14th June 2017
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Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Sajid Javid MP has been re-appointed as the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Ruth Davison, Executive Director of Public Impact at the National Housing Federation, welcomed the re-appointment. She said: “His understanding of the housing sector, combined with the continuity of his re-appointment, will be of reassurance to the sector.” For details of Mr Javid’s career, click here

New Housing Minister
On 13 June 2017 Alok Sharma MP was appointed the new housing and planning minister, replacing Gavin Barwell, who was not re-elected to the House of Commons. For details of Mr Sharma’s career, click here

Renters and the General Election
On 9 June 2017 Generation Rent, the campaign group, claimed that 20 of the 32 seats that the Conservative Party lost to Labour and the Liberal Democrats had more renters than average. The organisation called on the Prime Minister to act immediately to ban letting agent fees, strengthen security of tenure and build new council homes. For more information, click here

Housing sector – Wales
On June 2017 CIH Cymru responded to the General Election result by calling on newly elected Welsh MPs to “support a welfare system which ensures that everyone can access an affordable home and support the construction industry to access the materials and labour it needs to build homes.” Matt Dicks, director of CIH Cymru, said: “There is consensus from organisations across the Welsh housing sector that we need to build the economy after Brexit in order to deliver 20,000 homes in this Assembly term.” For more details, click here

House of Commons Library research briefings
Each week the House of Commons Library publishes dozens of research briefings for members of parliament and their staff in support of their parliamentary business. They provide an excellent – and free – introductory resource for anyone undertaking research across the breadth of public concerns. Housing Law Week aims to keep readers informed of those relating to housing issues. During the General Election campaign there was a hiatus in their publication. On 9 June 2017 the following briefings were published:
  • Allocating social housing (England) – click here
  • Applying as homeless from an assured shorthold tenancy (England) – click here
  • Assistance with home repairs/improvements – click here
  • Building the new private rented sector: issues and prospects (England) – click here
  • Comparing the Right to Buy in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – click here
  • Comparison of homelessness duties in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – click here
  • Disabled adaptations in leasehold flats and common parts – click here
  • Discretionary Housing Payments – click here
  • Empty housing (England) – click here
  • Evicting squatters – click here
  • Home ownership and renting: demographics – click here
  • Housing Benefit entitlement: renting from relatives – click here
  • Housing Benefit: under-occupation in the private rented sector – click here
  • Housing costs in Universal Credit – click here
  • Housing supply for local authorities (England) – click here
  • Legal help: where to go and how to pay – click here
  • Mobile (park) homes – click here
  • Paying for supported housing – click here
  • Rent setting: social housing (England) – click here
  • Selective licensing of private landlords (England & Wales) – click here
  • Stimulating housing supply - Government initiatives (England) – click here
  • Tackling the under-supply of housing in England – click here
  • Under-occupying social housing: Housing Benefit entitlement – click here
Private renting
On 12 June 2017 chartered surveyors Knight Frank published its Multihousing Tenants Survey 2017. Among its key findings are: the proportion of households in the private rented sector will rise to 24% by 2021; some 68% of renters still expect to be living in the rental sector in three years’ time; the Multihousing, or Build-to-Rent, sector is currently worth £25 billion (according to Knight Frank estimates based on its Investment Survey) and by 2022, the market will be worth £70 billion; and rental affordability remains the key concern for tenants looking for rental property. To access the survey, click here

House sales
On 12 June 2017 the latest monthly index from estate agents Your Move, as reported in The Guardian, stated that the number of house sales in London in April 2017 slumped by almost a third, compared with the same month in 2016. Your Move’s report showed that average house prices had risen to a new peak of £303,200, a year-on-year increase of 4.8%. To read The Guardian report, click here

Letting unfit for habitation – Islington
On 6 June 2017 Islington Council released details of appeal proceedings in which landlords who allowed their garage to be occupied as a substandard flat have been ordered to pay more than £3,000 to the council in costs. The case concerned a single storey garage that was unfit for habitation. It had no basic facilities such as gas, electricity and water supply. In October 2016 Islington Council served a prohibition notice under the Housing Act 2004 to prevent the landlord letting it. The landlords appealed the notice and took the council to a tribunal. Despite the council’s efforts to settle, the landlord did not pay the hearing fee and the tribunal withdrew their appeal. The council applied for its costs and was awarded the sum of £3,111.50. For Islington Council’s release concerning the case, 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.

