Houses in Multiple Occupation

June 17th, 2020 by James Goudie QC in Housing

Is a building an HMO? Yes, if the building has been converted into flats, albeit self contained and with no shared amenities, and two conditions are both satisfied : less than two thirds of the flats are owner-occupied; and the conversion work failed to comply, and still does not comply, with the “ appropriate building standards “, under the Building Regulations. So held in Hastings BC v Turner (2020) UKUT 184 (LC), interpreting Sections 254 and 257 of the Housing Act 2004, and allowing the Council’s appeal. There are five separate and alternative tests for determining whether a building is an HMO. One of them is satisfied in the above situation.

 

Allocation Policy

June 8th, 2020 by James Goudie QC in Housing

In R (Flores) v Southwark LBC (2020) EWHC 1279 (Admin) the Court interprets the Council’s priority housing scheme in the context of overcrowding and the meaning of “ deliberate act”.

 

Flexible Tenancies

June 4th, 2020 by James Goudie QC in Housing

Secure tenancies granted by local housing authorities are either the familiar periodic tenancies or tenancies for a fixed term. Croydon LBC v Kalonga (2020) EWHC 1353(QB) concerns a flexible secure tenancy granted by the Council for a fixed term of 5 years.

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Disability

April 16th, 2020 by James Goudie QC in Housing

In R (Idolo) v Bromley LBC it was held that the Council had not failed in its duties under the Care Act 2014, nor breached its positive obligations under ECHR Article 8,  notwithstanding delay in rehousing a disabled resident into accommodation that was suitably adapted or adaptable. Rehousing needs being duly identified through the Care Act route could not shortcut the detailed system of balanced priorities under the allocation and homelessness provisions of the Housing Act 1996 and the Council’s lawful policies and scheme. The Court also made observations about human rights damages claims.

 

HMOs

April 9th, 2020 by James Goudie QC in Housing

In Sutton v Norwich City Council (2020) UKUT 90 (LC) a company and its director appealed against financial penalties and a prohibition order imposed on them by a local authority. The lengthy Judgment considers a range of questions: whether a building was within the ambit of the HMO; whether improvement notices were valid; the power to penalise a director of a company; whether the individual was the manager of the building for the purposes of the HMO Regulations; what may constitute a reasonable excuse for non- compliance; the correct approach to penalty; quantum for breaches of the Regulations; quantum for non-compliance with improvement notices; and the validity of a prohibition notice. The authority was found to have applied its policy in a way that imposed disproportionate penalties without proper consideration of the facts.

 

Vulnerability/Disability

April 8th, 2020 by James Goudie QC in Housing

The appeals in McMahon v Watford BC and Kiefer v Hertsmere BC (2020) EWCA Civ 497 raised the question of the interaction between a determination whether an applicant for homelessness assistance is “vulnerable” and compliance with the PSED. Lewison LJ said, at paras 45/46, that although there is a substantial overlap between between a vulnerability assessment there are also differences, the most important not of which is that whether a person has a disability is to be assessed without reference to measures being taken to correct or treat that disability, whereas vulnerability is to be assessed taking into account such measures. At para 62 he concluded that it is clear that a homelessness reviewing officer need not make findings about whether a homeless applicant does or does not have a disability, or the precise effect of the PSED. At para 89 he observed that there is a real danger of the PSED being used as a peg on which to hang a highly technical argument that an otherwise unimpeachable vulnerability assessment should be quashed.

 

Disabled Facilities

April 3rd, 2020 by James Goudie QC in Housing

R (McKeown) v Islington LBC (2020) EWHC 779 (Admin) quashes a refusal by the Council of Disabled Facilities Grant under the Housing Grants etc Act 1996. An application by a council tenant must be treated on the same basis as an application by an owner occupier. It is irrelevant whether the accommodation is suitable for a disabled person.

 

Homelessness Appeals

April 2nd, 2020 by James Goudie QC in Housing

In James v Hertsmere BC (2020) EWCA 489 rules that the scope of Section 204 of the Housing Act 1996 on appeal to the County Court on point of law in homelessness cases extends to the full range of issues that would otherwise be the subject of an application to the Administrative Court for judicial review. The Court also held that when there is constitutionally  delegated  authority to extend an intra vires contract, such as a contract that contracts out the Section 202 review function, then, if the extension may not have been done validly at the time, it can be ratified.

 

HMOs

April 2nd, 2020 by James Goudie QC in Housing

A local authority had been entitled to impose on the holder of a licence under a Selective Licensing Scheme pursuant to Section 90 of the Housing Act 2004 a condition requiring him to undergo a training course on how to manage tenancies. So held in Berg v Burnley BC (2020) UKUT 91 (LC).

 

Intentional Homelessness

March 26th, 2020 by James Goudie QC in Housing

LB v TOWER HAMLETS LBC (2020) EWCA Civ 439 is concerned with the lawfulness of the local authority’s decision on a review under Section 202 of the Housing Act 1996. McCombe LJ, with whom Floyd and Coulson LJ agreed, said, at para 24, that Section 191 of the Act, on intentional homelessness, is directed to the time when the applicant did or failed to do something which resulted in them ceasing to occupy accommodation and then to whether it would have been reasonable to continue to occupy. He added, at para 27, that the reviewing officer should not limit the review by reference to circumstances acting at the date of the deliberate action or inaction alone. All the circumstances, both before that date, and matters thereafter, up to the date of the review, should be considered. He concluded, at para 31, that while the question of whether it is reasonable for a person to continue to occupy premises which they deliberately ceased to occupy is to be assessed at or about the time of the act in question, the assessment needs to be informed by all relevant matters, including events that may occur up to the date of the authority’s review decision. The Court also considered Section 177 of the 1996 Act, on domestic abuse.