26th May 2021
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Unauthorised encampments
On 19 May 2021 the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights examined proposals to criminalise unauthorised encampments and strengthen police powers in the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The Committee considered whether the proposals undermine the human rights of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community. To view the session, click here. For more details of the Committee’s scrutiny of the Bill, click here. To follow progress of the Bill, click here.

Buildings with defective cladding
On 21 May 2021 the Chair of the Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Clive Betts, wrote to the Government about continuing issues with the EWS1 process. The External Wall Fire Review (EWS1) form was introduced to support valuation advice and lending decisions in respect of buildings with cladding. Following consultation with fire safety experts, lenders and others, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors issued new guidance in March about which buildings require the form, as it was being requested for many more buildings than had been originally envisaged. A recent investigation by Radio 4’s Money Box has however indicated that lenders are continuing to ask for an EWS1 form for buildings that do not meet the new guidance. The situation is leaving homeowners in limbo, unable to sell or mortgage their flats. For the letter, click here. For the Money Box episode dealing with this issue, click here.

Cladding complaints: Housing Ombudsman
On 18 May 2021 the Housing Ombudsman published a report identifying three key lessons for social landlords in dealing with complaints about cladding to ensure that the impact on all residents is recognised. The three key actions in the report are for landlords to:

  • provide a clear road map on inspections, with timescales, that adequately considers the broader implications for all residents, especially those living in buildings below 18 metres;
  • communicate effectively with residents, ensuring the strategy is robust, well-resourced and proactive; and
  • address residents’ individual circumstances, exercising discretion where appropriate as with other complaints.

For the report, click here.

Fire-risk flats and residents’ escape methods
On 18 May 2021 the Guardian reported that in the wake of the fire at the New Providence Wharf block of flats, residents in apartment blocks with fire safety issues were “exploring buying abseiling equipment, rope ladders and personal smoke hoods to help them evacuate burning buildings, amid rising anger that thousands of homes remain unfixed”. For the article, click here.

Housing quality – England
On 20 May 2021 the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence published a report – Housing policy and poor-quality homes – which finds that England has a major problem with housing quality.  More than 4.3 million homes do not meet basic standards of decency. The vast majority of these homes are in the private sector. Older people are more likely to be living in poor quality housing. The project underlying the report – commissioned by Ageing Better – is framed by three ‘key’ questions. First, what national, regional and local housing policies and programmes have been implemented in the past to address poor-quality housing, and which were successful and why? Second, what policies would be most effective in addressing the poor-quality of our current housing stock, given political, economic and social considerations? Third, how much would it cost to implement a series of key interventions, who would have to pay, what would the impact be? For the report, click here. For the executive summary, click here.

Domestic Abuse Act 2021: factsheets
On 18 May 2021 the Home Office updated factsheets relating to the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 to reflect that the statute has been enacted. For the factsheets, click here. For a House of Commons Library briefing about the role of healthcare services in addressing domestic abuse, click here.

Fees in the Civil Courts: main fees
On 18 May 2021 HM Courts and Tribunals Service published a list of revised fees for the Civil and Family Courts which came into force on that day. For the list, click here. For the Civil Proceedings Fees (Amendment) Order 2021, which amended the Civil Proceedings Fees Order 2008, click here.

Dwelling stock estimates in 2020 – England
On 20 May 2021 the MHCLG published estimates of the number of dwellings in England. According to the estimates:

  • There were 24.7 million dwellings in England at 31 March 2020, an increase of 243,770 dwellings (1.00 per cent) on the same point the previous year.
  • 15.7 million dwellings were owner-occupied dwellings, 4.8 million private rented dwellings and 4.1 million social and affordable rented dwellings (private registered providers and local authority).
  • Between March 2019 and March 2020, the owner-occupied dwelling stock increased by 195,000 and the private rented stock increased by 36,000. The social and affordable rented stock increased by 22,000 dwellings and the other public sector stock decreased by 9,000 dwellings.
  • There were 665,600 vacant dwellings in England on 5 October 2020, an increase of 17,500 (2.7 per cent) from 648,100 on 7 October 2019. Vacant dwellings are 2.7 per cent of the dwelling stock. There were 268,400 long-term vacant dwellings in England on 5 October 2020, an increase of 42,500 (18.8 per cent) from 225,900 on 7 October 2020. Long-term vacant dwellings are 1.1 per cent of the dwelling stock.

