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Housing case law - February 2018 update

Teign Housing Association v Lane [2018] EWHC 40 (QB)

High Court (Bristol)

16 January 2018

The High Court has allowed an appeal by a housing association against a County Court dismissal of its claim for possession of a flat occupied by the respondent tenant.

The housing association (Teign) sought a possession order because the tenant (Mr Lane) had breached his tenancy agreement and caused disturbance and annoyance to other residents. However, the County Court judge found that Mr Lane's behaviour was not malevolent and his actions were a result of his paranoid personality disorder (which is classified as a disability within the Equality Act 2010). The Court held that certain breaches of the tenancy agreement did not amount to a “relevant breach” and that it was unreasonable to grant a possession order.

Teign appealed. The High Court held that the County Court judge had erred in distinguishing between “relevant breaches” of the tenancy agreement and other breaches, and ordered a re-trial of the possession claim.

Capsticks Solicitors represented Teign in this hearing.

A copy of the judgment is here.

 

E & J Ground Rents No.11 LLP v various leaseholders of Fresh Apartments (Man/00BR/LSC/2017/0068)

First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber)

24 January 2018

The First Tier Tribunal has held that the cost of providing fire marshals for a “Waking Watch” is recoverable through the service charges under the terms of a lease.

A “Waking Watch” had been implemented at Fresh Apartments pending further tests on the external cladding. The landlord (E & J Ground Rents No.11 LLP) attempted to recover the costs of the Waking Watch from the leaseholders of Fresh Apartments as service charges. However, the leaseholders contested whether the costs were payable under the lease.

The First Tier Tribunal held that the leaseholders should pay for fire wardens until the cladding is replaced, ruling that it was reasonable for the freeholder to incur the cost and that the costs were not excessive.

This is the first known First Tier Tribunal ruling on the recovery of ‘Waking Watch’ costs following the Grenfell Tower fire.

A copy of the judgment is here.

 

R (J and another) v London Borough of Hillingdon [2017] EWHC 3411 (Admin)

High Court

21 December 2017

The High Court has held that a local authority’s housing assessment of a child in need failed to comply with its duties under the Children Act 2004.

The local authority (London Borough of Hillingdon) decided that a child who suffered from a range of disabilities, and who lived in a dilapidated and unsuitable privately rented bungalow within the London Borough of Hillingdon, was not eligible to be put on its housing register. The boy’s mother applied for judicial review of the decision.

The High Court granted the application, ruling that the local authority’s assessment of the housing needs of the child was flawed. It held that the local authority should have taken an integrated approach to the assessment of the housing needs and risks of the child living in unsuitable accommodation, and had failed to take into account the recommendations of a child and family assessment carried out by social services.

The ruling highlights the need for local authorities to examine their decision-making processes, to ensure that these encourage different departments to work together.

A copy of the judgment is here.

 

R (Gaskin) v Richmond upon Thames LBC [2017] EWHC 3234 (Admin)

High Court

11 December 2017

The High Court has limited the information required for house in multiple occupation (HMO) licence renewal applications.

The claimant (Mr Gaskin) owned an HMO. On renewal, the defendant (Richmond upon Thames London Borough Council) demanded a fee of £257 for each unit of accommodation in the HMO. Mr Gaskin refused to pay the full amount and failed to provide the Council with details of the tenants occupying the individual rooms in the HMO, believing that the Council was not lawfully entitled to ask for this type of information. The Council refused to process Mr Gaskin’s renewal application for an HMO licence and then prosecuted him for running an HMO without a licence.

Mr Gaskin applied for judicial review of the decision to prosecute him.

The Court held that (1) the fees were not disproportionate, and (2) it is not unlawful to charge the same fee for a renewal as for a first application. Consequently, Mr Gaskin had to pay in full for his licence renewal

A copy of the judgment is here.

 

Investigation into a complaint against Maidstone Borough Council (reference number: 16 004 603)

Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman

1 November 2018

The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman has found that a Council allowed the unlawful eviction of a homeless family from temporary accommodation.

A family had been living in temporary accommodation owned by a private landlord that had been arranged by Maidstone Borough Council. The landlord alleged that the tenants had breached the tenancy agreement and forcibly evicted the family without notice.

The family moved to bed and breakfast accommodation and, following a review, the Council admitted that the family should have been given 28 days' notice to leave their temporary accommodation.

The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (LG&SCO) investigated the matter and found that the Council had (1) handled the family’s homelessness application poorly, (2) allowed an unlawful eviction and failed to give the family 28 days' notice to leave the accommodation, and (3) failed to investigate allegations of abusive behaviour made by the tenants against the landlord.

The LG&SCO recommended that the council should pay the family £4,170 in compensation.

A copy of the decision is here.

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