7th June 2017
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Housebuilding – England
On 25 March 2017 the DCLG published figures on new build housing starts and completions in England between January and March 2017. New build dwelling starts in England during that period were estimated at 43,170 (seasonally adjusted), a 3 per cent increase compared to the previous three months and 21 per cent increase on a year earlier. Completions were estimated at 39,520 (seasonally adjusted), 9 per cent higher than the previous quarter and 21 per cent higher than a year ago. Annual new build dwelling starts totalled 162,880 in the year to March 2017, up by 15 per cent compared with the previous year. During the same period, completions totalled 147,960, an increase of 6 per cent compared with last year. For the statistics, click here For comment by CIH, click here

Traveller caravan count – England
On 25 May 2017 the DCLG published data from its latest twice-yearly count of Traveller caravans in England which took place on or around 12 January 2017. The total number of traveller caravans in England in January 2017 was 22,004 (698 more than reported in January 2016). 6,807 caravans were on authorised socially rented sites (a decrease of 239 since the January 2016). Overall, the January 2017 count indicated that 87 per cent of traveller caravans in England were on authorised land and that 13 per cent were on unauthorised land. This is the same as the previous year. For the full data, click here

Forces Help to Buy scheme
On 25 May 2017 the Ministry of Defence published latest statistics for the Forces Help to Buy scheme for April 2017.  653 First Stage applications (ie those which pass initial eligibility checks) were received; 328 Second Stage applications (ie those which pass detailed eligibility checks) were received; 300 payments were made to Service personnel. Since the Scheme began in April 2014: 22,548 First Stage applications have been received; 13,393 of these applications have proceeded to the Second Stage; payment has been made to around 10,800 applicants, totalling over £163 million, an average of approximately £15,100 per claim. For the full statistics, click here

Rent Smart Wales – first conviction
On 30 May 2017 Newport City Council announced that it had secured the first conviction for Rent Smart Wales which requires registration by landlords and agents in order to comply with the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. A Newport landlord has been fined £4,400 for operating a dangerous, unlicensed house in multiple occupation and failing to comply with Rent Smart Wales. Bethan Jones, Operational Manager of Rent Smart Wales at Cardiff Council, the single licensing authority for the whole of Wales, said: “This prosecution sends a strong message to other non-compliant landlords who continue to flout the law and those who haven’t complied should come forward now to avoid action against them.” For more details, click here

Tenancy deposits
Research by interiors specialist www.hillarys.co.uk has revealed that 29% of tenants surveyed have had their security deposits withheld at the end of their tenancy, and that the average security deposit was £825. The research suggests that current tenants could collectively lose £1 billion in withheld security deposits at the end of their tenancies. A total of 2,588 Britons were polled by researchers, all of whom had left a rented home in the last year. According to the survey, the most common reasons for having a deposit withheld were: broken furniture – 29%; marks on the walls – 24%; carpet stains – 21%; redecorations – 12%; and mould – 9%.

Letting agents’ fees – enforcement
On 1 June 2017 National Approved Letting Scheme noted that two years after it was made law for agents to display their fees, a survey of local authorities had found that 93 per cent of councils have failed to issue to letting agents a single financial penalty for non-compliance. Almost half of local authorities (45 percent) said they only undertake reactive enforcement activity. For more details, click here

Letting agents’ fees – amount of fee
Generation Rent has published an update to its report into the state of letting fees in England and Wales. Coverage has been expanded to 1,087 agents across 20 councils. The update shows an average fee of £404 for two tenants. This ranges from £40 to £813 for two tenants (ignoring those agents who charge no fees). To read the update, click here

Rough sleeping – Wales
On 1 June 2017 Rough Sleepers Cymru, a coalition of homelessness charities, called for the public to become ‘Streetlink Champions’. Streetlink allows the public to raise attention to people sleeping rough. Over 795 referrals have been received since the launch just over a year ago. For more information about the scheme, click here

UKIP Manifesto
The UKIP manifesto for the General Election calls for the roll out high quality, low cost factory built modular (FBM) homes, bringing “up to 100,000 extra truly affordable homes onto the market every year. Combined with a traditional home building programme, [this] could build another one million homes by 2022.” UKIP would also launch a review into the activities of housing associations. For the party’s manifesto, 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, click here and scroll down.

R (on the application of C) v The London Borough of Islington [2017] EWHC 1288 (Admin)

The Claimant was profoundly deaf. She suffered from emotional and physical abuse from her husband with whom she had three children. She left the family home with the children in May 2015 and thereafter applied to Islington LBC for homelessness assistance under Pt 7 Housing Act 1996. Islington accepted that they owed her a homelessness duty under s.193 and the family were placed in temporary accommodation. She was also registered on the housing register, under Pt 6 of the Act, for an allocation of social housing and was awarded 110 points.

Under Islington’s choice-based lettings scheme an applicant could only bid for properties if they had over 120 points (the threshold was held to be lawful in R (Woolfe) v Islington LBC [2016] EWHC 1907 (Admin)). The Claimant contended that she was entitled to an additional 40 welfare points under the scheme and relied on the report of a clinical psychologist. On review, Islington confirmed that C was not entitled to any welfare or medical points.

