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Developments in social housing: December 2013

We highlight some of the current issues in social housing law, including matters concerning anti-social behaviour, policy, regulation, rent and welfare reform.

Anti-Social Behaviour

  • Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government published on 25 November 2013 showed that 18 months in to the 3-year Troubled Families programme, over 62,000 families are being worked with and over 22,000 have been turned around: with children back in school; levels of youth crime and anti-social behaviour significantly reduced; and over 1,400 adults from some of England’s hardest-to-help households now in continuous work.The statistics also showed that 92,000 families - over 3 quarters of the 120,000 - have now been identified by councils as meeting the criteria for the payment-by-results programme.
  • The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Bill is facing a rocky passage through the House of Lords in so far as the proposed new injunctions to prevent nuisance & annoyance (IPNAs) are concerned. This includes an amendment to change the standard of proof to "beyond reasonable doubt". Read the CIH briefing on the proposed amendments.
  • Draft Guidance to the proposed new ASB behaviours contained in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Bill was published by the Home Office in October 2013. Read the guidance.

Civil Procedure

  • The ramifications of the Court of Appeal's judgment in Andrew Mitchell v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2013] EWCA Civ 1526 are explained in Charles Bagot's article.
  • Controversial Guidance has been produced on how the Administrative Court will approach the question of costs on judicial review claims that have otherwise been settled and submitted to the court for approval after 20 November 2013. Read the guidance
  • Read the Judiciary's Guide to assist litigants in person.

Human Rights

  • Andy Lane has written for the "Local Government Lawyer" on two recent ECtHR decisions. Read Andy's article
  • Just when you thought Pinnock was "done and dusted"...well now it is. The ECtHR decides Pinnock/Walker v UK is inadmissible...the possession order decision was proportionate to a legitimate aim. View the decision
  • View the Winterstein v France judgment of the ECtHR which concerns the eviction of travellers and article 8.

Private Registered Providers

Social Housing Fraud

  • Anna Tkaczynska has been instructed in an early attempted use of the unlawful profit orders brought in by the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013. Read Inside Housing's article

Welfare Reform

  • Dean Underwood has produced an excellent analysis of the benefit cap judicial review judgment in R(on the application of JS & Ors) v The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and (1) Child Poverty Action Group (2) Shelter Children’s Legal Services (Interveners) [2013] EWHC 3350 (QB) - due to be heard by the Court of Appeal in January 2014. His article, published first by Hardwicke, was run later by the Local Government Lawyer. Read Dean's article.
  • Following that judgment, Dean was instructed to represent a London local authority in a judicial review of its decision not to continue Discretionary Housing Payments for a woman with eight children, whose income had been cut significantly by both the Local Housing Allowance and the benefit cap.  Her accommodation was too expensive as a consequence and she had, it was claimed, been unable to find suitable alternative accommodation in London. The claim gave rise to interesting issues of both law and practice: to what extent did Article 8 ECHR impose on the local authority a positive obligation to provide welfare support; and could the claimant reasonably be expected in the circumstances to seek accommodation outside of London. The claim, heard by Elizabeth Cooke of the Law Commission, sitting as a deputy High Court Judge, settled at court.  It is unlikely, however, to be the last such claim in the wake of welfare reform.  Indeed, it is anticipated with some confidence that welfare reform will give rise to an increase in, among other claims, attempts to judicially review decisions about the allocation of Discretionary Housing Payments. Time will surely tell whether that confidence is well-placed. 
  • View a House of Commons Library Note on the Government's approach of the direct payment of the Universal Credit housing component to tenants.
  • A House of Commons Library Note has been produced on 11 November 2013 on the living wage. Read the note
  • View an updated briefing note in relation to  under-occupation and the bedroom tax.
  • The "Gorry Regulations" on the exemption from the bedroom tax rules of disabled children unable to share a bedroom have finally been produced and come into force on 4 December 2013. Read the regulations.