24th May 2017
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General Election and private renters
On 22 May 2017 the Renters Vote campaign published analysis calculating that private renters could cast the deciding vote in one in seven constituencies in the General Election. In 93 constituencies, the campaign says, there are more private renters without a strong commitment to a political party than the incumbent MP’s majority. It concludes that a party that makes an effective appeal to these voters could take up to 30 seats. For more details, click here

Private renting – landlords
On 19 May 2017 the National Landlords Association announced new research showing that 16 per cent of landlords with a single property say the changes to taxation rules for buy to let (abolishing tax relief on mortgage costs) will push them into a higher income tax bracket – a rise of seven per cent compared to the last quarter of 2016. To read the NLA’s press release, click here

Housing Benefit
On 17 May 2017 the DWP published HB Bulletin: G5/2017 which contains information about, amongst other matters, HB decisions by the Upper Tribunal and statutory instruments. To access the bulletin, click here

Housing benefit claimants
On 17 May 2017 the DWP published statistics (to February 2017) on numbers of Housing Benefit claimants and average weekly spare room subsidy amount withdrawal by: region and local authority; region and local authority by tenure and passported status; region and local authority by spare room subsidy; tenure; average weekly award by tenure; passported status; average weekly award by passported status; average weekly award by age group; age group and family type; and average weekly award by age group and family type. To access the statistics, click here

Domestic violence and housing providers
On 22 May 2017 CIH published an article by Kelly Henderson, domestic violence business manager at Gentoo, about research conducted by her examining the role of housing providers in a coordinated community response to domestic abuse. The research found that only 6.1 per cent of 232 UK organisations surveyed offered support to perpetrators to address their abusive behaviour. Meanwhile 12.95 per cent of respondents stated their organisation did not treat domestic abuse as a tenancy breach. Whilst almost three-quarters (73.21 per cent) did, just over half (53.71 per cent) of respondent organisations had actually taken action against perpetrators highlighting a gap between policy and action. To read the article, click here

Licensing schemes for private landlords – London
On 17 May 2017 Environmental Health News reported that at the CIEH housing and health conference, Rhona Brown, private rented sector programme manager for the Greater London Authority, announced that Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, was seeking powers from government to authorise London boroughs to set up selective licensing schemes for private landlords. Those powers are currently held by the Secretary of State. To read the report, click here

Private renting and discrimination
On 17 May 2017 the Equality and Human Rights Commission confirmed that it has started legal action against Mr Fergus Wilson, a landlord who has allegedly banned Indian and Pakistani people from renting his homes. Commission Chief Executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath, said: “We have asked the court if it agrees with us that Mr Wilson’s lettings policy contains unlawful criteria and, if so, to issue an injunction.” For a BBC News report, click here

Letting fees consultation
On 17 May 2017 Homeless Link sought the views of its members to inform its response to the DCLG’s consultation on how a proposed ban on letting agent fees should be implemented and enforced. For more information and specific issues on which Homeless Link would welcome responses, click here

Local Housing Allowance cap – Scotland
On 22 May 2017 the Scottish Government and CIH published an interim report concerning the introduction of the LHA cap to the social rented sector and its impact on young people in Scotland. The report says that data from DWP awards and the recent supported accommodation review suggest that around 14,000, or 65% of mainstream young social tenants, might be affected by the cap. This excludes an estimated 7,000 young people in supported accommodation for whom additional support or exemptions may be available. For the report, click here For a report in Scottish Housing News, click here

Social housing allocation – Salford
On 16 May 2017 Salford Star reported that Salford City Council is to appoint a consultant to gauge the fairness of its housing allocations scheme and review the policy, including introducing what it calls a possible “housing options approach to customers with greater income opportunities”. The newspaper notes that since the introduction of a new allocations scheme in 2015, the city's housing waiting list has been reduced from 14,194 households to 7,600. To read the report, click here

