ to handle the purchase for the buyer. For details of the consultation, see Housing Law Consultations and/or click here For Hart Brown’s response to the consultation, click here

Leasehold schemes for the elderly – management fee limit
On 28 July 2017 the DCLG and Homes and Communities Agency published an updated note advising private registered providers who own or manage retirement leasehold accommodation of the management fee limits for the financial year 2017 to 2018. From 1 April 2017, the basic LSE service charge limit will be £430. The limit when management is contracted out to an agent who charges VAT will be £493. For the note, click here

Grenfell Tower Fire – letter to residents
On 25 July 2017 Communities Secretary Sajid Javid wrote to residents with an update on the action being taken by the government in response to the Grenfell Tower fire, along with details of available support and assistance. It is proposed that the Communities Secretary will provide residents with further fortnightly updates. For the letter, click here

Grenfell Recovery Taskforce
On 26 July 2017 Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced details of the independent Grenfell Recovery Taskforce that will support the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) to develop and implement a long term recovery plan following the Grenfell Tower fire. Initially the Taskforce has been asked to: look at whether RBKC has the proper arrangements in place to engage with the local community on their long-term recovery plans; ensure that all the immediate housing needs resulting from the fires are fully and promptly addressed by RBKC; support the council to significantly improve housing management including addressing weaknesses in the tenant management organisation; make sure the council develops, in partnership with the local community, a plan for the Grenfell Tower site; and ensure that the right leadership and governance arrangements are in place across the council. For the announcement, click here For the full terms of reference, click here

Housing Infrastructure Fund
On 31 July 2017 the DCLG published An introduction to the Housing Infrastructure Fund providing information about the fund, which is “a government capital grant programme of up to £2.3 billion, which will help to deliver up to 100,000 new homes in England. Funding will be awarded to local authorities on a highly competitive basis, providing grant funding for new infrastructure that will unlock new homes in the areas of greatest housing demand.” The document also explains how to apply for funding. For the document, click here

Housing Benefit – adjudication circulars
On 27 July 2017 the Department for Work and Pensions published HB A7/2017 relating to the Right Benefit Initiative 2017/18. For the circular, click here On the same day the Department also published  Circular HB A8/2017 relating to payments from the ‘We love Manchester Emergency Fund’ and the ‘London Emergencies Trust’. For that circular, click here

Civil (including housing) litigation costs
On 31 July 2017 Lord Justice Jackson published his supplementary report on civil litigation costs. In the report he recommends, amongst other proposals, that all fast track cases be placed into four bands of complexity for which there would be a grid of fixed recoverable costs. At Chapter 5.18 Lord Justice Jackson says that most fast track housing claims would fit into either Band 3 or Band 4. The Housing Law Practitioners Association, which provided details of 83 housing disrepair cases, said that in certain of the submitted cases the actual recovered costs were higher than those proposed as fixed recovered costs. For the report, click here

Banning letting agency fees – Hackney
On 26 July 2017 the Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, and Mayoral Advisor for Affordability and Private Renting and Affordability, Cllr Sem Moema, wrote to the Housing Minister, Alok Sharma, requesting full details of when the ban on letting agency fees will be introduced and assurances that the proposal “will not be watered down”. Hackney Council has become the first council in England to introduce a voluntary scheme encouraging letting agents to scrap letting fees as part of its Better Renting campaign. For more details, click here

Banning letting agency fees – House of Commons
On 26 July 2017 the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper outlining the current law and responses to the Government's proposal to ban letting agent fees in England. The paper includes information on current practice in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The briefing has been published in preparation for a Westminster Hall debate on 6 September 2017 on the proposed ban on letting agency fees in England. For the briefing, click here

