6th September 2017
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Lime Legal’s Homelessness Conference 2017
Law & Best Practice

The major annual Conference addressing key changes in Homelessness work
Wednesday 11 October 2017, London.

  • Homelessness Policy
  • Part 7 Case Law update including:
  • Suitability of accommodation to meet or end a homeless duty case law update
  • Temporary Accommodation
  • Part 7 Duties post the Homelessness Reduction Act changes – “a new dawn or a rush to the courts for clarification?”
  • Preparing in a hurry for the Homelessness Reduction Act in April 2018?
  • The challenge of making the private rented sector work to meet and end the new duties under the HRA
  • Suitability of accommodation to meet or end a homeless duty case law update
All this plus two Ask the Experts panel Q&A sessions

For the full programme and speaker details click here

Book your place now –
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Call for new independent Commissioner for Social Housing Residents
On 1 September 2017 the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, called on the Prime Minister to ensure that residents’ voices are at the heart of future decision-making about social housing in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire. The Mayor has proposed that the Prime Minister appoint a Commissioner for Social Housing Residents, which he believes should be independent of Government with a remit to act as a watchdog. This is one of a package of measures for social housing residents – alongside opening up access for residents to the housing ombudsman and social housing regulator – on which the Mayor will consult when he publishes his draft London Housing Strategy later this month. For more details, click here

Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme: commissioning sustainable services
On 16 August 2017 the Ministry of Justice announced that, following consultation, it has decided to proceed with the proposals set out in the consultation document. The consultation set out the Government’s view that the current provision of HPCDSs has become unsustainable. As of January 2017, 13 schemes had been retendered in some way which had, whilst provision had continued, led to a concern about the ongoing stability and viability of the services provided under the contracts and had created an administrative burden and cost upon both the LAA and providers. The consultation sought views on the Government’s proposal to therefore consolidate HPCDS provision into fewer, larger contracts that would be more sustainable for providers and serve a wider geographic area aligned with the evolving court estate. The consultation proposed a competitive procurement approach for the larger contracts which includes an assessment of both quality and price to allow the LAA to decide objectively between bids. A summary of the responses and details of the reasons for the Government’s decision are set out in the consultation response. For the consultation response, click here For the consultation document itself, click here

Homelessness procedures – fitness for purpose
On 17 August 2017 the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman urged councils in England to check that their homelessness procedures are fit for purpose, after the Ombudsman found significant fault with a Northamptonshire district council. The Ombudsman’s advice follows its investigation into a homelessness complaint from a woman in the Kettering area. The woman was not offered, or even made aware of, her legal right to a review of her temporary accommodation. The council even failed to offer her this right when she told them the house was unsuitable. Her disabilities meant she could not access the upstairs bathroom or bedrooms and the lack of secure storage for her mobility scooter resulted in it being damaged and the battery stolen. For details of the complaint and the Ombudsman’s investigation, click here

Woman left in unsuitable temporary accommodation for too long
On 31 August 2017 the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found that council delays left a woman fleeing domestic violence with her autistic child in unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation for nearly two years. The Ombudsman found that London Borough of Lambeth delayed allocating a case worker, took too long to decide the complainant’s homeless application and failed to do an accommodation review, despite supporting medical evidence. For details of the complaint and the Ombudsman’s investigation, click here

Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2017
This Order amends the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014 to reduce the period of time, during which accommodation can be provided which would otherwise be unsuitable, from 14 to 7 days. The order comes into force on 1 October 2017. For the 2017 Amendment Order, click here For the 2014 Order, click here

