A person holds the silhouette of a family house in their hands

Social Housing Case Bulletin – November 2014

Our social housing team are delighted to present 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 Kary Withers, Head of Housing Management.

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.

AA v London Borough of Southwark

[2014] EWHC 500 Queen’s Bench Division
17 October 2014

Landlord and tenant – Unlawful destruction of possessions – Damages

The Claimant had been a social housing tenant of the Defendant for 23 years. The total arrears when he was evicted amounted to c£2,000. A possession order was made requiring the Claimant to pay rent and run down the arrears in weekly instalments. Nothing was paid and a warrant of possession was executed. The contents of the Claimant’s flat, including his passport, computers, personal belongings and furniture were removed and destroyed. Judgment for the Claimant. He was entitled to claim damages. Such damages were not confined to special or general damages, but could include claims for aggravated and exemplary damages and those for breach of contract and duty, in tort, and for equitable remuneration for lost work stored electronically.

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Ajilore v London Borough of Hackney

[2014] EWCA Civ 1273 Court of Appeal
8 October 2014

Homelessness – Priority need – Vulnerability

This was an appeal against an Order dismissing an appeal against a review decision of the Respondent local housing authority. The central issue was whether the judge erred in upholding the reviewing officer’s decision that the Appellant was not vulnerable and, therefore, not in priority need for housing under the Housing Act 1996. The Appellant had presented to the Respondent as homeless stating that he was staying in a drugs den. There was sufficient evidence to support the reviewing officer’s conclusion that the Appellant’s past drug abuse and the risk of relapse did not render him vulnerable. The officer had been entitled to rely on what the Appellant himself had said regarding his ability to cope with daily life. Appeal dismissed.

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Cheshire East Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Rowland Homes

[2014] EWHC 3536 Administrative Court
28 October 2014

Town and country planning – National Planning Policy Framework – Five year supply of housing

This was an application under s288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to quash an Inspector’s decision allowing an appeal against a refusal of planning permission. The Claimant Council contended that the inspector failed to lawfully assess whether the Claimant had a five year supply of land for housing and had failed to apply the presumption in favour of sustainable development contained in the National Planning Policy Framework. The inspector had correctly considered the question of whether the Claimant was able to demonstrate it had a five year supply of housing land and also if proposed development represented sustainable development. The claim was dismissed.

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The Jam Factory Freehold Ltd v Bond

[2014] UKUT 0443 Lands Chamber
7 October 2014

Landlord and tenant – Service charges – Right to sue

The Appellant landlord appealed against the decision of the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal which had held that a prior compromise agreement had absolved the Respondent lessee of any further liability to pay service charges arrears. Contracts were to be construed objectively, not by reference to subjective concerns, issues or motivations. There was no express reservation of a right to sue the Respondent in respect of the arrears. Appeal dismissed.

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Morris v Blackpool Borough Council

[2014] EWCA Civ 1384 Court of Appeal
24 October 2014

Landlord and tenant – Leases – Construction

This was an appeal against an Order allowing the appeal brought by the Defendant Council and an arms-length management organisation wholly owned by the Council. The issue was the proper construction of standard leases granted by the Council to its tenants, in particular whether it was entitled to charge certain management or administration charges as part of the service charge. There was no permission to appeal the quantification of the management charges. The services performed at the Council’s discretion could be deemed to be properly incurred under the lease despite the absence of a specific covenant and could be recoverable as a service charge. Appeal dismissed.

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Nzolameso v City of Westminster

[2014] EWCA Civ 1383 Court of Appeal
22 October 2014

Local authorities powers and duties – Relocation – Suitability

This appeal concerned the powers of local housing authorities to provide accommodation outside their own districts. The Appellant lived in a house in Westminster. Following a reduction in housing benefit, the Appellant became unable to afford her existing property and she and her children became homeless. The Respondent accepted that it owed her the main housing duty under the Housing Act 1996 and offered temporary accommodation in a house in Bletchley. The Appellant refused the offer as she had lived in the area for four years and had friends who provided her with support. Consequently, the Defendant Council concluded that it had discharged its duty. The Appellant asked for a review of the decision and also questioned the property’s suitability. A review upheld both decisions, as did a further appeal. The accommodation was suitable despite its location. The appeal was dismissed.

*The Appellant has since stated to take the case to the Supreme Court.

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Francis v Phillips

[2014] EWCA Civ 1395 Court of Appeal
31 October 2014

Landlord and tenant – Service charges – Consultation – Qualifying works

This appeal is concerned with a) whether the Appellants lessors were entitled to include wages for themselves for managing the site in the service charge, in addition to a management charge; and b) whether the phrase “qualifying works” in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 had been properly construed. Section 20 of the 1985 Act limits the recovery of the cost of qualifying works by means of a service charge unless a prescribed consultation process has been followed. The lessors’ appeal on the qualifying works issue was allowed, but the appeal on the management charge issue was dismissed.

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R. (On the application of Cotton) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

[2014] EWHC 3437 Administrative Court
22 October 2014

Housing benefit – Spare room subsidy – Shared care arrangements

The Claimants were parents who were either divorced or separated from the other parent of their children. The children alternated between parents, spending roughly half their time with each and having their own bedroom in each residence. Under the law, only one parent could have primary responsibility and, when the child spent equal time with each parent, that was the parent to whom child benefit was payable. The Claimants’ case was that the amendments to housing benefit regulations introduced in 2012 were a breach of their Human Rights and were irrational. Even if the reduction in the Claimants’ housing benefit had the effect of compelling them to move to a smaller property where their children could not live with them, that would not be an interference with their human rights. Claim for judicial review dismissed.

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