10th May 2017
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Supported housing
On 1 May 2017 the House of Commons Select Committees for Work and Pensions, and Communities and Local Government published a joint report on the future of supported housing. The Committees “share the concerns expressed across the sector that the funding proposals, as they stand, are unlikely to achieve [the Government’s] objectives [to find a long-term, sustainable funding mechanism that ensures quality, provides value for money, and which protects and boosts the supply of supported housing].” The Committees propose that “the Government introduces a Supported Housing Allowance, banded to reflect the diversity of provision in the sector and sufficient to ensure supported housing tenants will only require recourse to top-up funding in exceptional circumstances.” It is further recommended that “emergency accommodation is funded through a locally administered grant system, while refuges—which operate as a national network—should have a separate funding mechanism that reflects their unique role.” For the report, click here For comment by Homeless Link, click here

Interim Housing Ombudsman
On 5 May 2017 the DCLG announced that David Connolly will act as the interim Housing Ombudsman whilst recruitment for a permanent post-holder takes place. This will be effective from 5 June 2017 when the current Housing Ombudsman, Denise Fowler, leaves that position.

Housing White Paper – response
On 2 May 2017 Garden Court Chambers Housing Team published its response to the Government’s Housing White Paper published on 17 February 2017. Overall, the response is that the proposals in the White Paper are disappointing, and will not solve the current housing crisis. For the response, click here For the White Paper itself, click here

Homes and Communities Agency – investment in real estate investment trust
On 5 May 2017 LocalGov reported that the Homes and Communities Agency has agreed to invest up to £25m in a real estate investment trust, Sigma Capital, established to invest in the private rented sector. For the report, click here

Benefit cap
On 3 May 2017 the Department for Work and Pensions published statistics on households that have had their benefits capped between 15 April 2013 and February 2017. 134,000 households had their benefits capped between 15 April 2013, when the benefit cap was introduced, and February 2017. The increase in the number of capped households in the last quarter (up by 46,000) is due to the implementation of lower cap levels from 7 November 2016. For the statistics, click here

Welfare Reform Act 2012 regulations – guidance
On 26 April 2017 the Department for Work and Pensions published guidance (updated especially in respect of universal credit) setting out a list of regulations and statutory instruments relating to the Welfare Reform Act 2012. For the guidance, click here

Housing legal aid
On 5 May 2017 the Law Society of England and Wales launched its General election 2017: Our vision for law and justice. The five-point plan includes: “Reinstate legal aid for early advice, particularly in housing and family law.” To read the document, click here

Private rents
On 8 May 2017 HomeLet published its latest Rental Index showing that UK rents in April were 0.4 per cent higher than a year ago, with the average monthly rent now standing at £904; this is the lowest rental price inflation figure since February 2010. Rents on new tenancies in London fell by 1.2 per cent in April compared to the same month a year ago, the first such fall since December 2009. Wales, North-East England and Scotland saw the highest levels of rental price inflation during April. For full details, click here

Homelessness Fund – Greater Manchester
On 8 May 2017 homelessness charity Crisis was announced as the facilitator of the new Greater Manchester Mayor’s Homelessness Fund. The manifesto of Andy Burnham, the newly elected mayor, included a commitment of “a decent and affordable home for everyone to rent or to own, with nobody forced to sleep rough on our streets”. For the response of Crisis, click here

Social Housing Survey: private flat owners and refurbishment
As part of the Futureproofing Flats project, a University of Oxford research study into refurbishment of blocks of flats and leasehold law, Sue Bright and David Weatherall are carrying out a survey of the experiences of social housing providers in delivering refurbishment in blocks of flats with leaseholders. The survey comprises questions intended for social housing staff who are involved in the delivery of refurbishment projects. For more details of the survey, click here

Landlord disqualification order – Scotland
On 4 May 2017 BBC News reported that a private landlord in Fife had been become the first to be disqualified by a Scottish court. He had been found guilty on 27 April of breaching the Antisocial Behaviour (Scotland) Act 2004 and the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, and was fined £500 and banned as a private landlord for 12 months. For the report, click here

