What’s new

The pages on Shelter Legal are updated regularly to reflect changes in the law. This page lists the most recent updates to Shelter Legal.

Licence conditions

Changes made 03 July 2020

On 1 June 2020, regulation 13 of The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312 inserted the requirements to ensure that every electrical installation in the house is in proper working order and safe for continued use, and to supply the local authority with a declaration confirming the safety of the electrical installation if the authority requests one, into the mandatory licence requirements in Schedule 4 to the Housing Act 2004. The 2020 Regulations apply from 1 July 2020 to properties in the private rented sector, including houses in multiple occupation.

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The landlord's demand

Changes made 02 July 2020

In 38/41 CHG Residents Company Limited v Hyslop (LANDLORD AND TENANT – SERVICE CHARGES) (2020) UKUT 21 (LC), the Upper Tribunal clarified that when reaching a decision as to whether a demand for service charges has been lawfully served in accordance with section 196 of the Law of Property Act 1925, the question for the court is not whether the leaseholder has received the demand, but whether the landlord can show that on the balance of probabilities the demand was delivered.

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Schemes and priorities

Changes made 02 July 2020

In Flores, R (on the application of) v London Borough of Southwark [2020] EWHC 1279 (Admin), the High Court held that it was lawful for a local authority to give less preference on its allocation scheme to an applicant whose overcrowding was the result of choosing to move into accommodation that would inevitably become too small as the existing children of the household got older. This was contrasted with overcrowding that would come about from a 'natural increase' in household size resulting from the birth or adoption of another child.

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Court and tribunal hearings

Changes made 02 July 2020

In Arkin v Marshall [2020] EWCA Civ 620, the Court of Appeal ruled that the stay on possession proceedings introduced by Practice Direction 51Z during the coronavirus pandemic was lawful. Two High Court cases clarify circumstances in which the stay may or may not be lifted. In Copeland v Bank of Scotland [2020] EWHC 1441 (QB), the High Court agreed to lift the stay in order to hand down judgment where an appeal hearing had taken place before the stay was imposed. In Bromford Housing Association v Nightingale and another [2020] EWHC 1532 (QB), the High Court refused to lift the stay as the appeal hearing in this case had taken place after the stay was imposed, and would not have been heard had the judgment in Arkin been available at the time (para 7). [PREVIOUS WHAT'S NEW 24 June 2020: On 23 June 2020 The Senior President of Tribunals issued an amendment to the Pilot Practice Direction: Contingency Arrangements in the First-Tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal, so that as of 1 July 2020 Tribunals have discretion whether to carry out land and building exterior inspections. Internal inspections remain suspended and Tribunals may rely on photographs and video evidence where appropriate. Links to the relevant Practice Directions can be found under ‘Essential links’ on this page, which has been updated to reflect the changes.] [PREVIOUS WHAT'S NEW 16 June 2020: In effect from 10 June 2020, the 121st Practice Direction Update amends the Practice Direction 51Z to clarify that during the coronavirus-related stay to possession proceedings under CPR 55, the courts are not required to give any notices to the parties and time does not run for the purposes of any rule. The Practice Direction 51Z ceases to have effect on 25 June 2020, when The Civil Procedure (Amendment No.2) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 amend the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to extend the stay until 23 August 2020.]

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Covid-19: Homelessness

Changes made 01 July 2020

(1) On 30 June 2020 the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published a ministerial letter to local authorities outlining temporary powers to support EEA jobseekers and EEA nationals exercising initial right to reside who are either sleeping rough or have been temporarily placed in emergency accommodation for the purposes of self-isolation. The letter clarifies that both groups can be provided with non-statutory emergency accommodation and floating support but remain ineligible for welfare benefits and statutory services. Temporary support can be provided for up to three months. Annex B to the letter contains an overview of the qualifying criteria. The powers were introduced nationwide on 24 June 2020 and will remain in place until 31 December 2020. (2) On 29 June 2020 the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman resumed existing casework and taking on new complaints. The LGSCO proceedings were temporarily suspended in March 2020 in response to the pandemic. The page has been updated to reflect this change. (3) The Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities has been updated. Paragraphs 8.44 and 8.45 contain information about assessing vulnerability during the pandemic in the context of conditions known to increase the likelihood of a serious outcome of Covid-19. (4) Where a homeless person qualifies for temporary accommodation under the homelessness legislation, any accommodation provided must be suitable. In R (On the application of Escott) v Chichester DC [2020] EWHC 1687 (Admin), the High Court held that where a local authority had provided self-contained accommodation to a homeless applicant who was particularly vulnerable to contracting Covid-19, it was under no obligation to provide white goods and a bed. In this case, the claimant was provided with a mattress and a microwave oven but argued that it was insufficient to enable him to self-isolate. The Court dismissed this argument and held that the authority had acted lawfully.

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Reasonable and additional preference