Homelessness – Wales
On 27 July 2017 the Welsh Government published data on the number of households applying to local authorities for housing assistance under the Housing Wales Act 2014 and the number of homeless households in temporary accommodation. During 2016-17: 9,210 households were assessed as threatened with homelessness within 56 days; of these homelessness was successfully prevented for at least 6 months for 5,718 households (62 per cent); 10,884 households were assessed as being homeless and owed a duty to help secure accommodation, of whom 4,500 households (41 per cent) were successfully relieved of their homelessness and helped to secure accommodation that was likely to last for 6 months; 2,076 households were assessed to be unintentionally homeless and in priority need, of whom 1,674 (81 per cent) households were positively discharged through acceptance of settled suitable accommodation. At 31 March 2017, 2,013 homeless households were in temporary accommodation across Wales. 39 per cent of all households in temporary accommodation were placed in private sector housing. At that date there were 189 households in temporary bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation. For the full data, click here For the response of CIH Cymru, which welcomed the figures, click here

Help to Buy – Wales: Shared Equity Loan Scheme
On 27 July 2017 the Welsh Government published data which include information on the number of homes purchased and the value of the loans received under this scheme for the period between 1 April to 30 June 2017. 528 property purchases were completed using a Welsh Government shared equity loan. This brings the total number of purchases under Help to Buy - Wales since its introduction on 2 January 2014 to 5,482. At 30 June 2017 there were 718 applications for loans still outstanding. The total value of the equity loans during the period was £19.8 million, with the value of the properties purchased totalling £99.8 million. The majority of homes purchased through the scheme during the period were to first time buyers, accounting for 78 per cent of all completions. For the full data, click here

Right to Buy – Cardiff
On 28 July 2017 the Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, Carl Sargeant, announced that he has approved Cardiff City Council’s request to halt the Right to Buy scheme, which allowed most council tenants who lived in their homes for five years the opportunity to buy the property and receive a discount of up to £8,000 on its value. The scheme will be suspended in Cardiff for a period of five years from 19 July 2017. For more details, click here

Private rental market summary statistics – England
On 26 July 2017 the Valuation Office Agency provided statistics on the private rental market for England for April 2016 to March 2017. The median monthly rent recorded during that period was £675. London had the highest median monthly rents and largest variation in rental values, followed by the South East. The median rent in London (£1,495) was more than double the English median rent. The North East had the lowest median rent at £495. For the statistical release, click here

Housing First – Stafford
On 28 July 2017 Midland Heart announced that it had been commissioned by Stafford Borough Council to deliver a Housing First project, worth £42,000, which will place homeless people into permanent accommodation and then provide a programme of support to help them to get their lives back on track. For the announcement, click here

Universal Credit
On 25 July 2017 NFA and ARCH published a joint report – Pause for thought – which calls on the Government to halt the roll out of Universal Credit and remove the 7 day wait period for new claims. The report finds that: tenant rent arrears among UC claimants remain stubbornly high at 73%, a total cost of £6.68million; families with no previous history of rent arrears are being driven into debt, with 40% of households accumulating rent arrears as a consequence of claiming UC; and households already struggling with rent payments are being driven deeper into debt as the average arrears amount for UC claimants has increased from £611.73 (March 2016) to £772.21 (March 2017). To download the report, click here

Hardship payments for homeless persons
On 18 July 2017 the Department for Work and Pensions announced that from October 2017 extra protections are being put in place for people receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance who have a mental health condition or are homeless and had their benefits reduced because of a sanction. Newly laid regulations are expected to help around 10,000 jobseekers over the next 4 years. For the announcement, click here

Private rented sector review
On 25 July 2017 CIH called on housing professionals to contribute to a review of the private rented sector being conducted by Dr Julie Rugg, of York University’s Centre for Housing Policy. CIH is asking participants to focus on four areas: “(1) Describe your local private rented sector. Please indicate how you have evidenced your account. (2) Are there any problems relating to the private rented sector in your area? Again, please present evidence for those problems. (3) What would you say are the major obstacles you face in attempts to resolve those problems? (4) Have you implemented any solutions that have had a demonstrable impact in dealing with the problems in your local private rented sector?” For information of the review and details of to how to respond, click here

