This is the second 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. This post looks at housing law developments from March 2013 to May 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.
RIGHT TO BUY
Discount in London (Housing (Right to Buy) (Limit on Discount) (England) Order 2013 (SI 2013/677))
The Housing (Right to Buy) (Limit on Discount) (England) Order 2013 came into force on 25 March 2013 increasing the maximum discount for a person exercising the right to buy a dwelling house in the area of a London authority to £100,000.
Those interested in the right to buy may find our checklist of interest.
The High Court has ruled that a notice to quit was valid and had not been obtained from an elderly tenant by undue influence or unconscionable behaviour by Birmingham City Council. This was despite a failure by the reviewing officer to suggest that the claimant seek independent legal advice.
The Court of Appeal has allowed an appeal against a decision by Westminster City Council’s housing review officer that its offer of accommodation to the appellant (ED) was suitable and it had discharged its section 193 duty under the Housing Act 1996 (HA 1996). ED had requested a housing transfer. While viewing the alternative accommodation offered (a flat on the 16th floor of a block which had a direct view of the street), ED had collapsed.
Following her refusal of the flat, the council concluded (despite a report from the hospital and ED’s GP confirming that she had a fear of heights) that it no longer had a duty to provide accommodation for the family and its duty was discharged. ED requested a review of the decision under section 202 of the HA 1996 but the housing review officer considered that ED had taken a general dislike to the property which ED would get over in time.
The Court of Appeal quashed the decision of the housing review officer, finding that the council’s decision that the 16th floor accommodation was suitable for ED was outside the band of decisions available to the review officer given the medical evidence and was therefore perverse.
The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal against a decision by the London Borough of Lewisham upholding its decision that the offer of temporary accommodation made to the claimant was suitable taking into account her specific requirements (relating to location and access needs). This was despite O’s belief that she was owed a final permanent offer of accommodation and that Lewisham’s decision-making process was unfair.
Personal support and priority need (Hotak v London Borough of Southwark (Rev 1)  EWCA Civ 515)
The Court of Appeal has held that the London Borough of Southwark was entitled to consider the personal support and assistance provided to the applicant by his brother when assessing whether he was in priority need for accommodation under the HA 1996. The judgment also considered the application of the test laid down by the Court of Appeal in R (Pereira) v London Borough Of Camden  EWCA Civ 863 (that is, in order to be accepted as vulnerable due to health “the person is, when homeless, less able to fend for himself than an ordinary homeless person so that injury or detriment to him will result when a less vulnerable person would be able to cope without harmful effect”).
However, the court did highlight that local authorities should remain alert to the fact that an existing support network is unlikely to remain unchanged once a person becomes street homeless.
Interim duty to accommodate (R (IA) v City of Westminster Council  EWHC 1273 (QB))
The High Court has held that Westminster City Council’s decision-making processes and refusal to accommodate the claimant on an interim basis while conducting a review of its decision that he was homeless and eligible for assistance but did not have a priority need, were likely to be considered unlawful in a judicial review action.
The court granted permission to apply for judicial review of the decisions and ordered that an interim injunction that required the council to provide the claimant with interim accommodation should be continued. The decision particularly warns against local housing authorities making instant decisions on whether an applicant is vulnerable under section 184 of the HA 1996 without undertaking further inquiries and therefore defeating the requirement to provide interim accommodation.
The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal against a county court decision granting a possession order to Reading Borough Council authorising it to regain possession of its property occupied by the appellant (H) despite her sentimental attachment to the property. It is likely to be a relief for many local housing authorities to note that although the Court of Appeal admitted that it felt great sympathy for H, the county court was correct to order possession. However, the Court did warn that, in such cases, courts should carefully consider whether a conditional order is necessarily the best option.
PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR ACCOMMODATION
Shelter has published a briefing covering local housing authorities’ new powers under the Localism Act 2011 to discharge their housing duties by placing applicants in private rented sector accommodation.