Changes made 30 June 2020

On 27 June 2020 the government published ‘Improving access to social housing for members of the Armed Forces’. The purpose of the new statutory guidance is to compliment the general statutory guidance on allocation of social housing and assist local authorities when considering applications for social housing by members of the armed forces, veterans, and their families, including estranged spouses or civil partners. The guidance includes a strong recommendation to extend the exemption from local connection requirements to divorced or separated spouses or civil partners of service personnel who need to move out of accommodation provided by the Ministry of Defence and a clarification that the Certificate of Cessation of Entitlement to Occupy Service Family Accommodation is routinely included within a Notice to Vacate pack, which MoD issues at least 3 months before the date of discharge. Local authorities are advised to revise their allocation policies to reflect the new guidance. This and related pages on Shelter Legal have been updated to reflect the new guidance. A link to the guidance is available under ‘Essential links’ on this page. [PREVIOUS WHAT'S NEW 4 June 2020: In R (Idolo) v Bromley LBC [2020] EWHC 860 (Admin), the High Court refused to award compensation to a disabled local authority tenant who spent twenty months confined to his bedroom on the eight floor of a block of flats. The tenant’s needs were assessed as eligible under the Care Act 2014 and care was being provided. While the local authority awarded the tenant high property on their housing register, it took considerable time before a suitable property became available. The tenant challenged the authority’s approach on the basis that social services were wrong to delegate the issue of suitable accommodation to the housing department and the delay in accessing suitable accommodation breached his rights under Article 8 ECHR. The Court rejected these arguments and noted that: (1) section 23 of the 2014 Act prevents authorities from meeting eligible care needs by doing anything that is required under the Housing Act 1996, therefore it was not unlawful for a local authority to accommodate care needs identified under the 2014 Act under the provisions of its allocation scheme devised under the housing legislation; (2) in the absence of maladministration, unfairness or other unlawful conduct on the part of the authority, the delay itself was not sufficient to constitute a breach of Article 8 rights.]

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Damages

Changes made 26 June 2020

In a non-binding County Court decision in Del Rio Sanchez v Simple Properties Management Limited, an occupier who complained to the landlord about disrepair, unannounced inspections and bailiffs' enforcement due to the landlord's failure to pay for the utilities, and was subsequently locked out of the property, falsely accused of subletting, threatened with private prosecution, and had her belongings (including a passport) unlawfully disposed of, was awarded £56,675.91 in compensation, including damages for harassment, illegal eviction and the maximum penalty for non-protection of the tenancy deposit. Despite the fact that the occupier entered into a 'membership agreement' for accommodation, she was found to have been an assured shorthold tenant as she had exclusive possession of a room in a shared house and paid rent in the form of a regular 'contribution fee' to a non-resident landlord. The ‘membership fee’ that was refundable on the termination of the agreement was found to be a tenancy deposit. The case was heard at the Central London County Court sitting at Oxford Combined Court on 24 February 2020. It was reported on the Nearly Legal blog on 1 March 2020.

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The lease

Changes made 25 June 2020

In Duval v 11-13 Randolph Crescent Ltd [2020] UKSC 18, the Supreme Court held that where a long lease contained an absolute covenant prohibiting leaseholders from carrying out alterations to the structural parts and provided for the landlord’s enforcement of this covenant at another leaseholder’s request, there was an implied term that the landlord would not be able to prevent this covenant from having effect by permitting one leaseholder to carry out structural works before another leaseholder objected. In this case, a leaseholder requested permission to remove part of a load-bearing wall. The landlord was inclined to agree but another leaseholder (D) objected on the grounds that if the landlord agreed, they would be breaching their obligations towards her. The Supreme Court agreed with D and dismissed the landlord’s appeal.

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Covid-19: Benefits and income

Changes made 23 June 2020

In the ADM Memo 11/20 the Department for Work and Pensions has clarified how payments under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) are to be treated for the supposes of calculating the claimant's entitlement to Universal Credit. While payments under both CJRS and SEISS are to be treated as earnings, certain grants and loans are to be treated as payments of capital and disregarded as business assets. A link to the ADM Memo 11/20 is available under 'Essential links' on this page. [PREVIOUS WHAT'S NEW 7 May 2020: The DWP has temporarily suspended some third-party deductions (TPD) from universal credit (UC), including repayments of rent arrears. This could put tenants whose UC is subject to a TDP for rent arrears at risk of eviction, especially if a suspended possession order has already been made. Tenants in this situation should contact the landlord and arrange to repay any money that would normally be subject to a TPD for rent arrears, evidence their attempts to make the payment even if it is not successful, and update their UC journal to note the fact that a TPD for rent arrears was stopped without a warning. The deductions will remain suspended until 10 May 2020.]

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Rent repayment orders

Changes made 23 June 2020

In Vadamalayan v Stewart and others [2020] UKUT 0183 (LC), the landlord (V) appealed against the decision of the First-tier Tribunal on the grounds that the amount of the rent repayment order (RRO) under sections 43 and 44 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 was too high. The Upper Tribunal held that: (1) the RRO provisions in the 2016 Act did not require that a payment in favour of the tenant should be reasonable; (2) the starting point for calculating the RRO amount the tenant was entitled to would be the rent over the relevant period, not restricted to the landlord’s profit. The Tribunal held that the practice of deducting all the landlord’s costs in calculating the amount of the RRO under the 2016 Act should cease and refused to deduct a fine imposed by the local authority for the landlord’s failure to comply with the HMO licensing regime under the 2004 Act. The Tribunal observed that as the provisions of the 2016 Act were ‘rather more hard-edged’ than those of the 2004 Act, there was less scope for the balancing approach adopted in Parker v Waller & Ors [2012] UKUT 301 (LC). While it might be reasonable to deduct landlord’s payments for utilities that are used by the tenant, there is no automatic right to deduct all expenses incurred by the landlord during the relevant period. [PREVIOUS WHAT'S NEW 23 April 2020: In Opara v Olasemo (HOUSING – RENT REPAYMENT ORDER – unlawful eviction) (2020) UKUT 96 (LC), the Upper Tribunal held that where there was strong evidence that the landlord of a house in multiple occupation (HMO) had failed to comply with licensing requirements under Part 2 Housing Act 2004 and had illegally evicted the occupier by changing the locks, it had been irrational for the First-Tier Tribunal to find the criminal standard of proof for granting a rent repayment order under section 40 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 had not been met. The Upper Tribunal observed that the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ criminal standard of proof did not amount to proof ‘beyond any doubt at all’.]

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