17th May 2017
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Housing possession statistics – England and Wales
On 11 May 2017 the Ministry of Justice published figures, covering the period January to March 2017, in respect of mortgage and landlord possession statistics. Landlord possession claims (35,118), orders for possession (26,009), warrants of possession (17,936) and repossessions by county court bailiffs (9,370) were down 8%, 10%, 9% and 15% respectively, continuing the annual downward trend seen since April to June 2014. Mortgage possession claims (5,542) and orders for possession (3,502) have both increased by 17% and 16% respectively. The fall in average time to mortgage repossession breaks the long term rising trend. It has decreased to 107.4 weeks), down from 124.3 weeks in the previous year (Jan to March 2016). For the full statistics, click here

Housing possession statistics – Wales only
The statistics released by the Ministry of Justice show that in Wales there were 1,408 landlord possession claims made during January to March 2017, a decrease of 1% on the same quarter of 2016. There were 1,142 landlord possession orders made during the quarter, up by 1% compared with January to March 2016. During January to March 2017, 75% of claims and 76% of orders were made on behalf of social landlords. During the same period, there were 388 mortgage possession claims and 283 mortgage possession orders made, an increase of 15% and by 37%, respectively, on the same quarter of 2016. For more details, click here

Housing and legal aid
On 8 May 2017 the Bar Council published its General Election 2017 Manifesto for Justice. The document notes that five years since the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) “half a million people a year no longer receive legal advice on employment, housing, welfare and family issues. This does not save money for the country because unresolved legal problems create other expensive problems for society. The social costs cannot be ignored.” The Bar Council has called on the next government to “review the consequences of LASPO and take steps urgently to remedy the loss of access to justice by the most vulnerable in society.” To read the manifesto document, click here

Housing options for young people in the South East
On 12 May 2017 the Chartered Institute of Housing published research which indicates that “plans to extend the Local Housing Allowance cap could make even social housing too expensive for young people on lower incomes in the South East.” CIH’s analysis shows, for example, “that 51% of all younger people in the South East cannot afford the cheapest rents and that median rents are unaffordable for the majority (76% of 16-34 year olds, and nearly all under 25s).” To read the analysis, click here To read CIH’s press release in respect of it, click here

Rents and Local Housing Allowance cap
On 11 May 2017 Savills published research which states that “there is capacity for 88% of ‘general needs’ homes in England to have an increased rent without exceeding the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cap when it is introduced in 2019/20. But this national figure hides variation between local markets. The scope to increase rents to the LHA cap will be greatest where the gap between target and market rents is largest.” To access the analysis, click here

London Rental Standard
On 11 May 2017 ARLA Propertymark reported that the London Rental Standard (LRS), a voluntary scheme introduced by the former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson in 2014, is set to close. It says that “the LRS website has been taken down by the Greater London Authority and the Mayor has ordered that members of the scheme remove reference to LRS and destroy all materials bearing the LRS badge by 26 July 2017, this includes websites, stationery and promotional materials.” To read the report, click here

Right to rent
On 16 May 2017 24housing reported that the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is seeking crowdfunding in order to mount a legal challenge to the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme which imposes obligations on private landlords to check the immigration statement of prospective tenants. For more details, click here For a report in The Independent, click here

Labour Party Manifesto
On 16 May 2017 the Labour Party published its General Election manifesto. Section 6 (pages 59 to 64) concern housing. The Party’s pledges include: by the end of the next Parliament to build 100,000 council and housing association homes per year for affordable rent or sale; to overhaul the Homes and Communities Agency; to consult on new rules on minimum space standards to prevent ‘rabbit hutch’ properties and on new modern standards for building ‘zero carbon homes’; to end insecurity for private renters by introducing controls on rent rises, more secure tenancies, landlord licensing and new consumer rights for renters; to suspend the right-to-buy policy; to abolish bedroom tax; to set out a new national plan to end rough sleeping within the next Parliament, starting by making available 4,000 additional homes reserved for people with a history of rough sleeping. To read or download the manifesto, click here Housing Law Week will provide links to other parties’ manifestos as they are published.