Letting agents
At a meeting of the Fair Fees Forum on 26 April 2017 members gave an “overarching message” that “there was a need for a coherent framework for the regulation of the private rented sector, instead of the current piecemeal approach to legislation, which did not help consumers or the industry. It should include registration of all letting agents, the conduct of their business and effective enforcement. The Forum recognised the need for a working group to draw up a regulatory framework with which to approach Government. There were also calls for a more cohesive approach to licensing by local authorities.” For the communique arising from the meeting, click here

Re-purchasing Right to Buy housing
On 3 May 2017 BBC News reported that local authorities “have spent millions buying back homes they sold at a discount under Right-to-Buy laws to meet housing shortages.” A freedom of information request revealed the purchases. The report says that, for example, Islington Council spent £6.2million buying back housing stock it had sold for less than £1.3m, and Cornwall spent nearly £438,000 on four properties. For the report, click here

Prosecution of landlords
On 5 May 2017 The Guardian published details of the most prosecuted landlords in the England and Wales. The list was compiled by the newspaper following freedom of information requests to local authorities in England and Wales. “Data from the three-quarters of councils that responded revealed that 651 landlords were convicted of housing offences between January 2015 and December 2016. They were fined a total of just £3m – an average of about £4,600 per conviction.” For the report, 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 Committee has invited submissions of written evidence to assist in its consideration of the Bill. The date by which submissions should arrive has been extended to 5 May 2017. For progress of the Bill, the text of the Bill itself and explanatory memorandum, click here and scroll down.

R (on the application of SG) v Haringey LBC [2017] EWCA Civ 322

The Appellant was an asylum seeker who fled Afghanistan and arrived in the United Kingdom in October 2013. She suffered from severe mental health problems, including complex post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

The Appellant sought judicial review of the Respondent’s refusal to provide her with accommodation under section 18 of the Care Act 2014 (“the CA 2014”). The Appellant was found to have met the eligibility criteria under section 13 of the CA 2014 due to her care and support needs. Therefore, the Appellant argued that the Respondent was under a duty to provide her with accommodation under section 18 in order to meet those needs. The Respondent argued that it did not have a duty to accommodate her and that section 18 of the CA 2014 was a discretionary power.

The question for the court was whether section 18 of the CA 2014 established a duty upon a local authority to provide a person with accommodation once it is established that the eligibility criteria had been met under section 13 of the CA 2014.

First Instance Decision
The judge at first instance had quashed the decision made by the Respondent under the CA 2014 on the basis that the process had been defective. The Appellant was entitled to have, but did not have, an independent advocate to support her during the assessment process. Furthermore, the Respondent had failed to give any proper consideration to the Appellant’s accommodation needs and had simply not addressed the issue during the assessment. However, the judge declined to grant a declaration to the effect that the Respondent was bound to provide the Appellant with accommodation pursuant to the CA 2014.

The Appellant appealed against the refusal to grant this declaration. She relied on paragraph 53 of the first instance judgment to argue that the judge had found that her care and support needs were accommodation-related, and that the Respondent was under a duty to provide accommodation under section 18 CA 2014.

(NB: the issue had become academic by the time the appeal was heard because the Appellant was afforded refugee status and had been provided with suitable accommodation. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeal considered that the matter should be heard as it was of wider general importance.)

Appeal dismissed.

Firstly, section 18 of the CA 2014 will only come into play, whether it is a duty or a power, after a determination under section 13 had been made to the effect that the individual had accommodation-related care and support needs. The Respondent had failed to address the question of accommodation during its assessment and therefore the next stage, whether accommodation should be provided under section 18 of the CA 2014, had not been triggered.