Rough sleeping and anti-social behaviour – Oxford
On 24 July 2017 Oxford City Council and Thames Valley Police announced a joint initiative “to tackle street drinking, begging, and public drug supply and use in Oxford city centre and to safeguard those involved at risk of criminal exploitation.” Supt Joe Kidman, Local Police Commander for Oxford City, said: “A culture of anti-social street behaviour makes it harder for individuals to disentangle themselves and live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives. It also supports a significant market of chaotic drug use.” According to a report of 26 July 2017 in The Guardian, “legal notices have been pinned on to bags belonging to rough sleepers, warning that they could be prosecuted by Oxford City Council for being in breach of antisocial behaviour laws. The notices said the council felt the conduct was ‘having a detrimental effect … on the quality of life of those in the locality’. Breaking antisocial behaviour laws can result in a penalty fine of up to £2,500.” For the Oxford City Council announcement, click here For the article in The Guardian, click here


Local Housing Authority Debt Bill
This Bill, which had its first reading in the House of Lords on 4 July 2017, seeks to replace the current regime of limits on local housing authorities’ debt with limits determined by the existing prudential regime for local authority borrowing for non-housing-related purposes. The second reading is yet to be scheduled. For the Bill as introduced, click here To follow progress of the Bill, click here

Abolition of the Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Bill
This Bill seeks to abolish the right of eligible secure tenants to buy their home at a discount under Part 5 of the Housing Act 1985 (Right to Buy); abolish the preserved right of eligible former secure tenants to buy their home at a discount under section 171A of the Housing Act 1985 (Preserved Right to Buy); abolish the right of eligible assured or secure tenants of a registered social landlord or private registered provider to acquire their home at a discount under section 16 of the Housing Act 1996 (Right to Acquire); and encourage social landlords to build or acquire new homes for rent, the Right to Buy, Preserved Right to Buy and Right to Acquire will not be exercisable by tenants who move into new social housing stock more than two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent, subject to certain exceptions. The Bill is currently at Stage 2 in the Welsh Assembly; Stage 2 began on 19 July 2017 and Stage 2 consideration will take place in Committee on 5 October 2017. The Finance Committee laid its report in respect of the Bill on 28 June 2017. The Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee has undertaken an inquiry into the general principles of the Bill and laid its report on 7 July 2017. The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee laid its report in respect of the Bill also on 7 July 2017. For progress of the Bill (including the committees’ scrutiny), the text of the Bill itself and explanatory memorandum, together with proceedings and reports of the various committees, click here and scroll down.

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill
This is a Private Members’ Bill introduced in the House of Commons by Karen Buck. The Bill aims to 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; to amend the Building Act 1984 to make provision about the liability for works on residential accommodation that do not comply with Building Regulations; and for connected purposes. The Bill is being prepared for publication. The second reading is due to take place on 19 January 2018. To follow progress of the Bill, click here


R (On the Application Of AC & SH) v London Borough of Lambeth Council [2017] EWHC 1796 (Admin)

The applicants, children AC and SH, brought judicial review proceedings through their mother and litigation friend challenging the London Borough of Lambeth's assessment that they were not children "in need". The applicants challenged that conclusion on the grounds that:

  1. The assessment was not procedurally fair, and particularly that it was unfair for Lambeth not to discuss its intention to make adverse findings about her probity and bona fides with the claimants' mother when relying on her for much of the material upon which to make a decision; and
  2. Although Lambeth had acknowledged a subsequent diagnosis of AC's autism it had failed in its duty to re-assess his needs as an autistic child in need.

In September 2016, the London Borough of Lambeth had carried out an assessment under s.17 of the Children Act 1989 in relation to AC (aged 10) and SH (aged 4). Lambeth had concluded that the children were not in need and specifically that the children were not destitute or at genuine risk of homelessness. This conclusion was reached in reliance of explicit adverse findings as to the credibility of their mother, Miss Campbell. 

During the assessment, and in the years prior to the assessment, Miss Campbell had provided differing accounts of her and the children's housing situations, as well as having failed to provide some of the information specifically requested by the local authority. In particular, the mother's accounts given to the Home Office in her applications for recourse to public funds did not match those given to the local authority. Further, the mother had not provided sufficient evidence of seeking suitable employment, nor explained the various accounts she had given of places the family had lived.  Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb comments at paragraph 61b of her judgment that: "Even now the entirety of evidence supplied for this case has failed to reconcile or explain the family's accommodation and support history."