Plaid Cymru Manifesto
On 16 May 2017 Plaid Cymru published its General Election manifesto. The party pledges: to scrap the bedroom tax; give veterans "the support they deserve and need" including “adequate housing"; and to roll out a nationwide scheme to make housing stock more energy efficient. For the 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.

Supreme Court Press Summary

Poshteh (Appellant) v Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (Respondent) [2017] UKSC 36
On appeal from [2015] EWCA Civ 711

JUSTICES: Lord Neuberger (President), Lord Clarke, Lord Reed, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hughes


The appellant arrived in the UK in 2003 as a refugee from Iran, where she had been subject to imprisonment and torture. She gained indefinite leave to remain in 2009, the year in which she applied to the respondent council for accommodation as a homeless person.

Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 includes the statutory provisions under which local housing authorities are required to secure provision of “suitable” accommodation for a person who is homeless and in priority need, and has not become homeless intentionally. Sub-sections 193(7) and (7F) contain the critical provisions in this case, dealing with the circumstances in which that duty ceases, namely when the applicant refuses a “final offer” of accommodation. However, the housing authority shall not make a “final offer” of accommodation “unless they are satisfied that the accommodation is suitable for the applicant and that it is reasonable for him to accept the offer”.

In November 2012 the respondent offered the appellant accommodation in Norland Road, London in a first floor, two-bedroom flat. The appellant’s concerns about the physical features of the property (including the small size of the windows) were first raised in correspondence of 29 November 2012, including a letter from the appellant’s therapist and her GP, and in a solicitors’ letter of 30 August 2013.

The appellant ultimately refused this “final offer” of permanent accommodation at the property on the basis that it had features which reminded her of her prison in Iran and which would exacerbate her posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety attacks and other conditions. The issue in the case turned not on the “suitability” of the accommodation, but whether it was reasonable for the appellant to accept it. Following a review these grounds were held to be insufficient to justify her refusal. The council’s decision was upheld on appeal by the county court and by the Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court unanimously dismisses the appeal and confirms the decision of the review-officer. Lord Carnwath gives the judgment, with which the other Justices agree.

Two issues arise on this appeal: (1) whether the Supreme Court should depart from the its own decision in Ali v Birmingham City Council [2010] 2 AC 39 in light of the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) judgment in Ali v United Kingdom (2016) 63 EHRR 20, and if so to what extent; and (2) whether the reviewing officer should have asked himself whether there was a real risk that the appellant’s mental health would be damaged by moving into the accommodation offered, whether or not her reaction to it was irrational, and if so, whether he did in fact apply the right test [3].

Ali v Birmingham City Council

In Ali v Birmingham City Council the Supreme Court decided that the duties imposed on housing authorities under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 did not give rise to “civil” rights or obligations and so Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights did not apply to it. In Ali v United Kingdom the ECtHR held that Article 6.1 did apply, but accepted that in any event the procedure applied under the Housing Act conformed to its requirements [18].

The review of the domestic authorities shows a continuing debate on this issue, against the backdrop of uncertain Strasbourg jurisprudence. The unanimous judgment of the Supreme Court in Ali v Birmingham City Council was intended to settle the issue at domestic level after a full review of the Strasbourg authorities [32]. The Chamber in Ali v United Kingdom acknowledged the weight to be given to the interpretation of the relevant provisions by the domestic courts and it is thus surprising that it failed to address in any detail either the Supreme Court’s reasoning or its concerns over “judicialisation” of the welfare services. The Chamber instead focused on two obiter remarks by Hale LJ (as she then was) and Lord Millett; its treatment of these two statements is open to the criticism that they were taken out of context [33, 34]. Further questions can also be raised about the Chamber’s reliance on the decision in Schuler-Zgraggen v Switzerland as an example of entitlement subject to “discretion”: the statute in question gave a right to a full invalidity pension where incapacity of at least 66.66% was established. It is hard to see any fair comparison with the range of factors to which authorities are entitled to have regard in fulfilling their obligations under the housing legislation [35].