Rural housing availability and affordability
On 31 August 2017 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published statistics comparing housing availability and affordability in rural and urban areas. It found that: more house-builds are started and completed per household in predominantly rural areas than in predominantly urban areas; between 2015/16 and 2016/17 the number of house-builds being started and completed per household increased in predominantly rural areas, whilst there was a small decrease in predominantly urban areas; house prices are less affordable in predominantly rural areas than in predominantly urban areas (excluding London), for example, in 2016, the average lower quartile house price was 8.3 times the average lower quartile earnings in predominantly rural areas, compared with 7.0 times in predominantly urban areas (excluding London), 14.7 times in London and 8.6 times in England as a whole; there are proportionally fewer homeless people and people in temporary accommodation in rural areas than in urban areas. For the statistics, click here For an article concerning CIH’s support for a new ‘5-star plan’ for rural housing, click here

Forces Help to Buy Scheme
On 24 August 2017 the Ministry of Defence published latest statistics for the Forces Help to Buy scheme for July 2017.  617 First Stage applications (ie those which pass initial eligibility checks) were received; 369 Second Stage applications (ie those which pass detailed eligibility checks) were received; 335 payments were made to Service personnel. Since the Scheme began in April 2014: 24,538 First Stage applications have been received; 14,590 of these applications have proceeded to the Second Stage; payment has been made to around 11,900 applicants, totalling just under £179 million, an average of approximately £15,100 per claim. For the full statistics, click here

Completion of large-scale fire safety testing programme
On 25 August 2017 the DCLG announced that it had completed its series of large-scale fire safety tests by the BRE in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. Results of all seven large-scale tests are available and government will shortly publish consolidated advice to landlords based on all the seven tests. For all the DCLG’s announcements, fire reports and advice notes in this respect, click here

Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety – publication of terms of reference
On 30 August 2017 the DCLG published the terms of reference for the independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt, that was commissioned following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy. For the announcement, click here For the terms of reference, click here

Grenfell Tower – letter to residents
On 22 August 2017 Communities Secretary Sajid Javid sent his latest letter to residents following the Grenfell Tower fire, with an update on the action being taken by the Government in response to the tragedy, including details of the steps being taken to provide permanent housing, the Recovery Taskforce, support and assistance for former residents, communication and engagement, and the Public Inquiry. For the letter itself, click here

Grenfell Tower fire – handling immigration cases
On 30 August 2017 the Home Office published guidance on the handling of immigration cases involving Grenfell Tower fire survivors and other affected individuals. It allows affected individuals to be temporarily granted a period of lawful residence in the UK with full access to relevant support and assistance. For the guidance, click here

Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry
On 23 August 2017 the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry released the Protocol Relating to Legal Representation at Public Expense. This document contains details on the eligibility for legal representation at public expense, which may be material to those considering applying to be a Core Participant. Applications for Core Participant status are due by 8 September 2017. For the protocol, click here

Empty homes and council tax – London
On 4 September 2017 the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, called on the Government to allow London’s boroughs to increase council tax bills for high-value homes that are left empty. The Mayor’s action is in response to a report he commissioned last year into the role of overseas investment in the capital’s property market. The research, carried out by the London School of Economics and the University of York, looked at the contribution of overseas investment to new housing supply, as well as public concerns over homes being sold to overseas buyers and kept empty. In its findings, the research found the number of entirely empty homes to be very low overall, but suggested there were greater numbers of empty homes in prime and expensive locations. For the Mayor’s announcement, click here For a summary of the research, click here

Homeowners’ and renters’ attitudes
Homeowners are happier about their standard of living than renters, new research from YouGov reveals. The Renters vs. Homeowners 2017 report compares the opinions of those who own their homes either outright or with a mortgage against those who rent from a private landlord, housing association of local authority. It finds that 75% of homeowners are happy with their standard of living compared to just over half (53%) of renters. For more details, click here

‘Sham licences’ conviction
On 21 August 2017 Islington Council announced that it had successfully prosecuted a letting agent for issuing ‘sham licences’ that suggested occupiers had no right to challenge eviction and gave no statutory protection for deposits. Following – what the council believes to be – the first prosecution of its kind in England, the letting agent was fined £11,000 for the two sham licences issued and £5,000 for the misuse of a logo. The two victims of the sham licences were awarded compensation totalling £3,000 and the Islington Council was awarded costs of £1,500. For more details, click here

