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.

Legal work: Buying a home

Changes made 10 April 2019

A link has been added to the Legal Ombudsman’s user guide 'On the move - A guide for first time buyer', which covers what to think about and look for when using a conveyancing lawyer.

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Tort of nuisance: noise

Changes made 10 April 2019

Noise nuisance from neighbouring properties is a common problem. Where the noise is caused by occupiers, the landlord is unlikely to be held liable but the affected individual may be able to take action for nuisance against the neighbours. In Fouladi v Darout Ltd and others [2018] EWHC 3501 (Ch), the High Court found that the freeholder (landlord) was not liable for the nuisance where a leaseholder had carried out alterations to a flat in breach of the lease agreement and installed inadequately sound-proofed flooring. However, the affected tenant (a long leaseholder of the flat below) could bring proceedings for damages, and make an application for an injunction requiring works to remedy the nuisance, against the leaseholder and the occupiers of the flat above (who were found to have contributed to the nuisance).

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Family of workers and self-employed

Changes made 08 April 2019

Direct descendants of EEA nationals (for example, children) are among those family members who have a right to reside in the UK and ‘mirror’ the EEA national’s eligibility for homelessness assistance and allocation of social housing without having to obtain confirmation of their status from the immigration authorities. An ‘extended family member’ can acquire similar rights but only if s/he is issued with relevant documentation, such as a residence card or a registration certificate. The Home Office has discretion whether to issue such documentation. In SM (Algeria) v Entry Clearance Officer, UK Visa Section [2019] CJEU C-129/18, the Court of Justice of the European Union held that where a child was placed in the EEA national’s care under a ‘kafala agreement’ (which under Islamic law is akin to guardianship but does not give rise to a parent-child relationship), the child would qualify as an extended family member and not as a direct descendant. It would be for the member state to facilitate the entry and residence of the child as an extended family member of an EEA national. In this case, the Home Office would be required to carry out ‘a balanced and reasonable assessment of all the current and relevant circumstances of the case’ with particular focus on the best interest of the child (an Algerian national).

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Causation

Changes made 04 April 2019

Under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996, homeless applicants are entitled to different levels of assistance from local authorities according to their individual circumstances. In Godson v Enfield LBC [2019] EWCA Civ 486, the Court of Appeal confirmed that where an applicant is owed the main housing duty under section 193 of the Housing Act 1996, the local authority may offer a series of alternative temporary accommodation arrangements before the duty is brought to an end. If the applicant refuses an offer of alternative temporary accommodation and is evicted as a result, s/he may be found intentionally homeless on her/his subsequent homelessness application under Part 7.

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Making a claim for universal credit

Changes made 21 March 2019

The Universal Credit Live Service helpline is now closed. From 2 March 2019, claimants with residual 'live service' queries should contact the 'full service' helpline on 0800 328 5644. [Previous What's New: 1 February 2019] With effect from 1 February 2019, the Universal Credit (Restriction on Amounts for Children and Qualifying Young Persons) (Transitional Provisions) Amendment Regulations 2019 SI 2019/27 removes the restriction on a person who is responsible for more than two children making a new claim for universal credit. In addition, a child element will continue to be allowed for a third, or subsequent, child born before 6 April 2017.

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Restrictions on use of section 21

Changes made 21 March 2019

Landlords of assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs) can regain possession of their properties, without having to prove any reason, by giving a valid section 21 notice to the tenant. At the expiry of the notice, the court will grant possession only if the notice was valid and the landlord complied with all the prescribed legal requirements prior to the service of the notice. For ASTs granted or renewed on or after 1 October 2015, one of the requirements is to provide a copy of the current gas safety certificate for gas appliances in the dwelling. While there is no binding case law confirming whether a failure to provide copy of the certificate at the outset of the tenancy would invalidate a section 21 notice, county courts have repeatedly agreed with this interpretation. In Trecarrel House Limited v Rouncefield, Exeter CC, 13 February 2019 (reported on Nearly Legal), another county court judge held that the failure to provide a copy of the current gas safety certificate ‘before’ the start of the tenancy could not be rectified by providing a copy at a later date, even if this was done before the service of the section 21 notice.

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Fitness for human habitation

Changes made 20 March 2019

With effect from 20 March 2019, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to give tenants of residential property in England new rights to redress poor housing conditions in their dwellings. There is a new implied term into tenancy agreements that premises must be reasonably suitable for occupation at the beginning and throughout the tenancy. Where a landlord fails to ensure that the property is fit for habitation, the tenant can apply to the county court for an order for specific performance requiring the landlord to improve the conditions in the property, and damages for breach of contract. A new page has been added to Shelter Legal to provide further details and other pages on the site are in the process of being updated.

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Change of landlord

Changes made 18 March 2019

In response to user feedback, the information on Shelter legal about the protection of a tenancy deposit following a change of landlord has been revised and expanded to give more details about the possible consequences of inaction in relation to both insurance and custodial schemes. Other pages relating to the return of the deposit have also been updated.

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Payment of housing benefit

Changes made 15 March 2019

Regulation 95 of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 makes limited provisions for housing benefit to be paid directly to the landlord, including where the tenant is eight weeks or more in arrears on their rent. In ST v Sunderland City Council (CH) [2019] UKUT 33 (AAC), the Upper Tribunal held that arrears on rent in advance can be taken into account when calculating the eight weeks’ threshold, as long as they are genuine and not engineered to allow the landlord to take advantage of the housing benefit regulations.

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Powers and duties of enforcement

Changes made 15 March 2019

Most tenants in the private rented sector have limited security of tenure and can be evicted fairly easily. Some landlords may choose to evict a tenant following a complaint from that tenant about the condition of the property rather than carrying out the necessary work. Formal enforcement action by the local authority under the Housing Act 2004 may allow a tenant to defend possession proceedings. However, where only category 2 hazards exist, authorities have discretion whether to use formal enforcement steps. In Humber Landlords Association v Hull City Council (2019) EWHC 332 (Admin), the High Court held that a local authority was entitled to amend their private sector housing enforcement policy and take a tougher line against retaliatory eviction by making formal action under the Housing Act 2004 the default position where either a category 1 or 2 hazard existed.

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