23rd June 2021
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Covid-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities
On 21 June 2021 the MHCLG published non-statutory guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities in the private and social rented sectors in the context of Coronavirus (Covid-19). The guidance had been updated following the extension of Step 3 of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) roadmap on that day. For the updated guidance, click here.

Judicial review and human rights
On 15 June 2021 the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights  was joined by Lord Faulks QC to explore how proposed changes to judicial review might impact how individuals are able to enforce their human rights. This follows the publication by the Independent Review of Administrative Law, chaired by Lord Faulks, of a report which considered the role of judicial review in the UK. The Review concluded that there was not a strong case for “radical reform” of judicial review but proposed legislating for the introduction of Suspended Quashing Orders and to reverse the effect of the Supreme Court decision in Cart and re-affirm that decisions of the Upper Tribunal to refuse permission to appeal are not subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court. Discussion by the Committee and Lord Faulks included:

  • How the recommendations made in the Independent Review of Administrative Law report, and the Government consultation document that followed, could affect human rights protections;
  • Understanding how proposed changes could affect the role of the courts in upholding the rule of law;
  • Considering the effect of proposed procedural changes on an individual’s ability to enforce their rights;
  • Exploring opportunities within the Government’s consultation to increase the efficiency of judicial review.

To watch the session, click here. For the report by the Independent Review of Administrative Law, click here.

Court judgments to get new home
On 16 June 2021 the Ministry of Justice announced that important court and tribunal judgments will be available via The National Archives for the first time, which, the MoJ says, will increase transparency and secure free access for all. The website will host thousands of court judgments, including judicial review rulings, European case law, commercial judgments and many more cases of legal significance from the High Court, Upper Tier Tribunal, and the Court of Appeal. The judgments will be readily available to anyone from April 2022. For more information, click here.

Legal aid: Directory of processes restarting after Covid-19 contingency
On 18 June 2021 the Legal Aid Agency published a directory of legal aid ways of working and processes which have resumed operation following suspension during the Coronavirus outbreak. Processes returning to operation and the dates they come back into force are listed within the directory. These updates have been shared with representative bodies. The LAA says that it will continue to work with stakeholders to restart ‘business as usual’ operations. For the directory, click here.

Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021
These regulations, which came into force on 17 June 2021, amend regulation 3(5)(a) of the Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 in order to correct an error in a statutory reference. For the 2021 Amendment Regulations, click here. For the 2020 Regulations, click here.

Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Extension of Period of Protection from Eviction) (No. 2) (Wales) Regulations 2021
These Regulations, which come into force on 30 June 2021, amend Schedule 29 to the Coronavirus Act 2020. Schedule 29 modifies various statutory provisions relating to notices that need to be given in order to seek possession of dwellings, during “the relevant period” (as defined by paragraph 1(1) of that Schedule). The provision made by Schedule 29 was originally to end on 30 September 2020 (at the end of the relevant period) and was further amended so that Schedule 29 has effect in relation to Wales until 30 June 2021. Regulation 2 of these Regulations further amends paragraph 1(1)(b)(ii) so that Schedule 29 has effect, in relation to Wales, until 30 September 2021. For the Regulation, click here.

Leasehold high-rise flats: who pays for fire safety work?
On 20 June 2021 the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper considering the debate about who is responsible for paying for fire safety works on blocks of flats in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. For the briefing paper, click here.

Housing conditions in the private rented sector – England
On 18 June 2021 the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper covering private rented sector housing conditions. It explains the legislative framework and identifies some of the key issues with it. For the briefing paper, click here.

Overcrowded housing – England
On 14 June 2021 the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper explaining the statutory overcrowding standard in England, efforts to update the standard, and Government approaches to tackling the problem. For the briefing paper, click here.

