LICENCE CONDITIONS

June 5th, 2024 by James Goudie KC in Housing

In NEWCASTLE CITY COUNCIL v ABDALLAH ( 2024 ) UKUT 140 ( LC ) the Upper Tribunal ( Lands Chamber ) rules that Section 233 of the Local Government Act 1972, on service of notices by local authorities, applies to aa authority’s request for information to be provided in compliance with licence conditions under the Housing Act 2004.

 

ELIGIBILITY FOR HOUSING ASSISTANCE

June 5th, 2024 by James Goudie KC in Housing

In FERTRE V VALE OF WHITE HORSE DC ( 2024 ) EWHC 1234 ( KB ) the Court refuses the authority’s application to strike out an appeal against its decision that an EU national was not eligible for housing assistance. She had made a second application, based on changed circumstances. She had conceded that she was no longer homeless. She had not abandoned her appeal. It was not an abuse of process. It was not academic. If there had been error of law during the initial application the applicant would have the enduring benefit of a determination of threshold eligibility for assistance. Also there was a public interest in the point in issue.

The points of principle are that ( 1 ) the mere fact of making a fresh application does not automatically or impliedly constitute the abandonment of a prior application subject to an extant appeal; A successful fresh application might render the appeal pointless, and liable to be struck out as academic, but it could not, without some clear expression of interest or unequivocal conduct, amount to an abandonment of the appeal; ( 3 ) When there is a change of circumstances the Court has to consider whether the appeal has become academic; ( 4 ) A risk of future homelessness could be a sufficient interest such that an appeal is not academic; and ( 5 ) a point in issue can be of considerable public importance with broader ramifications where the legal issues are of wider significance affecting most income-related welfare benefits which could affect a large cohort of EU nationals.

 

EQUALITY ACT

April 16th, 2024 by James Goudie KC in Housing

Part 3 of the Equality Act 2010 relates to Services and Public Functions. Part 4 relates to Premises. In R ( FG ) v KENSINGTON & CHELSEA COUNCIL ( 2024 ) EWHC 780 ( Admin ) a question is which Part is applicable to a  disabled person’s claim under the Act with respect to an alleged failure by the local authority landlord to deal with noise and smell issues. The Judge holds that it is Part 4.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION

April 10th, 2024 by James Goudie KC in Housing

MASTERMAN v INFORMATION COMMISSIONER ( 2024 ) UKFTT 289 ( GRC ) concerns a request for the licence conditions for a house in multiple occupation. The question arises whether the information sought from the local housing authority was “ environmental information “ subject to the Environmental Information Regulations rather than the Freedom of Information Act. The Tribunal held that it was the former. It was ( paras 47-51 inclusive ) about “ conditions of human life “. That includes conditions in which human beings live.

 

HOUSING ( WALES ) ACT 2014

April 4th, 2024 by James Goudie KC in Housing

A Report by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales upholds a Complaint that the Welsh Government had failed to ensure that local authorities are taking sufficient action to meet the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers, as required by the 2014 Act.

 

SOCIAL HOUSING REGULATION

April 3rd, 2024 by James Goudie KC in Housing

A letter by the Regulator of Social Housing to social housing landlords reminds them of the changes to social regulation coming into force on 1 April 2024, and the new standards they must now meet. The rules require (1) an accurate record of the condition of every home, based upon checks of the properties, (2) clear timelines for the completion of works, and (3) clear communications with tenants.

 

RENT POLICY

April 3rd, 2024 by James Goudie KC in Housing

A joint Regulator of Social Housing and Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities document sets out the arrangements for a local authority to apply to the SoS for agreement that it would be inappropriate for the Government’s Policy Statement on Rents for Social Housing to apply, because this would cause the authority unavoidable and serious financial difficulty. If the SoS agrees to the Application the effect would be that the rent standard would no longer apply to the accommodation in question and a Memorandum of Understanding will be agreed.

The SoS will expect to be provided with evidence that (1) the authority’s HRA is at risk of deficit in either the current or subsequent financial year, (2) complying with the Rent Standard requirements would jeopardise the authority’s ability to meet legal obligations and (3) all possible steps have been taken to avoid the need to make an Application. Normally short term cash flow issues would not justify an Application.