Shortly after the September 2016 assessment had concluded, AC was formally diagnosed with autism. The formal report was sent to the local authority but they concluded that the formal diagnosis made no significant changes to the family's circumstances or to the outcome of the s.17 Children Act assessment.

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb held that the assessment process had not been procedurally unfair. The judgment considers the relevant authorities relating to the making of findings during such an assessment process and the question of whether such proposed findings must be put to a claimant before they are relied upon. At paragraph 59, Cheema-Grubb J expresses the question as follows:

"The discrete question for me is whether, on the facts it was unfair for Lambeth not to discuss its intention to make adverse findings about her probity and bona fides with the claimants' mother when relying on her for much of the material upon which to make a decision whether the claimants were children in need?"

The court held that the adverse findings made by the local authority were only part of the picture and that, given the history of contact between the claimants' mother and the defendant and the Home Office, this was not a case in which the defendant's procedure was flawed by reason of it not presenting its provisional conclusions to the claimants' mother for her response.

The challenge on the first ground of procedural unfairness was therefore unsuccessful.

On the second ground, the claimants argued that the defendant had failed in its duty to assess AC as an autistic child in need even after accepting that his formal diagnosis means that he falls within s.17 Children Act 1989. Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb agreed, holding:

"… I am driven to the conclusion that the defendant has failed to carry out an assessment of AC as a child in need despite the indications from his mother than he had needed support and the confirmation of those difficulties in the post September 2016 autism assessment. 

"What degree of assistance AC properly needs, whether the defendant will provide it and whether it will include any provision as to accommodation are not matters for the court but this is self-evidently not a case in which the court can be satisfied that had a lawful assessment actually been carried out the outcome would have been the same: a determination that there were no needs at all to be met by the defendant. In the circumstances s.31 (2A) Senior Courts Act 1981 does not avail the defendant and relief will be granted. [paras 68-69]"

In those circumstances the defendant's decision not to treat AC as a child in need following its assessment of 29th September 2016 was quashed and a fresh assessment ordered. 

Summary by Millicent Benson, barrister, 1 King's Bench Walk. For the full judgment published on Family Law Week (prefaced by this summary), click here

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Enforcement of suspended orders: alignment of procedures in the County Court and High Court
In Cardiff v Lee (Flowers) [2016] EWCA Civ 1034 the claimant landlord had obtained a possession order against the defendant secure tenant on the grounds of breach of the terms of the tenancy agreement prohibiting anti-social conduct. The order was suspended for two years on condition that the tenant complied with the provisions of his tenancy agreement, which contained covenants against causing a nuisance or annoyance to neighbours. Following further complaints from neighbours of the tenant, the landlord applied for the issue of a warrant of possession. It did so by lodging form N325, following the administrative procedure set out in CPR 83.6. The warrant was issued and the bailiff served notice of the date of intended eviction. The tenant’s application to stay execution of the warrant was dismissed by the district judge and his subsequent appeal was dismissed by the circuit judge. On appeal to the Court of Appeal it was common ground that the landlord ought to have sought permission to apply for the issue of the warrant as required by CPR 83.2. In short, CPR 83(2) states that a ‘relevant writ or warrant’ (which includes a warrant of possession) must not be issued without the permission of the court in any of the circumstances specified in CPR 83.2(3)(a)-(f). This consultation seeks views on whether amendments are required to rules and forms in light of the judgment. The consultation closes on 30 August 2017. For more details and all relevant documents, click here