Conservative Party Manifesto
On 18 May 2017 the Conservative Party published its General Election manifesto. In relation to housing, the manifesto includes pledges: to fix the dysfunctional housing market so that housing is more affordable; to build a million new homes by 2020; to enter into ‘Council Housing Deals with ambitious, pro-development local authorities to help them build more social housing’; to build new fixed-term social houses which will be sold privately after ten to fifteen years with an automatic right to buy for tenants; to give greater flexibility to housing associations to increase their housing stock; to aim to halve rough sleeping over the next parliament and eliminate it altogether by 2027; to review funding for domestic violence refuges and ensure that victims who have lifetime tenancies and flee violence are able to secure a new lifetime tenancy automatically; and to strengthen the enforcement of equalities law so that private landlords who deny people a service based on ethnicity, religion or gender, are investigated and prosecuted. To read the manifesto, click here

Green Party Manifesto
On 22 May 2017 the Green Party launched its manifesto for the General Election. The party’s policies include: to protect young people’s housing needs by reinstating housing benefit for under-21s, stop local authorities declaring young people “intentionally homeless”, and invest in community house-building projects to provide affordable, secure housing options for young people; to introduce a living rent for all through rent controls and more secure tenancies for private renters; to end letting fees; to introduce mandatory licensing for all landlords; to give tenants a voice by supporting the development of renters’ unions; to build affordable, zero carbon homes, including 100,000 social rented homes each year by 2022; to end mass council house sales and scrap right to buy at  discounted prices; to help first-time buyers by aiming for house price stability, axing buy-to-let tax breaks, and backing community-led approaches to building affordable homes; and to significantly improve housing choice for “D/deaf, disabled and older people by requiring all councils to appropriately plan for their housing needs and significantly increase the numbers of homes built to lifetime home and mobility standards over the next five years. To read the manifesto, click here Liberal Democrats Manifesto
On 17 May 2017 the Liberal Democrats Party published its manifesto for the General Election. The party’s policies include:  to reach its house-building target of 300,000 homes a year, through a government commissioning programme to build homes for sale and rent, ensuring that half a million affordable, energy-efficient homes are built by the end of the Parliament; to end the voluntary right to buy pilots; to lift the borrowing cap on local authorities and increase the borrowing capacity of housing associations so that they can build council and social housing; to scrap exemptions on smaller housing development schemes from their obligation to provide affordable homes; to introduce a new ‘rent to own’ model where rent payments give tenants an increasing stake in the property, owning it outright after 30 years; to ban lettings fees for tenants, capping up-front deposits, and increasing minimum standards in rented homes; to help young people into the rental market by establishing a new ‘help to rent’ scheme to provide government-backed tenancy deposit loans for all first-time renters under 30; to give tenants first refusal to buy the home they are renting from a landlord who decides to sell during the tenancy at the market rate; to promote longer tenancies of three years or more with an inflation-linked annual rent increase built in; to improve protections against rogue landlords through mandatory licensing and allow access for tenants to the Database of Rogue Landlords and Letting Agents; and to end rough sleeping. To read 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.

R (Romeo Sambotin) v LB Brent [2017] EWHC 1190 (Admin), 19 May 2017 (Sir Wyn Williams)
The claimant, a 31-year-old Romanian national, moved to the UK for work in October 2013. In September 2015, while on holiday in Romania, he was involved in a serious car accident which left him wheelchair-bound and unable to work. In August 2016, he applied as homeless to Waltham Forest LBC who decided that he was not eligible for assistance under s.185 Housing Act 1996. In December 2016, the claimant made a fresh application to the defendant authority.

On January 30, 2017, the defendant accepted that the claimant was homeless, eligible for assistance, in priority need and not intentionally homeless but found that he did not have a local connection with its area but did have a local connection with Waltham Forest. The defendant referred the claimant’s application to Waltham Forest LBC, pursuant to s.198 Housing Act 1996.

