Clarke Willmott LLP’s social housing team are delighted to provide you with our monthly case law update which includes cases within the last month from the higher jurisdiction courts in England and Wales that are relevant to the affordable housing sector.
We trust that this update will be helpful and we welcome any queries or further help that we can provide by contacting the partners mentioned below.
Keeping abreast of the latest case law is an important aspect of advice to our clients in delivering the highest quality legal services and we trust you will find this a useful update within your business.
 EWHC 262 Queen’s Bench Division
15 February 2016
Negligence – Occupiers’ Liability – Defects
This claim was brought under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 and arose out of the Claimant’s husband’s death on their honeymoon. After leaving the flat where they were staying, he fell down stairs, suffering a major brain injury, and died two years later. It is alleged that defects in the staircase, particularly the handrail, were the reason for his fall, and that the freehold owner of the property was responsible for those defects. It was held that there was no basis on which the negligence claim was sustainable. The Defendants did not design, build or install the staircase, nor were they responsible for any breaches of planning permission or Building Regulations or have anything to do with the installation or non-installation of a handrail. Their responsibility was limited to a right to enter to repair. The appeal was dismissed.
 EWHC 173 Administrative Court
8 February 2016
Local authorities’ powers and duties – Housing – Homelessness
Four homeless people claimed that the Defendant local authority had breached its duties under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 by failing to establish a statutory inquiry into their requests for assistance and in failing to secure that suitable interim accommodation was made available to them. They sought a general declaration that the Defendant’s procedures did not comply with Part VII of the Act. The Claimants argued that they had been “homeless at home”, meaning that they had not claimed to be “roofless” with no accommodation, but rather that it was not reasonable for them to occupy their existing accommodation. Only minor breaches of duty had been established and there was no evidence of systemic failure. Claim dismissed.
 EWHC 257 Chancery Division
16 February 2016
Contract – Specific performance – Shorter Trials Scheme – Transfer
This case involved a claim for the specific performance of a contract under which the Claimant argued the Defendant had agreed to sell a property in London. The Claimant was a registered provider of social housing and the Defendant the owner of the freehold. The Court sat to decide whether the case was suitable for transfer to the Shorter Trials Scheme (STS). Under the scheme, the dispute would come to trial faster and at a lower cost. That the Claimant was a registered provider of social housing did not mean the case fell outside the scheme. It was held that the Court had the power to transfer the case to the STS and that it was an appropriate case to be transferred.
 UKUT 0071 Lands Chamber
9 February 2016
Housing – House In Multiple Occupation (HMO) – Licence conditions
Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 provides for the licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMO). This case revolved around whether it was lawful for an HMO licence to restrict the use of a bedroom to a particular category of occupier, such as students. The First-tier Tribunal had ruled that it was lawful, but the Appellant local authority disagreed. It was held that a condition restricting the use of sleeping accommodation in part of an HMO to a person in full-time education was not unlawful. The Appellant was directed to grant the licence to include an additional condition which stated: “The second floor front bedroom may only be used for sleeping accommodation by a person engaged in full-time education and who resides in the dwelling for a maximum period of 10 calendar months over a period of one year.” Appeal dismissed.
 UKUT 102 Lands Chamber
23 February 2016
Landlord and tenant – Breach of covenant – Landlord’s failure to provide contact address
A lease for a property included a general covenant by the tenant against causing nuisance or annoyance to other occupiers and against carrying out unauthorised alterations. When the boiler in the first floor flat broke down, the Defendant installed a replacement which required a new vent and pipe to be inserted through the side wall of the house. The only breach appealed against was the cutting of the wall without consent, which the Claimant would have consented to if he had been asked in advance. The issue in this appeal was whether the First-tier Tribunal had been right to find that the installation of the boiler did not involve a breach of covenant. The consent of the landlord was required, despite no contact address being provided. Appeal allowed.
West Berkshire District Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & HDD Burghfield Common Ltd
 EWHC 267 Administrative Court
16 February 2016
Town and country planning – Core policies – Housing
This claim, made under s.288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, sought to challenge the decision allowing the appeal of the Second Defendant against the Council’s refusal of planning permission. The proposed development was for up to 129 dwellings and associated works. Following the submission of revised plans during the appeal process, planning permission was granted for up to 90 dwellings. The Claimant contended that the Inspector had been wrong to treat the strategy and policies for housing in the Core Strategy as out of date; wrong to identify the housing need figure as 833 dwellings per year and had failed to apply the correct planning tests. All grounds of appeal failed and the claim was dismissed.