Secondly, paragraph 53 of the judgment had to be read together with paragraph 52, where the judge had expressly held that this was not an appropriate basis for determining the claim. It is clear that the judge’s words at paragraphs 52 and 53 did not form a part of his determination and were obiter dicta. There was no judicial analysis as to whether section 18 of the CA 2014 was a “power” or “discretion”. The judge’s reference to “discretion” in paragraph 53 was no more than a passing observation rather than a reasoned judicial conclusion on the matter. Paragraph 54 made it clear that the judge had determined the proceedings based on the Appellant’s secondary case, namely that the Respondent’s decision-making process had been defective. In future, courts should consider the interpretation of section 18 of the CA 2014 without any regard to paragraphs 52 and 53 of the first instance judgment in this case, “but should embark upon the task of interpretation with, as it were, an entirely clean sheet”.

This case was therefore academic because the arguments relied on by the Appellant did not arise on the facts and was not a matter on which the first instance judge had delivered a reasoned ruling.

Summary by Clara Zang, barrister, Arden Chambers.  For the full judgment click here.

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Changes to the frequency of Help to Buy Wales statistical outputs
Data on the Help to Buy – Wales Shared Equity Loan Scheme are published on Stats Wales on a monthly basis, covering activity at the local authority level. The Welsh Government publish a Statistical Headline every three months plus an annual release. On 1 March 2017 the Welsh Government opened a consultation on proposals to reduce the frequency of these data outputs from May 2017 onwards to bring them in line with the publication of other statistics on housing supply. To respond to the consultation, click here The consultation closes on 24 May 2017.

Park homes: review of legislation
The Mobile Homes Act 2013 made significant changes to the law on park homes. The government gave a commitment to review this in 2017. The review, which calls for evidence about practices in the sector and the effectiveness of legislation, is in two parts. Part 1 of the review is a call for evidence on the fairness of charges, the transparency of site ownership and on experience of harassment. Part 2 of the review will be published later. The consultation on Part 1 closes on 27 May 2017. For details, click here

Banning letting agents’ fees payable by tenants – England
The Government announced at the 2016 Autumn Statement that it would consult on introducing a ban on letting agent fees paid by tenants, to improve competition in the private rental market and give renters greater clarity and control over what they will pay. This consultation paper invites views and comments on how the ban on letting agent fees paid by tenants in England should be implemented and enforced. The consultation closes on 2 June 2017. For more details, click here

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

Andy Burnham launches plan to drive down homelessness in Manchester Frances Perraudin [2017] Guardian 9 May. To read this article, click here

Housing policy needs to be based on evidence, not politicians' whims Ken Gibb [2017] Guardian 9 May. To read this article, click here

Corbyn pins Labour's election hopes on housing reform pledges Rowena Mason and Anushka Asthana [2017] Guardian 9 May. To read this article, click here

Metro mayors key to new homes and jobs Geoff White [2017] RICS Online 8 May. To read this article, click here

The megabank of Mum and Dad has a toxic effect on all it touches Rowan Moore [2017] Guardian 7 May. To read this article, click here

Advanced ill health and homelessness: a complex issue Niamh Brophy [2017] Homeless Link 5 May. 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.

You gotta plan [London Borough of Waltham Forest v Khan [2017] UKUT 153 (LC)][2017] Nearly Legal 4 May. To read this article, click here

Homelessness Reduction Act becomes law – now we need a cross-Government approach to make it work Deborah Garvie [2017] Shelter Policy Blog 2 May. To read this article, click here

10 May 2017                
Supreme Court to hand down judgment in Poshteh v Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea concerning (1) the scope of the enquiries required of a local authority when making decisions in homelessness cases to which s.149 Equality Act 2010 applies; and (2) the standard of review to be applied by courts when reviewing decisions of the local authority in such cases.

24 May 2017                
Consultation closes on Changes to the frequency of Help to Buy Wales statistical outputs (see Housing Law Consultations)

27 May 2017                
Consultation closes on Park homes: review of legislation (see Housing Law Consultations)

2 June 2017                 
Consultation closes on Banning letting agents’ fees payable by tenants in England (see Housing Law Consultations)
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