This is the third of our series of quarterly housing law update blogs. which will 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 June 2013 to August 2013.
Please feel free to submit a comment below or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Use of counterfeit passport made claimant unintentionally homeless and eligible for housing assistance (Chishimba v Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea  EWCA Civ 786)
The Court of Appeal has held that a housing applicant’s use of a counterfeit passport did not make her intentionally homeless, and so she was still eligible for housing assistance under section 193 of the Housing Act 1996.
Local housing authorities should take care not to automatically dismiss housing applications from people who have engaged in fraudulent or deceitful behaviour but to consider each case on its facts.
Local authorities not required to apply for possession orders in cases of temporary accommodation pending a homelessness application decision (R (ZH) v London Borough of Newham  EWCA Civ 805 and R (CN) v London Borough of Lewisham  EWCA Civ 804)
The Court of Appeal has held that it continues to be bound by existing case law which holds that a local authority is not required to apply for an order for possession when attempting to remove homeless applicants from temporary accommodation in cases where they are ineligible for housing assistance as they fall outside of the protection of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
LGO criticises Bristol City Council for failing to provide homeless people with the right to appeal
The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has published a report criticising Bristol City Council for failing to inform the complainant of its decision not to give her accommodation in the five months after she had initially approached the council. This failure meant that the complainant did not have the opportunity to appeal against the housing decision it had made against her.
Scottish Government publishes housing support guidance for local authorities
On 3 June 2013, the Scottish Government published guidance for local authorities on homelessness and their housing support duty under the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 (as amended by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010).
The guidance sets out:
- The background to the housing support duty.
- How the duty should be implemented, including when it begins and when it has been discharged.
- Practical examples and case studies of how housing support should be provided.
High Court correct to order possession for anti-social behaviour in reliance on hearsay evidence (John Boyd v Incommunities Limited  EWCA Civ 756 )
The Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court decision granting possession to a social housing landlord of a property occupied by the defendant on grounds of arrears of rent and anti-social behaviour. This is despite the finding of anti-social behaviour being based on hearsay evidence from three anonymous witnesses interviewed by the claimant.
Guidance published for litigants seeking to appeal a refusal to suspend a warrant for possession where no circuit judge is available
The Designated Civil Judge for the London County Courts, David Mitchell HHJDC has published guidance for litigants seeking to appeal a refusal by a district judge to suspend a warrant for possession where there is no circuit judge available for that court.
The guidance states that in order to avoid the problem of litigants not having access to a circuit judge in appeals regarding warrant suspension cases, an appellant will be directed to an appropriate court and must file the notice of appeal there (not at the court where the original application to suspend the warrant was held as has been the case previously).
Challenge to housing benefit changes fails (R(MA) Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWHC 2213)
The High Court has dismissed a judicial review action which argued that changes to the housing benefit rules made by the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/3040) discriminated against disabled people.
The Court held that although the changes could be considered to be discriminatory on the basis of previous case law, they were proportionate and alternative mitigating measures had been considered.
ASSURED SHORTHOLD TENANCIES
Court of Appeal clarifies what happens to a deposit when a statutory tenancy arises (Superstrike Ltd v Rodrigues  EWCA Civ 669)
The Court of Appeal has confirmed that a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy (AST) which continues as a statutory periodic assured shorthold tenancy (statutory tenancy) under section 5 of the HA 1988, is a new tenancy. As a result, a deposit paid before 6 April 2007 and held by the landlord should be registered with a tenancy deposit scheme (TDS) when the statutory tenancy arises after that date.
QUALIFYING LONG TERM AGREEMENTS
High Court holds an agreement entered into before a building is constructed or let cannot be a Qualifying Long Term Agreement (BDW Trading Ltd and another v South Anglia Housing Ltd  EWHC B10 (Ch))
The High Court has held that a long term agreement, entered into before a building was constructed or let, was not a Qualifying Long Term Agreement (QLTA) under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
GENERAL SOCIAL HOUSING ROUND-UP
Tolerated trespasser granted secure tenancy under decant agreement (Francis v Brent Housing Partnership Ltd and others  EWCA Civ 912)
The Court of Appeal has held that a former secure tenant who was forced to move out of her property for repairs (and had become a “tolerated trespasser”) became a secure tenant on signing a decant agreement with Brent Housing Partnership Ltd.
The Court of Appeal held that it was apparent from the wording of the decant agreement that Brent recognised the appellant as its secure tenant although practically she was not and could not be. A reasonable man would have interpreted the decant agreement as being an accurate reflection of the commercial intention of both parties that, upon signing the decant agreement, the appellant would be recognised as a secure tenant.
Affordable Housing Guarantee Scheme opens for applications
Following the announcement of the Affordable Housing Guarantee Scheme in September 2012, Housing Minister Mark Prisk stated in a written ministerial statement that the scheme is now open for applications.
Consultation published on the Housing Transfer Manual
On 22 July 2013, the government published a consultation on a draft revised version of the Housing Transfer Manual, which sets out the process local authorities and tenant groups should follow when considering the transfer of housing to a private registered provider (PRP).
It is intended that the revised manual will apply to transfers in the period to March 2015.
Government publishes responses to consultation on high income social housing tenants
The government has published a summary of responses to its consultation on high income social housing tenants which took place in June 2012.
In the light of the consultation responses, the government has announced that it intends to allow landlords to charge market rents to tenant households with incomes of more than £60,000 a year and will publish revised rent guidance for local authorities. Any additional income arising from the policy will be reinvested in social housing.
Consultation on general consents issued under section 25 of the Local Government Act 1988
On 5 August 2013, the government published a consultation on the general consents issued under section 25 of the Local Government Act 1988 (LGA 1988) which only allows local authorities to dispose of privately-let housing accommodation with the consent of the Secreatry of State.
The consultation proposes removing the requirement on local authorities to seek specific consent from the Secretary of State to dispose of the following privately-let housing accommodation at less than market value:
- Vacant housing land (creates a new general consent “AA”).
- Vacant dwellings to other registered providers of social housing (that is, social landlords regulated by the Regulator for Social Housing) (amends general consent B).
DCLG consults on housing standards review
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has launched a consultation on its housing standards review. The consultation seeks views on the DCLG’s recent review of the Building Regulations and housing standards, setting out the results of that review and inviting comments on government proposals arising from it.
Welsh council must pay for sub-standard renewals grant repairs
In July 2013, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales ruled that Torfaen County Borough Council must pay where it had carried out sub-standard works under a renewals grant scheme. The Ombudsman ruled that some of the workmanship was sub-standard and that the claimant had been denied the proper use of his home for longer than was necessary.