Private rental market summary statistics – England: April 2020 to March 2021
On 16 June 2021 the Office for National Statistics released median monthly rental prices for the private rental market in England, calculated using data from the Valuation Office Agency. The release shows:

  • The median monthly rent was £730 for England, recorded between April 2020 and March 2021; this is the highest ever recorded.
  • London had the highest median monthly rent at £1,430; this is nearly double the median monthly rent for England.
  • The North East had the lowest median monthly rent at £500.
  • The difference in monthly rental price between the most and least expensive local authorities was nearly £2,000.

For the full data, click here.

Index of Private Housing Rental Prices – UK: May 2021
On 16 June 2021 the Office for National Statistics published an index tracking the prices paid for renting property from private landlords in the UK. It shows:

  • Private rental prices paid by tenants in the UK rose by 1.2 per cent in the 12 months to May 2021, unchanged since April 2021.
  • Private rental prices grew by 1.1 per cent in England, 1.5 per cent in Wales and 1.3 per cent in Scotland in the 12 months to May 2021.
  • The East Midlands saw the highest annual growth in private rental prices (2.4 per cent), while London saw the lowest (negative 0.1 per cent).

For the full index, click here.

Help to Buy – Wales: trained conveyancers
On 21 June 2021 the Welsh Government published an updated list of conveyancers who have completed Help to Buy Wales' specific training requirements. In order to access a Help to Buy Wales loan, customers must instruct to act on their behalf a conveyancer who is on the list. For the list, click here.

Second largest ever Unlawful Profit Order – Riverside Housing
On 18 June 2021 Riverside Housing reported that it had obtained an Unlawful Profit Order in the sum of £145,178, together with a possession order and further orders for repayment of rent arrears of £3,000 and for payment of £9,955 in legal costs, from a woman who unlawfully sub-let her social housing property. Miss Adejoke Patience Ologe had rented out the two-bedroom flat in Camberwell, South London, to two women and their children despite renting the accommodation herself from Riverside Housing. For the report, click here.

Private rented sector and Covid-19
On 17 June 2021 the National Residential Landlords Association published a report outlining the toll that Covid-19 has taken on the private rented sector. It warns that without financial support to tackle Covid-related rent arrears, the government is “forcing landlords into a corner”. They either have to accept continuing to receive no income or resort to repossessing their property with all the consequences this course of action entails for tenants. The NRLA is calling for the introduction of new measures to bring housing benefit support back into line with market rents. The Association says that government data show that across the UK, in February 2021, 55 per cent of private rented households in receipt of Universal Credit which included housing cost support had a gap between that and the rents they paid. The average shortfall was £100 a month. For more details, including a link to the report (at the foot of the page), click here.

Regulator of Social Housing
On 16 June 2021 the Regulator of Social Housing confirmed that it has reverted back to its usual requirements for data submission and other regulation for 2021 following temporary changes made in response to the pandemic. For the RSH’s latest announcement, click here.

Right to rent immigration checks
On 21 June 2021 Shelter amended its advice in respect of right to rent immigration checks to reflect upcoming changes to the right to rent regime. To view the amended article, click here.

Young adults and residence
On 21 June 2021 the Resolution Foundation published a survey of UK adults finding that 23 per cent of 18-34-year-old (non-student) respondents were living with their parents in June, if anything slightly lower than the 25 per cent who said they were doing so before the start of the pandemic (in February 2020). The survey shows that those with weaker labour market positions were already more likely to live with their parents before the crisis hit: 25 per cent of respondents who worked in sectors that would become hard-hit, like hospitality, lived with their parents throughout the crisis, compared with the 15 per cent of those who worked in industries less affected by the pandemic. For more details, click here.

Buy to let market
Hamptons, the estate agents, have reported that the recent rush of investors purchasing buy-to-let properties has begun to wane as the end of the stamp duty holiday looms. The estate agent says: “In February 2021, landlords bought 15 per cent of all homes purchased in Great Britain, the highest level since 2016. Since then, however, the proportion of investor purchases has fallen and stood at 11 per cent in May. This is back to the record low levels of landlord purchases seen in 2019 and reflects the fact investors buying homes that month have probably missed the deadline – just 10 per cent of offers made in May are likely to complete before the first phase of the stamp duty holiday ends on 30th June.” For more information, click here.


Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill
This Government Bill would make provision about the rent payable under long leases of dwellings. First reading in the House of Lords took place on 12 May 2021. Second reading took place on 24 May 2021. The Bill completed its committee stage on 14 June 2021. The Bill will now proceed to the report stage which is yet to be scheduled. For the Bill as introduced, click here. To follow progress of the Bill, click here.

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Gell v 32 St John's Road (Eastbourne) Management Company Ltd [2021] EWCA Civ 789

The Court of Appeal assessed the effect on a claim for service charges of the striking out of a defence that had not been determined. It found that since the defence had been struck out, it was not open to the defendant to rely upon the issues raised therein.

Facts and litigation history
The defendant’s lease required tenants to contribute to the upkeep of the building, which is managed for their mutual benefit by a management company, the landlord, which appoints agents to carry out its function. The particulars of claim asserted that the claim was for a service charge of £73,163.98. The anticipated cost of maintenance in 2015 and 2016 was very high, because major works were believed to be necessary.

The defendant denied that the deed signed in 2001 stipulating the need to pay service charges was binding, because he claimed he signed under duress. He also maintained that he should not have to pay more than the sum which the DWP has agreed as part of his sickness benefit.

Section 20 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 imposes a requirement for consultation and limits recovery of service charges if they are not complied with. Mr Gell did not mention the consultation requirements at all in his defence.

On 8 August 2017 Deputy District Judge Thompson struck out the defence and counterclaim as the allegation of duress and deceit had not been raised in earlier proceedings, and the counterclaim “disclosed no reasonable grounds”. She entered judgment for the claimant for an amount “to be assessed”, on the basis of further evidence to be filed. The judge did not say that she intended to assess the reasonableness of the maintenance charges under section 19 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 at the adjourned hearing.

The case returned for hearing before the Deputy District Judge on 22 February 2019. She made an order that “the question of the reasonableness of the amount of the service charge to be determined by the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber)”.

On 27 August 2019 Judge Simpkiss allowed the landlord’s appeal against this. He found that since it was not open to Mr. Gell to dispute his liability there was no question “which falls for determination which the First Tier Tribunal or the Upper Tribunal would have jurisdiction to determine” under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, and no power therefore to refer anything to the Tribunal under section 176A of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002. Judgment was entered for the sum claimed plus interest, and costs on the indemnity basis.

The issues on this appeal

The issues were:

i) Whether the His Honour Judge Simpkiss was right in law to decide that because his defence had been struck out it was not open to Mr. Gell to dispute his liability to pay the service charges in the sum which had been demanded, and contractual interest under the lease.

ii) If so, should the judge have refrained from entering judgment for the amount claimed plus interest because of the decision of the Deputy District Judge of August 2017? Did that, in effect, amount to the grant of leave to defend the claim on the issue of the reasonableness of the service charges?

Case law
The Court of Appeal referred to several judgments including that in Enterprise Home Developments LLP v Adam [2020] UKUT 151 (LC), where it was stated that:

“it is for the party disputing the reasonableness of sums claimed to establish a prima facie case… the FTT is not required to adopt a sceptical approach.”

The Court also referred to the decision in Lunnun v. Singh [1999] CPLR 587 where it was found that the true principle is that on an assessment of damages, any point which goes to quantification of the damage can be raised by the defendant, provided that it is not inconsistent with any issue settled by the judgment.

Issue 1: the entry of judgment in the sum claimed was wrong in law
The Court of Appeal held that in order for service charges not to be found unreasonable under section 19 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, that must be pleaded [65]. It did not agree with the argument that the Act places an onus on the court to investigate the issue of reasonableness in all cases, whether they are defended or not as that is not explicit in the legislation [66].

Similarly, as regards section 20, the Court found a need for any defendant seeking to rely upon it to set out clearly ‘what was done, and not done, what was wrong with it, and what the suggested consequence should be’ [68].