Letting agents’ fees – Wales
On 17 August 207 the Welsh Government published findings from a study commissioned to further understand the fees letting agents charge to tenants renting in the private renting sector. According to the report, about 400 to 700 agents currently operate in Wales, and accommodation in every local authority is managed by a range of agencies. Overall, it is estimated that 29% of the private rented housing in Wales is managed by agencies, with a further 7% being let by agents but subsequently managed by landlords. Of the 168 letting agents who took part in this research, 76 (46%) were part of an estate agent business; 74 (44%) were dedicated letting and management agencies, and 17 (10%) were part of some wider business. 112 (84%) reported charging a setup fee, averaging at £178 per tenancy. Overall, it was estimated from survey data that 19% of letting agency income in Wales comes from fees charged to tenants, around £10m per annum in total. Two thirds of the agents surveyed charge a fixed fee per tenant or per tenancy and did not break fees down by what they covered, though some provided a list of what is included in the total cost. 49 agents out of 131 agents (37%) reported charging tenants for a tenancy renewal, with typical charges being £60, varying from £15 to £250. Very few agents reported charging for a tenancy termination, unless the tenant wanted to leave early. For the report, click here For a summary, click here

Rolling-out Universal Credit
The National Audit Office will examine whether the Department for Work and Pensions is on course to deliver Universal Credit in accordance with its plans. In May 2016, the DWP started rolling out the full service to jobcentres across the country, initially at a rate of five per month. The Department is due to increase the pace of roll-out from October 2017, so that full service will be available to new claimants in all jobcentres by September 2018. The Department then plans to transfer existing claimants to Universal Credit by March 2022. The NAO will also assess whether there are early signs that Universal Credit is delivering its objectives, and what impact it is having both on claimants and on local stakeholders. For more information, click here

Right to Rent
On 1 September 2017 the Residential Landlords Association reported that fines were issued to 236 property owners between the start of February 2016 and June 2017 for breach of the Right to Rent duties imposed on private landlords by the Immigration Act 2014. The number of landlords fined has more than tripled in just over a year. For more details, 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

Birmingham City Council v Jerome Jones and others,
Birmingham County Court, HHJ Wall, 12 July 2017

The local authority, in conjunction with West Midlands Police, brought a claim for gang injunctions pursuant to Part 4, Policing and Crime Act 2009 or, in the alternative, anti-social behaviour injunctions pursuant to Part 1, Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 against 18 defendants. Some of the defendants were serving prisoners (and some were on remand) by the close of the trial.

The defendants were alleged to have engaged in, encouraged or assisted in gang-related violence and/or gang-related drug-dealing activity.

On 12 July 2017, Her Honour Judge Wall gave judgment granting 16 gang injunctions and one anti-social behaviour injunction. One additional order was made by the Youth Court. Interim Injunctions had been in place against all the respondents since February 2016.

The terms obtained applied both within the city and in the prison estate, and included restrictions on association, entering certain parts of the city, using social media, having mobile phones, and taking part in music videos.

HHJ Wall held, inter alia, that:

(1) An applicant for a gang injunction may rely upon incidents that occurred prior to the 2009 Act coming into force (and prior to the amendments made by Serious Crime Act 2015). This did not offend against the principles of retrospectivity: R v Field [2002] EWCA Crim 2913; [2003] 1 WLR 882 followed.

(2) The Court had power to impose injunctions on serving prisoners and, on the evidence, including that of a former prison governor, it was appropriate to do so.

(3) On sentencing for contempt of court following breach of an injunction, the county court has the power to impose a sentence of imprisonment to run consecutively to a custodial sentence imposed by the criminal courts: R v Anomo (Taiye Olokun) [1998] 2 Cr App R (S) 269 and Lee v Walker [1985] QB 1191 considered.

(4) The two-year limitation on the duration of a term contained in an injunction (s.36(2), 2009 Act) operated from the grant of the final injunction and not from the grant of any interim injunction.