For the full estimates, click here. For the latest data tables on dwelling stock (including vacants), organised by various criteria, click here.

Homelessness and young people
On 20 May 2021 Homeless Link published guidance – Supporting homeless 16- and 17-year-olds – developed with Just for Kids Law. It is designed to equip workers with the information needed to support and advocate for the rights of the young people they work with. Alongside a guide to the legal rights of young people, this resource provides information so that workers and young people can plan and prepare to present their case at local authorities. Research has shown that young people are not always housed under the right legislation. This impacts the support they are entitled to in the short and long term and affects both their experiences of homelessness and risk of future homelessness. For the guidance, click here. For the press announcement of its publication, click here.

Social housing reform in England: What next?
On 19 May 2021 the House of Commons Library published a briefing outlining the measures set out in the Social Housing White Paper, stakeholder reaction and the next steps. For the briefing, click here.

Index of private housing rental prices: April 2021
On 19 May 2021 the Office for National Statistics published the Index of Private Housing Rental Prices (IPHRP) for April 2021. It tracks the prices paid for renting property from private landlords in the UK. It shows:

  • Private rental prices paid by tenants rose by 1.2 per cent in the 12 months to April 2021, down from 1.3 per cent in the 12 months to March 2021.
  • Private rental prices grew by 1.2 per cent in England, 1.6 per cent in Wales and 1.1 per cent in Scotland in the 12 months to April 2021.
  • The South West and the East Midlands saw the highest annual growth in private rental prices (2.3 per cent), while London saw the lowest (0.1 per cent).

For the Index, click here.

Private renting – Brent
On 19 May 2021 Brent Council launched a survey of private renters in the borough. The council says that one in six households (17 per cent) in Brent lives below the poverty line, doubling (to 33 per cent) after considering housing costs. Such housing costs often leave people with very little to spend on other essentials like utilities and food. The council notes that the links between stable, affordable housing and employment and education are also clear. Therefore, it is keen to learn more about the issues that people are facing. The survey closes on 31 May 2021. To participate, click here.

Registered social landlords and Covid-19 – Wales
On 21 May 2021 the Welsh Government published a business continuity survey for registered social landlords in Wales, conducted in March 2021. RSLs are continuing to report that pressures are being managed. As the Alert level moved to level 3, the pandemic had a lesser impact on the sector’s ability to deliver services to tenants. Health and Safety compliance improved again during the last quarter, losses from empty properties were reduced and repairs performance remained steady. Whilst the capacity remains for arrears levels to rise significantly, their level fell in the last quarter despite more than a quarter of tenants known to be claiming Universal Credit. For the survey results, click here.

Licensing and enforcement – Wales
On 21 May 2021 the National Residential Landlords Association published a Welsh Enforcement Index, revealing, it says, an enforcement postcode lottery across Wales. The newly launched Index is an assessment of Welsh local authorities’ enforcement capacity, ranking Welsh local authorities according to their efficiency in enforcing housing standards and administering licensing in the private rented sector. Denbighshire, Gwynedd and Flintshire Councils scored highest on the Index and Monmouthshire and Powys ranked lowest in the Enforcement Index. For details of the Index, click here.

Protecting the homeless and the private rented sector
On 24 May 2021 the MHCLG published a policy paper in response to the HCLG Select Committee’s report on Government’s actions to support the homeless and private rented sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. For the response, click here. For the Select Committee’s report, 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 will begin its committee stage on a date to be fixed. For the Bill as introduced, click here. To follow progress of the Bill, click here.