The defendant sought to argue that he was hindered by his status as a litigant in person. The Court followed the decision of the Supreme Court in Barton v. Wright Hassall LLP [2018] UKSC 12 in finding that litigants in person must still comply with legal rules and procedure. However, it noted that where a tenant appears in person or is disabled in some relevant way the court will make reasonable adjustments, ‘by allowing time if necessary, by reading the documents produced by that party in a non-technical way to decide if they are clear enough to put the landlord on notice of the issues it has to deal with, and in any other way which the justice of the case requires’ [71].

Issue 2: the reasonableness of the services charges was put in issue by the Deputy District Judge’s order of August 2017
The Court of Appeal found that as a consequence of the striking out of the defence the issues that the defendant raised regarding section 20 were not before the judge at all. The passing references to the section 20 consultation in Mr Gell’s late document were not sufficient to mean that an issue with section 20 compliance had properly been raised [79]. As such, the DDJ certainly did not have to be “absolutely clear” that section 20 of the 1985 Act had been complied with. The Deputy District Judge erred in that she approached the matter on the basis that any conceivable defence to the service charges was open to Mr. Gell [81].

As a result, the Court of Appeal concluded that the transfer of the whole case to the First-tier Tribunal was not a course properly open to the Deputy District Judge [84].
Summary by Parissa Najah, barrister, Trinity Chambers. For the judgment, click here.


Domestic abuse support within safe accommodation: statutory guidance and regulations consultation
In this consultation, the MHCLG seeks views on the draft statutory guidance and the following draft statutory instruments:

  • The Domestic Abuse Support (Relevant Accommodation) Regulations 2021
  • The Domestic Abuse (Local Authority Strategies) Regulations 2021

On 29 April the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 received Royal Assent. The Act includes within Part 4 (sections 57-61) new duties on tier 1 local authorities in England relating to the provision of support for victims and their children residing within relevant safe accommodation and a duty on tier 2 authorities to co-operate with tier 1 authorities.

The Act also places a requirement to consult on the statutory guidance and two regulations. Under section 60 of Part 4 of the Act, the Secretary of State is required to consult on and issue statutory guidance to assist local authorities in exercising their new functions. Once finalised, local authorities will need to have regard to the guidance in exercising their functions.
For the consultation documents, click here. The consultation closes on 27 July 2021.


How can the UK’s social housing stigma be overturned? Michael Guest CIH Blog 15 June 2021 – to read the article, click here

Breaking the letting fees ban – what we know Dan Wilson Craw Generation Rent 15 June 2021 – to read the article, click here

The complexity of choice Yoric Irving-Clarke CIH Blog 17 June 2021 – to read the article, click here

No preference is a reasonable preference - R (Mallon Montero) v London Borough of Lewisham Matt Hutchings QC Local Government Lawyer 18 June 2021 – to read the article, click here

Residential lease extensions and enfranchisement Aruna Sarwar and Jonathan Corris Devonshires 21 June 2021 – to read the article, click here

Housing: recent developments (June 21) Jan Luba QC and Sam Madge-Wyld Legal Action June 2021 – to read the article (subscription required), click here


24 June 2021                                   
Deadline for applications to the Waking Watch Relief Fund (see Housing Law News and Policy Issues)

29 June 2021                                   
Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 come into force

30 June 2021                                   
Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Extension of Period of Protection from Eviction) (No. 2) (Wales) Regulations 2021 come into force (see Housing Law News and Policy Issues)

1 July 2021                                   
Councils will begin to accept applications from mobile home site owners to be registered as a ‘fit and proper person’

27 July 2021                                   
Closing date for responses to the consultation on Domestic abuse support within safe accommodation: statutory guidance and regulations consultation (see Housing Law Consultations)

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Featured Job of the Week

Featured Job of the Week
Housing Options Officer
Central Bedfordshire Council

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For queries related to the recruitment of this vacancy, please contact: The Recruitment team at recruitment@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk or on 0300 300 8000.

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