(5) In seeking to restrict participation in music videos, the authority was not seeking to prohibit engagement in legitimate musical activity, a number of the respondents had taken part in music videos which were provocative and inflammatory. The granting of injunctions did not amount to disproportionate interference with the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights: R (Gaunt) v Ofcom [2011] EWCA Civ 692, [2011] 1 WLR 2355 considered.

The first respondent’s application for a declaration that the statutorily prescribed standard of proof applicable in claims for injunctions under both Acts is incompatible with Article 6 of the ECHR had been transferred to the High Court. On 11 October 2016 the application was refused but permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal was granted by Burton J. The matter is expected to be heard in April 2018.

Summary by Alice Richardson of Arden chambers who, together with Jonathan Manning, also of Arden chambers, successfully represented the claimant authority.

LB of Southwark v F [2017] EWHC 2189 (Fam)

A 14 year boy was made subject of a care order and placed in a residential unit following care proceedings which concluded in June 2017. He had since absconded and was found, during a police operation, in a drugs den in London.

The child was involved in serious gangland activity, working as a drugs courier. He had a complex care history, had experienced significant disruption to his upbringing, and was a risk to himself and others.

At the time of the Local Authority's application, there were no secure units available for the child. The interim plan was to place the child in a residential unit with 2 to 1 supervision.

Mr Justice Hayden authorised deprivation of the child's liberty. Although a measure of last resort, such measures were justified in light of the risks.

Mr Justice Hayden also commented that, due to the delay in finding a secure unit, this was a child who had fallen through a "gap" in the system. He iterated the comments of Munby P in the recent case of Re X (A Child) No 3 [2017] EWHC 2036 (Fam) and directed that his judgment be given in open court and forwarded to the Minister of State for Education.

Summary by Patrick Paisley, barrister, 1 Garden Court Family Law Chambers.

For the full judgment published on Family Law Week click here and scroll down the page.  For a related news item also published on Family Law Week click here.

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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

Theresa May urged to force councils to build more homes
Heather Stewart [2017] Guardian 3 September. For the article click here

People sleeping on UK streets show us how easily progress is undone Dawn Foster [2017] Guardian Housing Network 1 September. For the article click here

House building in the capital sees sharp fall Warren Lewis [2017] Property Reporter 4 September. For the article click here

Grenfell Tower research to expose gaps in the law Monidipa Fouzder [2017] Law Society Gazette 5 September. For the article click here

Court of Appeal finds for council in first appeal on Care Act 2014 provisions [2017] Local Government Lawyer 4 September. For the article click here

Cigarettes cause majority of deadly council housing fires Nathaniel Barker [2017] Inside Housing 1 September. For the article click here (log in or registration required)

Solar panels to be installed across social housing in bid to cut tenants’ bills Jessica Wilkins [2017] PolitcsHome 2 September. For the article click here

13 September 2017                  
Consultation closes on draft 'Information for tenants of social landlords' document – Wales (see Housing Law Consultations)

19 September 2017                  
Consultation closes on tackling unfair practices in the leasehold market (see Housing Law Consultations)

19 September 2017                  
Consultation closes recognising residents’ associations, and their power to request information about tenants (see Housing Law Consultations)

27 September 2017                  
Consultation closes on fees charged to tenants in the private rented sector – Wales (see Housing Law Consultations)

11 October 2017                       
Lime Legal’s Homelessness Conference 2017: Law & Best Practice
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Housing Solicitor Vacancy with Minton Morrill Solicitors

Solicitor sought with expertise in housing law, to conduct a mixed caseload of Legal Aid and privately funded work and ability to satisfy legal aid supervisor requirements. Caseload includes representing defendants in the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme.

For further information as to job description and specification please contact Maria Clancy either by email maria.clancy@mintonmorrill.co.uk  or in writing to her at Minton Morrill, 27 Park Square West, Leeds LS1 2PL with your CV and salary expectation.
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