Our quarterly housing law update blogs enable readers specialising in housing law to catch up on the most important cases, issues or developments. The post looks at housing law developments from January to May 2016.
Please feel free to submit a comment below or send us an Ask query if you have any views on the developments that are covered or if you think we have missed something that should be brought to the attention of housing practitioners.
RIGHT TO BUY
House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts publications
The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts has:
- Published a report on the government’s plans for financing the right to buy extension. This follows a memorandum published by the National Audit Office in preparation for the committee hearings.
- Published a report on housing associations and the right to buy.
HOUSING AND PLANNING ACT 2016
- The Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16 received Royal Assent on 12 May 2016 to become the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
- The House of Commons Library has:
Failure by LHA to undertake housing needs assessment as required by section 192 of HA 1996 (R (Smajlaj) v London Borough of Waltham Forest)
The High Court has held that the London Borough of Waltham Forest had failed to undertake a housing needs assessment as required by section 192 of Housing Act 1996 (HA 1996) in relation to an applicant (S) seeking housing assistance.
The High Court allowed S’s judicial review application against the refusal by the local housing authority (LHA) to accommodate her under section 192 pending a review of a section 184 decision holding that:
- It had acted unlawfully by failing to carry out its duties under section 192 and was required to undertake a housing needs assessment.
- It had neglected to consider S’s need for self-contained accommodation (as evidence had suggested that was required to alleviate her mental health issues) and her shortfall in housing benefit eligibility entitlement that would enable her to obtain this.
No order for costs where causal connection between housing appeal and subsequent offer of suitable accommodation not established (Ersus v London Borough of Redbridge)
The High Court has held that a judge had been entitled to make an order of no order for costs, where no link had been established between the basis of a housing appeal and the local authority’s subsequent offer of suitable accommodation under the HA 1996.
High Court finds allocation scheme preference for working households and model tenants discriminatory (R (H and others) v Ealing London Borough Council)
The High Court has found Ealing London Borough Council’s allocation scheme preference for certain groups to be discriminatory.
The LHA had amended its housing allocations policy, introducing a scheme which meant that 20% of all available lettings would be removed from the general pool and would be reserved for “Working Households” and “Model Tenants”.
The change was judicially reviewed by a number of claimants comprising women, the elderly, the disabled and children on the grounds that it was discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010 and under the European Convention on Human Rights and was also in breach of the public sector equality duty and section 11 of the Children Act 2004.
The High Court upheld the challenge finding that the scheme was discriminatory and this discrimination could not be adequately justified.
It is likely that as a result of this decision, a number of LHAs will be revisiting their own allocation schemes to ensure that they are compliant and do not unlawfully discriminate against certain status groups.
No evidence to support claims that LHA guilty of systemic failure in dealing with Part VII claims under the HA 1996 (R (Edwards and others) v Birmingham City Council)
The High Court has dismissed four claims for judicial review challenging Birmingham City Council’s scheme for assistance under Part VII of the HA 1996. The court did not accept that the authority was guilty of systemic failure in dealing with such applications and there was no evidence to support such a claim.
The judgment confirms that a LHA has considerable latitude in how it implements Part VII of the HA 1996 and that the scheme under which such an authority carries out its Part VII functions is the subject of a wide discretion with which the court will be reluctant to interfere.
SOCIAL HOUSING REGULATION
HCA publishes consultation on its registration criteria and use of powers
On 26 May 2016, the Homes and Community Agency, in its role as social housing regulator, published a consultation on changes to its registration criteria and use of powers following the new Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 and Housing and Planning Act 2016.
Minister for Housing and Planning announces review of Homes and Communities Agency
In February 2016, the Minister for Housing and Planning announced a review of Homes and Communities Agency.
SOCIAL HOUSING RENTS
DCLG publishes information for local authorities on exemption from new social housing rent regime under Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016
The government has published information for local authorities on the exemption from the new social housing rent regime under the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016.
Social Housing Rents (Exceptions and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2016 come into force
On 1 April 2016, the Social Housing Rents (Exceptions and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2016 came into force setting out the categories of accommodation excepted from the rent reduction regime; alternative provisions relating to the level of rent which may be charged in relation to certain of the excepted categories and prescribing the circumstances in which an exemption from the requirements of the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 may be granted to a private registered provider.
DCLG issues General Social Housing Rents Permitted Review Day Consent 2016
On 18 March 2016, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) issued a general consent, the General Social Housing Rents Permitted Review Day Consent 2016.
The consent enables social housing providers who had not implemented their 2015 to 2016 rent increase on 8 July 2015 to use a permitted review date to determine the baseline rent from which the reductions, as required by the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016, is to be made.
“Pay to stay” consultation response published
On 9 March 2016, the DCLG published a consultation response to its consultation, Pay to Stay: Fairer Rents in Social Housing.
HOUSE OF COMMONS LIBRARY BRIEFING PAPERS
Between January and May 2016, the House of Commons Library published the following briefing papers and notes relevant to social housing practitioners:
- Lifetime tenancies.
- Housing Health and Safety Rating System.
- Applying as homeless from an assured shorthold tenancy.
- EEA migrants’ access to social housing in England.
- Succession rights and social housing.
- Empty housing in England.
- Temporary accommodation in England.
- Under-occupation of social housing.
- Updated briefing paper on “pay to stay”.
Council collecting charges for water and sewerage services from tenants on behalf of utility company was a re-seller under the Water Resale Order 2006 (Jones v London Borough of Southwark)
The High Court has held that the London Borough of Southwark was a “re-seller” of water for the purposes of the Water Resale Order 2006, not an agent for Thames Water under an agreement as it had claimed. The council had entered into an agreement with Thames Water to pay its water charges directly and then to take responsibility for collecting these charges from its tenants, the council received several reductions/deductions from Thames Water for assuming the risks associated with collecting these charges. However, the High Court found that, contrary to the Water Resale Order 2006, these discounts/reductions had not been passed onto the tenants.
This decision could potentially affect in excess of 37,000 tenants of the council who live in unmetered properties and result in the council being liable for huge sums to tenants where it is found that they have been overcharged.
Court of Appeal holds that “bedroom tax” exemption regulation causes unjustified discrimination (R (Rutherford and others) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)
The Court of Appeal has held that regulation B13 of the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2012 was discriminatory under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights as it did not cover the situations of the two appellants (a disabled child requiring an overnight carer and a domestic violence victim under the Sanctuary Scheme) and this discrimination could not be justified by the Secretary of State.
The Court of Appeal granted permission for the decision to be appealed to the Supreme Court.
STATUS OF LHAs
High Court holds Peabody Trust not acting as a public body when declining to allow a mutual exchange (R (Macleod) v Governors of the Peabody Trust)
The High Court has held that the Peabody Trust’s decision to refuse the tenant claimant’s request that he wished to exchange his tenancy was not amenable to judicial review. It did so on the basis that, when declining to allow the mutual exchange, the Trust had not been acting as a public body given various factors that applied to the portfolio of properties that it had purchased from the Crown Estate Commission.
The case reiterates the point made in R (Weaver) v London and Quadrant Housing Trust  EWCA Civ 587 that not all housing association functions are public functions.