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Aster Communities v Kerry Chapman & Ors [2021] EWCA Civ 660

The Court of Appeal heard this appeal by Aster Communities (“Aster”) from the dismissal by the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) of an appeal from the First-tier Tribunal (“the FTT”). It involved a challenge to conditions which the FTT attached when acceding to an application by Aster under section 20ZA of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (“the 1985 Act”) for dispensation from consultation requirements.

Legal framework
Sections 18 to 30 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 deal with service charges. Sections 20 and 20ZA are concerned with consultation requirements regarding any proposed works.

Under section 20(7) and regulation 6 of the Service Charges (Consultation Requirements) (England) Regulations 2003 (“the 2003 Regulations”), a tenant’s “relevant contribution” to any works is limited to £250. A landlord who has not complied with the “consultation requirements” can thus recover no more than £250 from a tenant unless the requirements in question have been dispensed with. By section 20ZA(1), however, a tribunal may dispense with “all or any of the consultation requirements … if satisfied that it is reasonable to dispense with the requirements”.

Case Law
In Daejan Investments Ltd v Benson [2013] UKSC 14, [2013] 1 WLR 854 (“Daejan”), Lord Neuberger summarised that the “main, indeed normally, the sole question” when considering whether to dispense with consultation requirements was whether there was “real prejudice to the tenants flowing from the landlord’s breach of the requirements” [50]. It was noted that any doubt in terms of those factors should be resolved in favour of the tenants, given that it would be because of the landlord’s failure to comply with its statutory duty that causes the issue to arise [67-68].

In that case because the extent, quality and cost of the works was unaffected by the landlord’s breach, the Supreme Court held by a majority that dispensation should be granted. Lord Neuberger in his lead judgment found that a dispensation from consultation requirements can be granted on terms: for example, where works cost slightly more due to the landlord’s oversight, a dispensation may be granted provided he agrees to reduce the recoverable costs by the amount of the additional cost. Lord Neuberger further considered there to be “power to impose a condition as to costs—eg that the landlord pays the tenants’ reasonable costs incurred in connection with the landlord’s application under section 20ZA(1)” [59].

Aster was a large social landlord, and freeholder of a developments comprising of 160 flats, 114 on long leases providing for the tenant to pay by service charge a proportion of the costs incurred in respect of their block.

On 31 March 2016, Aster sent each tenant notice of its intention to carry out works at Kingsway Gardens. The notice of intention elicited observations from four tenants.

On 16 December 2016, Aster supplied each tenant with a paragraph (b) statement explaining that it had obtained three estimates for the work and was minded to award the contract to the lowest bidder. One tenant (Miss Motovilova) took advantage of the opportunity to inspect the estimates, and various observations were received from tenants, including Miss Motovilova. None of the observations related to the replacement of the balcony asphalt.

First-tier Tribunal
In January 2017, Aster applied under section 27A of the 1985 Act for a determination in respect of on-account service charges demanded from the tenants at Kingsway Gardens. Sixty-six of the tenants, among them Miss Motovilova, were legally represented.

The statement of case which had been served on their behalf put Aster to proof that certain works, including “new balcony waterproofing”, would not be sufficient. It also alleged that the consultation process had been defective because Aster had failed to have regard to observations from tenants. The tenants also disputed whether replacement of all balcony asphalt was reasonable after obtaining an expert report stating repair would be cheaper.

The FTT found that Aster had carried out a good faith consultation, but that full replacement of the balcony asphalt was unnecessary. Further, balcony asphalt was not part of the section 20 consultation. An application for dispensation under 20ZA was therefore found to be required.

In a decision made on the papers on 15 May 2019, the FTT concluded that it was appropriate to grant dispensation, but subject to certain conditions but only on terms that would remove possible prejudice to the tenants. The terms were as follows:

(i) Aster is to pay the reasonable costs of an expert to consider the necessity of replacing all the balcony asphalt.

(ii) Aster is to pay the respondent’s reasonable costs of this application.