Islington’s allocation scheme also contained local lettings policies which, broadly, prioritised the lettings of new and regenerated properties to local applicants.

C sought judicial review alleging that:

1) Islington had failed to properly apply their scheme in assessing her family’s circumstances, including by failing to accept that she had a need for “settled accommodation” within the terms of the scheme because she was in temporary homelessness accommodation.

2) Islington had adopted an unlawful procedure to its consideration of applications by homeless persons because ‘supported choice’ and direct offers of accommodation were made to many homeless applicants outside the choice-based lettings scheme, in discharge of the s.193 duty (raised as an additional ground following evidence filed by Islington).

3) The operation of the local lettings policy discriminated against homeless people, victims of domestic violence and therefore women, contrary to Article 14 read with Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights and sections 29 and 149 of the Equality Act 2010, and is also a breach of section 11 of the Children Act 2004.

The Court held that whilst the use of the words “settled accommodation” in the allocation scheme did include a Pt.6 allocation of social housing it was not limited to it. Islington was entitled to form the view that the claimant did not have an unmet need for settled accommodation. Furthermore, the decision not to award her 40 welfare points was not unlawful.

As to the claim that Islington were operating an unlawful policy the Court held that it was implicit that the threshold of 120 points also applied to direct offers and supported choice offers. However, in practice Islington had only required a minimum of 100 points before making direct offers. The procedure adopted by Islington in the provision of direct offers of social housing under the scheme was therefore unlawful: it was not ascertainable from the scheme that those with only 100 points, including the claimant, were entitled to be made the subject of direct offers, there was nothing in the scheme which set out the criteria used to make direct offers and this has had a direct effect upon C. In the circumstances, both the original decision made by Islington and its review were unlawful. 

In relation to the discrimination claim, Art.14 (read with Art.8) applied. There was a clear difference in treatment between the beneficiaries of the local lettings scheme and C as a homeless person and victim of domestic violence and therefore as a woman. However, when considering whether the policy was justified the Court was entitled to consider the scheme as a whole. However, Islington’s local lettings policy could not be any less intrusive, in the sense of being less detrimental to C, and still maintain its legitimate aim and it was certainly not manifestly without reasonable foundation. Furthermore, in relation proportionality, bearing in mind the extent to which the local lettings policy contributes to that aim, the policy did strike a fair and proportionate balance between the severity of the consequences for the claimant, and the importance of the aim.

For the same reasons although the scheme was indirectly discriminatory towards women under s.19 Equality Act 2010 the discrimination was proportionate and therefore justified. On the evidence Islington had given sufficiently rigorous and conscientious consideration to the public-sector equality duty and had satisfied the statutory requirement to have due regard to it. Lastly, there had been no breach of s.11 Children Act 2004.

Summary by Alice Richardson, barrister, Arden Chambers.  For the full judgment click here.

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Energy efficiency and condition standards in private rented housing in Scotland
The Scottish Government has designated energy efficiency as a National Infrastructure Priority, the cornerstone of which will be Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme. This 15 to 20 year programme is intended to improve the energy efficiency of homes and buildings, supporting efforts to reduce climate change emissions and tackle fuel poverty. This consultation asks for views on proposals to improve the energy efficiency and condition standards in privately rented housing in Scotland. The consultation closes on 30 June 2017. For more details, click here

Regulatory reform of social landlords – Wales
On 8 May 2017 the Welsh Government launched a consultation on reforms that will enable the Office for National Statistics to reclassify RSLs back to the private sector for accounting purposes, including:
disposal consents; power to direct the permitted use of disposals proceeds; restructuring and dissolution; regulatory powers; and local government controls. The consultation closes on 3 July 2017. To access the consultation document, click here

In the dark: Homelessness ordeal gets worse when councils don’t communicate
Heather Spurr [2017] Shelter Blog 24 May. To read this article, click here

Discretionary Housing Payment Policies: Long-term awards and relevant considerations Jed Meers [2017] Local Government Lawyer 26 May. To read this article, click here

Agencies must work together to prevent homelessness Chris Brill [2017] Homeless Link 26 May. To read this article, click here

Service charge disputes and recovery of costs Giles Peaker [2017] Nearly Legal 28 May. To read this article, click here

Getting over the right message about the link between poverty and housing is vital Nat Kendall-Taylor [2017] Guardian 29 May. To read this article, click here

Reality Check: How many people are homeless in England? [2017] BBC News 30 May. To read this article, click here

Slowly but surely, we’re winning Chris Thorne [2017] Shelter Blog 30 May. To read this article, click here

Election 2017: what do the manifestos say about housing? Melanie Rees [2017] CIH Blog 30 May. To read this article, click here

Don't let UK profiteering landlords set generations against one another Nathan Akehurst [2017] Guardian 5 June. To read this article, click here

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

Challenging perceptions of refugees will help us to make a difference Fuad Muhamed [2017] CIH Blog 5 June. To read this article, click here

19 June 2017
State opening of Parliament and Queen’s Speech

30 June 2017                
Consultation closes on Energy efficiency and condition standards in private rented housing in Scotland (see Housing Law Consultations)

3 July 2017                  
Consultation closes on Regulatory reform of social landlords – Wales (see Housing Law Consultations)
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