On February 8, 2017, the defendant advised the claimant that Waltham Forest LBC had refused to accept the referral on the basis that he was not eligible for assistance. The defendant also advised him that the referral had been withdrawn. On February 10 2017, the claimant was issued with a fresh s.184 decision letter notifying him that he was not eligible for homelessness assistance.

The Claim
The claimant sought judicial review on three grounds.

(1) The revocation of the decision of January 30, 2017, was ultra vires. The defendant had completed its enquiries and made a final decision which was favourable to him. The defendant was not entitled to revisit that decision. In particular, the defendant’s reliance on Porteous v West Dorset DC [2004] HLR 30, CA, was mistaken because the defendant was unable to identify a fact about which it had been mistaken.

(2) The defendant had failed to provide reasons for the revocation.

(3) The defendant was in breach of s.200(1) in failing to secure accommodation pending the outcome of the referral.

The claim was listed as an expedited “rolled-up” permission and substantive hearing.

The defendant opposed permission, relying on R v Brent LBC ex p Sadiq (2001) 33 HLR 47, QB, on the basis that the claimant had an alternative remedy by way of statutory review and county court appeal under ss.202-204. In relation to ground 1, the defendant argued that it had not made a final decision because there had been a local connection referral and therefore, applying Crawley BC v B (2000) 32 HLR 636, CA, it was entitled to revisit the decision. In the alternative, the defendant had made a fundamental mistake of fact and, applying Porteous, it had been entitled to withdraw the decision.

The Decision
The judge held that the court retains a residual discretion to entertain a claim for judicial review even where alternative remedies are available. The interests of justice in the case and the need for efficient disposal of legal disputes pointed strongly to the conclusion that permission should be granted.

Crawley BC v B provides broad support for the proposition that a local authority is entitled to revisit a decision which has been communicated to an applicant for housing assistance in circumstances where either (a) it has not completed its enquiries under s.184 of the Act, or (b) it has made no final decision as to the nature of the duty it owes to an applicant. However, in this case it was clear that the defendant had completed its enquiries and that the defendant had made a decision as to its duty under the Act. As the High Court held in R v Southwark LBC ex p Dagou (1996) 28 HLR 72, QB, a local connection referral was simply “an executional performance of a full housing duty” and the defendant had, in substance, made a final decision as to the duty owed.

The evidence did not establish a fundamental mistake of fact on the part of the defendant which had led it to its decision of January 30, 2017.

Fairness demanded that the defendant was under a duty to provide reasons to justify its view that it was entitled to make the decision communicated in the letter of February 10, 2017, and it had failed to do so.

The Defendant had owed the duty under s.200(1) of the Act from January 30, 2017, and continued to owe that duty until resolution of the referral issue.

Summary by Alice Richardson, barrister, Arden Chambers who appeared for the claimant.  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

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


Are private rents in England going up or down? John Bibby [2017] Shelter Blog 16 May. To read this article, click here

Build, borrow and buy-back: Labour's manifesto Lewis Johnston [2017] RICS 17 May. To read this article, click here

How should a ban on letting fees work? Chris Brill [2017] Homeless Link 17 May. To read this article, click here

General Election 2017 manifesto round-up Paula Reid [2017] Homeless Link 18 May. To read this article, click here

Helping all housing: Scottish Conservatives manifesto Hew Edgar [2017] RICS 19 May. To read this article, click here

Part VII, civil rights and review decisions: Poshteh in the Supreme Court Christi Scarborough [2017] Local Government Lawyer 19 May. To read this article, click here

Homeless duties, human rights and suitability decisions Giles Peaker [2017] Nearly Legal 21 May. To read this article, click here

Regrette rien [R (oao Sambotin) v London Borough of Brent (2017) EWHC 1190 (Admin)] Giles Peaker [2017] Nearly Legal 21 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.

Priced out and p*ssed off: Britain’s forgotten middle Charlotte Gerada [2017] Shelter Blog 22 May. To read this article, click here

Social housing is good. But let’s make it beautiful too Zoe Williams [2017] Guardian 22 May. To read this article, 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)

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

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