The Court’s duty under the Human Rights Act 1998 is “to have regard” to the decision of the Strasbourg court Section. There appears to be no relevant Grand Chamber decision on the issue, but the Supreme Court would normally follow a “clear and constant line” of chamber decisions. In Ali v United Kingdom it is apparent from the Chamber’s reasoning that it was consciously going beyond the scope of previous cases and its answer to Lord Hope’s concern that there was “no clearly defined stopping point” to the process of expansion seems to have been that none was needed. That is a possible view, but one which should not readily be adopted without full consideration of its practical implications for the working of the domestic regime [36]. This is a case in which the Supreme Court should not regard the Chamber’s decision as a sufficient reason to depart from its own fully considered and unanimous conclusion in Ali v Birmingham City Council. It is appropriate to await a full consideration by the Grand Chamber before considering whether (and if so how) to modify the domestic position [37].

The reviewing officer’s approach

The appeal on this issue well illustrates the relevance of the warning against over-zealous linguistic analysis. This is not to diminish the importance of the responsibility given to housing authorities under the 1996 Act (and reinforced in the case of disability by the Equality Act 2010). The decision-letter viewed as a whole reads as a conscientious attempt by a hard-pressed housing officer to cover every conceivable issue raised in the case: he clearly understood the importance of considering her mental state against the background of her imprisonment in Iran [39].

Although the officer did not in terms address the appellant’s claim to have suffered a panic attack, it is hard to criticise him for giving little weight to an incident which she had not mentioned at the time, nor apparently to her medical advisers. The issue for him was not her immediate reaction on one short visit, but show she would reasonably have been expected to cope with living there in the longer term. On that he was entitled to give weight to the medical evidence submitted by her, and consider how far it supported her case [40]. It might well have been unreasonable to offer her “accommodation with very small dark rooms without windows at a normal height and looking out onto everyday life”, but that was not a reasonable description of this particular property, nor a sufficient ground for her not accepting it. There is no difficulty in understanding the officer’s reasoning overall, nor does it disclose any error of law [41].

References in square brackets are to paragraphs in the judgment.

NOTE: This summary is provided to assist in understanding the Court’s decision. It does not form part of the reasons for the decision. The full judgment of the Court is the only authoritative document.

To read the judgment click hereTo watch the judgment summary 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

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

Bedroom tax: round 2 Alice Richardson [2017] LAG Online 10 May. To read this article, click here

Are you a renter? Here are 7 things to raise with your election candidates Penny Anderson [2017] Guardian 11 May. To read this article, click here

The High Court upholds discriminatory housing allocations scheme Alex Campbell [2017] Local Government Lawyer 11 May. To read this article, click here

Shelter’s general election call: help for the growing army of hard pressed private renters Steve Akehurst [2017] Shelter Blog 12 May. To read this article, click here

If people in work struggle with rent, what hope for people out of work? Dawn Foster [2017] Guardian 12 May. To read this article, click here

End of life care in a sheltered housing scheme Derek Player [2017] Homeless Link 12 May. To read this article, click here

Democracy on the doorstep: Housing questions to ask candidates who come a-knocking Poppy Terry [2017] Shelter Blog 13 May. To read this article, click here

A bluffers guide to the Homeless Reduction Act 2017 Giles Peaker [2017] Nearly Legal 14 May. To read this article, click here

Housing associations need to reclaim the ground on social purpose Max du Bois [2017] 24housing 15 May. To read this article, click here

Election 2017: what we're asking for on ... homelessness Faye Greaves [2017] CIH 15 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.

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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Housing and Litigation Lawyer
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Housing and Accommodation Officer
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Housing Development Officer
Royal Borough of Greenwich
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Housing Officer
Sanctuary Housing
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Acquisitions Officer
Southwark Council
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Private Rented Tenancy Officer
Crawley Borough Council
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Lettings Negotiator
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