 

HOMELESSNESS REVIEW

March 28th, 2024 by James Goudie KC in Housing

Regulation 7(2) of the Homelessness ( Review Procedures) Regulations 2018 is an important part of the mechanisms designed to ensure the fairness of the overall procedure. It is triggered if the reviewer decides that there is a “deficiency or irregularity” in the original decision , or in the manner in which it was made. In QUERINO v CAMBRIDGE CITY COUNCIL (2024) EWCA Civ 314 the Council argued that Regulation 7(2) can have no application where what is under review is an offer of accommodation and its suitability, and that there can be no scope for a reviewer to detect a “deficiency” in the decision to make the offer. The argument was that Regulation 7(2) was not engaged at all. The Court of Appeal, at paras 32-35 inc, rejected this argument.

 

Multiple Occupation

February 22nd, 2024 by James Goudie KC in Housing

Welwyn Hatfield BC v Wang (2024) UKUT 24 (LC) was concerned with whether Notices of Intent to impose a financial penalty under Section 249A of the Housing Act 2004 were invalid for containing insufficient information. By para 3(a) of Schedule 13A to that Act a Notice of Intent has to  set out the “reasons” for proposing to impose the financial penalty.  The Upper Tribunal says that these reasons have to be “sufficiently clearly and accurately expressed” to enable the recipient landlord to exercise the right, conferred by paragraph 4 of Schedule 13A, to make written representations to the local housing authority about its proposal, to enable the authority to decide whether or not to impose the financial penalty, and, if so, how much.  Similarly, by para 8(b) of Schedule 13A, the final notice had to set out “the reasons for imposing the penalty”.  Those reasons too had to be sufficiently clearly and accurately expressed to enable the recipient landlord to decide whether to exercise the right to appeal to the Tribunal against the decision to impose the penalty or the amount of that penalty.  Those reasons had to be directly referable to the condition of the licence in relation to which it was said that there had been non-compliance on the landlord’s part, and they had to identify clearly and accurately the particular respects in which it was said that there had been non-compliance.  Local housing authorities had to bear firmly in mind that the imposition of a financial penalty was an alternative to a criminal prosecution, and it had to be treated with  the same level of seriousness and transparency.

 

SECURE TENANCY

February 6th, 2024 by James Goudie KC in Housing

The issue in RAHIMI v CITY OF WESTMINSTER COUNCIL (2024) EWCA Civ 73 was whether Mr Rahimi was entitled to a secure tenancy on the death of his grandmother.  That, in turn, depended on whether at the date of her death the grandmother was the tenant under a tenancy of the flat granted to her alone.  The tenancy had originally be granted to her and her husband, as joint tenants, but her husband was no longer living there.  Mr Rahimi was a member of his grandmother’s family and had resided with her throughout the period of 12 months ending with her death.

Lewison LJ at paragraphs 17-22 inclusive identified the statutory framework in relation to secure tenancies.  The effect was that if there was a surrender and regrant amounting to the grant of a fresh tenancy to the grandmother alone, a succession was still available, but if the joint tenancy continued in being, Mr Rahimi would not have been entitled to succeed.  The joint tenancy would have vested by right of survivorship in the grandmother’s husband, at which point the tenancy would have ceased to be a secure tenancy, because the husband did not occupy the property as his home.

From paragraph 28 Lewison LJ addressed the principle of surrender and regrant.  Rights held jointly must be surrendered jointly, by both the joint tenants and by the landlord.  Conduct relied upon must be unequivocal.  Individual equivocal acts can however be combined to surmount the evidential threshold.  From paragraph 40 Lewison LJ considered whether there was unequivocal conduct in this case.  What was required was an agreement by the landlord with the assent of the outgoing tenant.  On the facts, there was no such agreement, and no grant of a new sole tenancy to Mr Rahimi’s grandmother.

Newby LJ agreed with Lewison LJ in dismissing Mr Rahimi’s appeal, and Macur LJ dissented.  Newey LJ said, at paragraph 81:-

“No one suggests that there is direct evidence of a fresh tenancy having been granted.  The question is whether there is material from which a grant could be inferred. In that connection, evidence of conduct which is just as consistent with the continuation of the original joint tenancy will not suffice.”