5th July 2017
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Grenfell Tower – research briefing
On 30 June 2017 the House of Commons Library published a research briefing setting out the events and commentary around the Grenfell Tower fire, the relevant building regulations, fire safety laws and housing standards, the Government response to the fire, the responsibilities around re-housing, and previous concerns raised with fire regulations. To access the briefing, click here

Grenfell Tower – update to Parliament
On 3 July 2017 the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid gave to Parliament, in an oral statement, an update on the Grenfell Tower fire and fire safety. Within the statement Mr Javid made the following points: almost £2.5 million had been distributed from the £5 million Grenfell Tower Residents’ Discretionary Fund; each household affected is receiving £5,500 to provide immediate assistance, and to date payments to 112 households had been made; the immediate response to the Grenfell disaster is being coordinated by the Grenfell Response Team, led by John Barradell; the Government would honour its promise that every family who lost their home because of the fire would be offered a good quality temporary home within 3 weeks (for which the deadline is 5 July 2017); every home offered will be appropriate and of good quality; no one  will be compelled to accept an offer of temporary accommodation they do not want. Mr Javid also referred to the cladding tests – as to which, see Grenfell Tower – results and criticisms of cladding tests below. For the Hansard House of Commons record of the update to Parliament and responses, click here

Grenfell Tower – Public Inquiry: appointment of Chair
On 29 June 2017 the Prime Minister announced the appointment of Sir Martin Moore-Bick to head the Public Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire. The Inquiry will be established under the Inquiries Act 2005, with full powers, including the power to compel the production of documents, and to summon witnesses to give evidence on oath. The Inquiry will be held in public. Sir Martin, who was recommended for the appointment by the Lord Chief Justice, is a former Court of Appeal judge. For the announcement, click here For coverage of the appointment in The Guardian, click here and here

Grenfell Tower – scope of Public Inquiry
On 29 June 2017 Sir Martin Moore-Bick, Chair of the Public Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire (see above), said that he is "doubtful" the process will be as wide-ranging as some residents hope. He said that the inquiry could be limited to the cause, how it spread, and recommendations for preventing a future blaze. For Sir Martin’s statement, as reported by BBC News, click here On 30 June 2017 Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, warned that the terms of reference, which have yet to be published, could be too "narrow" and residents not properly consulted. He recommended that the inquiry be split into two parts: an interim report on the cause of the fire, to be published by September 2017, followed by a wider investigation into building regulations, council funding and other issues. For BBC News coverage of Mr Corbyn’s statement, click here Responding to the announcement of the Inquiry, the Law Society commented: "[The victims] must be free to choose an independent public advocate who has their full confidence and who they trust to amplify their voices and views as well as to ensure that those truly and ultimately responsible are found. An expert in housing law with a history of fighting for disadvantaged tenants would be well placed to fulfil this role, though the bereaved and injured may have other criteria that are equally important to them." For the Law Society’s full statement, click here

Grenfell Tower – results and criticisms of cladding tests
As of 3 July 2017, according to the Communities Secretary Savid Javid’s update to Parliament, all 181 buildings tested have failed fire safety tests on their cladding. He said that where appropriate mitigating measures cannot be implemented quickly landlords must provide alternative accommodation while the remedial work is carried out (as has happened at the Chalcots Estate – see below). The primary concern has been buildings over 18 metres, or 6 storeys, where people stay at night. On 30 June 2017 Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, had criticised the cladding tests being carried out. He said that the whole cladding panel should be tested and not only the core. Mr Javid said in his update that he had asked for the testing regime to be independently assessed. This was done by the Research Institutes of Sweden, and they have confirmed that they believe the process to be sound. For the Communities Secretary’s update, click here For coverage of Lord Porter’s statement in The Independent, click here

Grenfell Tower – appointment of Independent Expert Advisory Panel
On 27 June 2017 Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced a new Independent Expert Advisory Panel to advise on measures to be put in place following the Grenfell Tower fire. The Panel – comprising a range of building and fire safety experts under the chairmanship of Sir Ken Knight, former London Fire Commissioner and former Government Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser – will look at any immediate action that is required “so that the public can be confident everything possible is being done to make all public and private buildings safe as quickly as possible.” For the announcement of the appointment, click here