(iii) The application costs should not be recoverable through the service charge.

The Upper Tribunal granted permission to appeal but dismissed the appeal in a decision dated 15 June 2020.

The Court of Appeal found that the FTT was entitled to find that Miss Motovilova would have commissioned a surveyor’s report had the notice of intention referred to the balcony works. That the FTT failed to expressly address the fact that none of the tenants had taken the point in the section 27A proceedings that the notice of intention was defective because it failed to mention the balcony works, did not vitiate this.

The court then considered whether a tenant could rely on the fact that another tenant would have acted differently if the consultation requirements had been complied with. It noted that the consultation for which the 2003 Regulations provide is a group process in which a landlord must supply every tenant with notice of their intention to carry out works. More than that, a landlord seeks dispensation against tenants generally, and any benefit or prejudice would have accrued to each of them. The court therefore found that a tenant could rely upon the actions of another tenant.

Further, in relation to the conditions (i) and (ii), the court dismissed Aster’s challenge to these being imposed.  As the potential prejudice to the tenants was still to be addressed, and the court has a broad discretion as to imposing conditions and their terms, condition (i) could not be faulted.

Condition (ii) was also perfectly proper as Aster was asking for an indulgence, and so could fairly be expected to bear the tenants’ costs of the application. Further, the fact that the respondents had succeeded in having condition (i) imposed confirmed that this was not a case in which there was nothing relevant for them to say in response to the dispensation application.

Summary by Parissa Najah, barrister, Trinity Chambers. For the judgment, click here.


Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 Draft Regulations
The Welsh Government is consulting on:

  • draft model written statements regulations, including the design, structure and order of the model written statements
  • draft explanatory information regulations for written statements.

The consultation ends on 16 June 2021. For the consultation document, click here. For the draft regulations, click here.


Is the housing sector doing enough to tackle domestic abuse? Andrew King CIH Blog 18 May 2021 – to read the article, click here

Residential Leasehold Ground Rent Ban – first sight of the draft bill William Bethune and David Zong Trowers and Hamlins 18 May 2021 – to read the article, click here

Defending Disrepair Claims Catherine Rowlands and Matthew Feldman Local Government Lawyer 19 May 2021 – to listen to the webinar, click here

Beyond engagement Nazia Azad-Warren CIH Blog 19 May 2021 – to read the article, click here

A Sigh of Relief: Elkundi & Ors v Birmingham City Council SS Nearly Legal 20 May 2021 – to read the article, click here

The real meaning of need Yoric Irving-Clarke CIH Blog 20 May 2021 – to read the article, click here

Easing of eviction restrictions from 31 May 2021 Cherrelle Reid and Yetunde Dania Trowers and Hamlins 20 May 2021 – to read the article, click here

Important changes following the introduction of the Fire Safety Act Mark London and Michael Wharfe Local Government Lawyer 21 May 2021 – to read the article, click here

Homeshare: an alternative for independent living Caroline Cooke Centre for Ageing Better Blog 21 May 2021 – to read the article, click here

We must challenge the culture on immigration Callum Chomczuk CIH Blog 21 May 2021 – to read the article, click here

Dispensation from service charge consultation requirements Philip Rainey QC and Robyn Cunningham Local Government Lawyer 21 May 2021 – to read the article, click here

Hidden UK homelessness is about to get much worse, with Covid support being cut Freya Marshall Payne Guardian 22 May 2021 – to read the article, click here

Owner-occupiers: review 2021 (May 21) Dave Cowan Legal Action May 2021 – to read the article (subscription required), click here

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


31 May 2021                                   
End of ban on evictions from residential tenancies

31 May 2021                                   
New Judicial Review Practice Directions come into force
(see Housing Law News and Policy Issues)

31 May 2021                                   
Housing Benefit and Universal Credit (Care Leavers and Homeless)
(Amendment) Regulations 2021 come into force
(see Housing Law News and Policy Issues)

1 JUNE 2021                                   
Introduction of four-month notice periods for residential tenancies

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