Hill v Helix Housing Association [2017] UKUT 238 (LC)

Mr Hill had been a regulated tenant of Helix Housing Association since 1979. In 2011 his flat needed repair works to be carried out and he was therefore moved to his current flat. Originally the move was intended to be temporary but ultimately was made permanent. Mr Hill remained a regulated tenant in his new flat.

When Mr Hill moved to the new flat, the rent was £59 per fortnight, which was the rent registered in 1992 during the previous occupant’s tenancy, although Mr Hill in fact continued to pay the higher rent which he had been paying in his previous flat.

In August 2015 Helix Housing Association applied to the rent officer to register a new rent for the flat and in October 2015 the rent officer registered a new rent of £345 per fortnight. Mr Hill appealed this decision to the FTT.

The housing association played a limited role in the FTT proceedings, however did provide some details as to works which had been carried out to the flat since the rent was last registered. The FTT fixed the rent at £95.50 per fortnight, limiting itself to a relatively small increase on the basis that legislation capped the percentage of any rent increase except in one circumstance: where works carried out by the landlord to the property had increased its value by more than 15%. The FTT appeared (erroneously) to hold that improvement works carried out in the flat but under a previous tenancy were not relevant. Therefore the statutory cap did apply.

When the FTT decision was handed down, the housing association sought permission to appeal, adducing new evidence as to the history of repairs to the flat. The FTT exercised its power to review its decision and proceeded to remake it. In remaking the decision, the FTT decided that the improvements carried out had increased the flat’s value by more than 15% and accordingly the statutory cap did not apply.

Mr Hill appealed this decision to the Upper Tribunal. The housing association conceded the appeal. The Upper Tribunal held that the FTT can only review one of its decisions if an application for permission to appeal includes a ground of appeal which is likely to be successful. The housing association’s request for a review of the earlier decision did not identify any error of law in the FTT’s original decision; rather it simply sought to adduce new evidence. The legal principles for the admission of new evidence on appeal (i.e. that new material will not be admitted on appeal where that evidence could and should have been made available to the first instance tribunal) had not been satisfied in this case and there had therefore been no basis for the FTT to admit the fresh evidence adduced by the housing association.

The Upper Tribunal having decided to allow the appeal, the matter was remitted to the FTT to be redetermined. This was because the FTT’s decision appeared to be wrong in any event in that the FTT appeared (erroneously) to have thought, for the purposes of deciding whether improvement works had the effect of disapplying the statutory cap on rent increases, that only works carried out during the current tenancy (as opposed to all works since the last rent registration) were relevant.

Summary by Alexander Campbell, 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

Making it up as you go Giles Peaker [2017] Nearly Legal 6 June. To read this article, click here

Regeneration means demolishing people's homes, not making them better Paul Sng [2017] Guardian 7 June. To read this article, click here

Rough sleeping: Politicians need to consider the means, not just the end Andrew Redfern [2017] National Housing Federation Blog 7 June. To read this article, click here

SDLT on shared ownership transactions David Keighley [2017] Solicitors Journal 8 June. To read this article, click here

Tory MPs have been evicted from their seats for not taking housing seriously Dawn Foster [2017] Guardian 9 June. To read this article, click here

After a surprise election, what now for housing? Rob Warm [2017] National Housing Federation Blog 9 June. To read this article, click here

Housing benefit: update 2017 Bethan Harris, Desmond Rutledge and Kevin Gannon [2017] June issue of Legal Action. Available in print and on-line for Legal Action subscribers. For the latest issue, 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

Revisiting decisions on eligibility for homelessness assistance Alice Richardson [2017] Local Government Lawyer 9 June. To read this article, click here

What the election result means for our sector Paula Reid [2017] Homeless Link 9 June. To read this article, click here

Deposit-free renting sounds good – or could tenants lose out? Emma Lunn [2017] Guardian 10 June. To read this article, click here

Housing policy now depends on a new minister - and the DUP Steve Hilditch [2017] Guardian 12 June. To read this article, click here

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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