Grenfell Tower – IEAP statement on cladding tests
On 30 June 2017 the Independent Expert Advisory Panel issued the following statement concerning the cladding tests carried out in the wake of the Grenfell Tower Fire: “The tests that are currently being conducted are a screening test to identify which Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) panels are of concern. It tests the filler – the core of the panel – to check if it is of limited combustibility (category 1) or not (category 2 or 3). This is in line with the requirement of the Building Regulations guidance. The filler is one element of the overall cladding system. If the panel core fails the test we would expect the landlord to take the recommended interim fire safety measures issued on 22 June 2017. The Panel will engage with experts across the country to consider whether these panels can be used safely as part of a wider building external wall system, and therefore could remain on a building under certain approved circumstances. If, in the meantime, a landlord chooses to take down and replace cladding, care should be taken to consider the impact that removal may have on the other wall elements, especially insulation, and therefore on the overall fire integrity of the building as well as other Building Regulation requirements.” The reference to measures issued on 22 June is to a letter from Melanie Dawes CB of that date addressed to local authorities and housing associations, for which click here

Grenfell Tower – explanation of the cladding tests
On 30 June 2017 the DCLG published a note explaining the checking and testing programme that has been set up and is now underway, and the wider steps that are being taken to ensure safety in all relevant buildings, in the light of the early test results. To read the note, click here

Grenfell Tower – guidance in respect of unlawful subletting
On 2 July 2017 Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced guidance issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to prosecute tenants at Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk for unlawful subletting. The guidance makes clear that tenants of Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk who were sub-letting their properties on the night of the fire and who have, or do, come forward to the authorities so that they can be confirmed as safe and or to indicate that others were resident in their flat when the fire took place, should not face prosecution for offences under section 1 of the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013. For the announcement, click here

Fires in purpose-built flats – England: 2009 to 2017
On 27 June 2017 the Home Office published an ad hoc statistical release covering fires, casualties and fatalities in dwelling fires attended by Fire and Rescue Services (FRSs) in England, including specific data on purpose-built flats. It also provides information on fire safety audits carried out by FRSs. Of the 30,296 dwelling fires attended by fire and rescue services in England in 2016/17 around three-quarters (75 per cent) of dwelling fires attended by FRSs were in houses, bungalows, converted flats and other properties and a quarter (25 per cent) were in purpose built flats. Of these, 16 per cent were in purpose-built low-rise flats (1 to 3 storeys); six per cent in purpose-built medium-rise flats (4 to 9 storeys) and two per cent were in purpose-built high-rise flats (10 storeys or more). For the statistics, click here

Chalcots Estate evacuation
On 3 July 2017 Camden Council published further information for residents evacuated from the Chalcots Estate. Residents staying in temporary accommodation or with family and friends will receive £20 per person, per day for food and essentials. For details, click here For information generally concerning the evacuation, click here

Right to Buy sales – England
On 29 June 2017 the DCLG published statistics for January to March 2017 showing that local authorities sold an estimated 2,890 dwellings under the Right to Buy scheme (a decrease of 12 per cent from the 3,276 sold in the same quarter a year ago). Local authorities in London sold an estimated 622 dwellings under the scheme in January to March 2017 (a decrease of 28 per cent from the 866 sold in the same quarter a year ago). Local authorities in London accounted for 22 per cent of sales in that quarter (26 per cent recorded in the same quarter a year ago). For the full statistics, click here Responding to the figures, CIH chief executive Terrie Alafat said: “"Today’s figures are further confirmation that the number of replacement homes being built is nowhere near the number being sold … [I]t’s now been more than five years since right to buy discounts were increased and there is mounting evidence that replacements are simply not keeping pace with the level of sales." For the full CIH comment, click here

Sales of social housing stock
On 29 June 2017 the DCLG published tables providing statistics on the sales of social housing stock – whether owned by local authorities or private registered providers. The most common of these sales are by the Right to Buy (and preserved Right to Buy) scheme and there are separate tables for sales under that scheme. To access the tables, click here

Undocumented children and young people
On 26 June 2017 Coram Children’s Legal Centre published a report – This is my home – which highlights the fate of hundreds of thousands of children and young people who, despite having been brought up in the UK, are trapped in precarious situations because they are unable to secure permanent status. For example, they will not be able to claim any benefits, social housing or homelessness assistance. To read the report, click here To read the executive summary, click here For CCLC’s press release, click here