Fees charged to tenants in the private rented sector – Wales

This consultation seeks views on what action the Welsh Government should take to end unfair fees charged to tenants. Examples given in the consultation document of activities for which fees are charged are: accompanied viewings; pre-tenancy negotiation; producing the tenancy agreement; producing guarantor forms, if applicable; completing reference reports; obtaining / verifying all safety certificates; protecting the deposit and issuing documentation; processing move in monies and signing documentation; issuing the inventory and schedule of property; amending tenancy agreements; renewing tenancy agreements; early termination; and moving out. The consultation seeks views on the nature and level of fees being charged to tenants. It seeks to determine which fees, if any, are justifiably being charged to tenants. It also seeks information on fees paid by landlords to agents, and also on the possible consequences of banning fees. The consultation closes on 27 September 2017. For the consultation document, click here

Draft 'Information for tenants of social landlords' document – Wales
If the Abolition of the Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Bill is passed by the National Assembly for Wales (see Housing Laws in the Pipeline), social landlords will be required to issue to all relevant tenants an ‘Information for Tenants of Social Landlords’ document. The Welsh Government is consulting on a sample document to see if it: clearly summarises the right to buy and the right to acquire; explains clearly when these rights could end; and explains clearly the financial and legal advice you should get if you want to exercise the right to buy or right to acquire. The consultation closes on 13 September 2017. For the consultation document, click here

Tackling unfair practices in the leasehold market
On 25 July 2017 the DCLG launched a consultation into proposals to remedy unfair practices in the leasehold market. For the announcement of the Government’s proposals, see Housing Law News and Policy Issues and/or click here The consultation particularly seeks views on: i) prohibiting the sale of new build leasehold houses where the developer is not obliged to sell a house on a leasehold basis; ii) restricting ground rents on new leases to a ‘peppercorn’; iii) how to tackle existing onerous ground rents; iv) possible changes to the Help to Buy scheme in relation to leasehold houses; v) providing freeholders on private estates with equivalent rights to leaseholders to challenge unreasonable service charges for the upkeep of communal areas and facilities via the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber). The consultation closes on 19 September 2017. For the consultation document, click here

Recognising residents’ associations, and their power to request information about tenants
On 25 July 2017 the DCLG launched a consultation seeking views on the Government’s proposals for secondary legislation in relation to section 29A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Section 29A provides a new power for the Secretary of State by regulations to impose duties on a landlord to provide the secretary of a residents’ association with information about tenants. The intention is to make it easier for a secretary of a tenants’ association to obtain contact information of qualifying tenants (leaseholders) from a landlord and so improve the prospects of the association being formally recognised. The consultation closes on 19 September 2017. For the consultation document, click here


Let's be honest - if you're middle class, you're less likely to become homeless Suzanne Fitzpatrick [2017] Guardian 28 July. To read this article, click here

Local authority housing company funding: no one size fits all Imogen Fisher [2017] Local Government Lawyer 20 July. To read this article, click here

‘Landlord exit’ part 1: more than one in ten landlords leave the market every year John Bibby [2017] Shelter Blog 25 July. To read this article, click here

‘Landlord exit’ part 2: is the threat of a landlord exodus real? John Bibby [2017] Shelter Blog 26 July. To read this article, click here

‘Landlord exit’ part 3: it’s time to do something about landlord churn John Bibby [2017] Shelter Blog 27 July. To read this article, click here

Delivering homes for military heroes Michael Griffith [2017] RICS Online 25 July. To read this article, click here

The benefit cap: real misery for no good purpose Jenny Pennington [2017] Shelter Blog 25 July. To read this article, click here

The Guardian view on leasehold reform: well overdue Editorial [2017] Guardian 25 July. To read this article, click here

Leasehold houses and the ground rent scandal: all you need to know Patrick Collinson [2017] Guardian 25 July. To read this article, click here

Consultation Paper - Tackling Unfair Practices in the Leasehold Market Emily Fitzpatrick [2017] Hart Brown blog 26 July. To read this article, click here

Recent Developments in Housing Law Jan Luba QC & Nic Madge [2017] July issue of Legal Action. Available in print and on-line for Legal Action subscribers. For the latest issue, click here


4 August 2017                          
Consultation closes on terms of reference of Grenfell Tower public inquiry

30 August 2017                        
Consultation closes on enforcement of suspended orders: alignment of procedures in the County Court and High Court (see Housing Law Consultations)
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