Legal aid for housing law cases
On 29 June 2017 the Law Society published a report – Access denied? LASPO four years on – examining the effects of the curtailing of legal aid following the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO). The report finds that cuts to legal aid spending have denied justice to the most vulnerable in society, hit the public purse and damaged the foundation of our justice system. The report recommends that the government should bring early advice for housing benefit, and rent arrears and mortgage problems arrears back into the scope of the legal aid scheme. The Law Society president, Robert Bourns, said: "There have been reports that tenants of Grenfell Tower were unable to access legal aid to challenge safety concerns because of the cuts. If that is the case then we may have a very stark example of what limiting legal aid can mean.” For the report, click here On 29 June 2017 the Ministry of Justice published statistics showing that in April 2016 to March 2017 civil legal aid expenditure on non-family law cases was £144 million of which housing cases accounted for £29 million. For the statistics, click here

Private renting costs
On 3 July 2017 the Local Government Association published research revealing that: 43 per cent of private renters spend more than 30 per cent of their income on rent, the same percentage as those renting from a housing association; 37 per cent of those renting from a local authority are also spending the same proportion on rent; private rents currently average at £852 across the country, with rents defined as affordable set up to 80 per cent of market rates, at an average of £545 per household. The LGA say that the figures highlight the difficulties renters face not just in finding an affordable home to live in, but in saving up a deposit for a home of their own, with the average deposit now costing 71 per cent of a first time buyer’s annual income. For more information, click here For a response by the Residential Landlords Association, click here

Rural housing
On 3 July 2017 the Campaign to Protect Rural England published Green Belt Under Siege 2017 which focuses on three themes: the amount of Green Belt land being lost to housing demonstrated by both local plans and planning permissions granted outside local plans; the type of housing built in Green Belt; and the impact of the New Homes Bonus on Green Belt. The report says that nearly three-quarters of the housing proposed on land to be released from the Green Belt will be unaffordable for most people living in the local area: planning consultants Glenigan found only 16% of homes built in Green Belt since 2009 were affordable. To read the report, click here

Rough sleepers – London
On 30 June 2017 the Mayor of London released new figures indicating that the number of people seen sleeping rough on the streets of London in 2016/2017 was 8,108 – up slightly from 8,096 the previous year. This contrasts with a rise of seven per cent the year before – and a doubling over the period since in 2010/11, when the reported figure was 3,975. For the statistics, click here For the Mayor’s press release, click here For a report by St Mungo’s which compiled the statistics, click here

On 28 June 2017 Crisis launched a consultation to find out what is needed “to end the worst forms of homelessness once and for all”. Running for six months across England, Scotland and Wales, the consultation invites people working in or with experience of homelessness and those working in related fields such as housing, criminal justice, education, welfare and health to share their expertise and help to shape a national plan for action. Responses will be accepted until the end of 2017 and a plan will be published in April 2018. To participate in the consultation, click here

Help to Buy – Wales: Shared Equity Loan Scheme

On 28 June 2017 the Welsh Government published statistics for the Help to Buy Shared Equity Loan Scheme. Since the introduction of the scheme on 2 January 2014, to 31 March 2017, 4,949 property purchases were completed using a shared equity loan. Over that period, the total value of the equity loans was £179.8 million, with the value of the properties purchased totalling £907.6 million. To date, the mean purchase price of a property bought using the scheme was £183,383 with a mean equity loan value of £36,340. The majority of homes purchased through the scheme were to first time buyers, accounting for 75 per cent of total completions. For the full statistics, click here

Abolition of the Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Bill
This Bill is currently at Stage 1 in the Welsh Assembly. The Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee is undertaking an inquiry into the general principles of the Bill. The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee considered the Bill on 3 April 2017. For progress of the Bill (including the Committees’ scrutiny), the text of the Bill itself and explanatory memorandum, together with proceedings of the ELCG Committee and correspondence arising from them, click here and scroll down.

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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

Real misery is being caused to no good purpose Giles Peaker [2017] Nearly Legal 25 June. To read this article, click here

Grenfell Tower fire: was Tory austerity to blame or do problems date back to Blair? Alan Travis [2017] Guardian 29 June. To read this article, click here

Service charges: estimates, service and waivers Richard Alford [2017] Local Government Lawyer 29 June. To read this article, click here

Legal Aid: Rights, wrongs and the Lord Chancellor
Giles Peaker [2017] Nearly Legal 28 June. To read this article, click here

Grenfell: a home is more than a roof over your head Deborah Garvie [2017] Shelter Blog 30 June. To read this article, click here

Only taking politics out of Grenfell will solve housing crisis Susan Emmett [2017] Policy Exchange 2 July. To read this article, click here

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