Rutherford and Ors v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWHC 1613 (Admin) – Read judgement here.
At the end of May, the High Court ruled that the reduction in Housing Benefit under Regulation B13 of Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations – commonly dubbed “the bedroom tax” - did not unlawfully discriminate against a family with a disabled child requiring an additional bedroom for overnight careers because the shortfall was covered by discretionary housing payments.
The case involved three Claimants: Mr and Mrs Rutherford and their 14-year-old grandson Warren. Warren suffers from a profound disability requiring 24-hour care from at least two people. Mr and Mrs Rutherford need the assistance of two paid careers for two nights a week. The family live in a three-bedroom bungalow rented from a housing association and specifically adapted to meet Warren’s needs. Mr and Mrs Rutherford sleep in one room, Warren in another, and a third room is used as a bedroom for overnight carers and to store medical equipment.
Salvesen v. Riddell  UKSC 22, 24 April 2013, read judgment
When can an agricultural landlord turf out his tenant farmer? The answer to this question has ebbed and flowed since the Second World War, but one element of the latest attempt by the Scottish Parliament to redress the balance in favour of tenants has just been declared incompatible with Article 1 of the 1st Protocol (A1P1) as offending landlords’ rights to property. The Supreme Court has so ruled, upholding the Second Division of the Court of Session’s ruling in March 2012.
The reasoning is not just of interest to agricultural lawyers either side of the border. But a brief summary of the laws is necessary in order to identify the invidiousness of the new law as identified by the Court – and hence its applicability to other circumstances.
As will be seen from my postscript, the decision of the court below to the same effect appears to have had tragic consequences.
Michael Sims v Dacorum Borough Council  EWCA Civ 12 – read judgment
This was a property dispute which broke out on the marriage breakdown of two joint tenants of council property. The wife who sought termination of the periodic secure joint tenancy by unilateral notice. The husband, as the other joint tenant still living in the property, maintained that he was entitled remain there as a sole tenant.
In fact, the point had already been settled in the case of Hammersmith and Fulham LBC v. Monk  AC 478 which established that at common law, a periodic joint residential tenancy is terminated automatically, if one joint tenant, without the concurrence of the other joint tenant, or tenants serves a notice to quit on the landlord. Continue reading
BUCKLAND v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 40060/08 – HEJUD  ECHR 1710 – read judgment
The ECtHR’s recent decision in Buckland v UK demonstrates again how wonderfully delphic the subject of housing and Article 8 rights to private and family life has become.
In one sense, the outcome was fairly predictable because the case was determined by the UK Courts before the Supreme Court in Manchester CC v Pinnock established the principles of proportionality in possession claims.
Burnip v. Birmingham City Council, Trengrove v. Walsall Metropolitan Council, Gorry v. Wiltshire Council  EWCA Civ 629 – read judgment
In the same week that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan-Smith, announced his intention to implement sweeping reforms of the current system of disability benefits, the Court of Appeal has ruled that housing benefit rules were discriminatory against disabled people, in breach of Article 14 read with Article 1 Protocol 1 of the European Convention.
Mr Duncan-Smith has already faced opposition to his reform proposals but has made it clear that he is willing to tackle this controversial issue. However, this week’s ruling is a timely reminder that social security law is extremely complex and that the Government will have to tread very carefully to avoid unwittingly causing further instances of unlawful discrimination.
R (on the application of Maria Gallastegui) v Westminster City Council  EWHC 1123 (Admin) - Read judgment
On 27 April 2012, Maria Gallastegui, a peace campaigner and resident of the East pavement of Parliament Square since 2006, lost her legal battle to continue her 24 hour, tented vigil in protest against the folly of war and in particular the UK’s involvement in armed conflict.
The Court’s main task was to construe a new law enacted to bolster the legal armoury available to control long-term protests in the Square. Section 143 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 – which came into force on 19 December 2011 – gives a local authority the power to stop “prescribed activities” such as using tents (and other structures) to sleep. They are also empowered to seize items used for these prescribed purposes ie the tents.
De Almeida, R (on the application of) v Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea  EWHC 1082 (Admin) – Read judgment
This was a judicial review of RBK&C’s refusal to provide support under s.21 and s.29 National Assistance Act 1948 and indeed to carry out an assessment under s.47 of the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990.
Mr De A is a Portuguese national. He lived in the UK from 1998 to 2001 and from 2008 to date. He worked during the first period and for a year after his return. Mr De A had contracted HIV and AIDS. His health deteriorated so that he was not able to work. His prognosis in October 2010 was that he had about a year to live. At the time of the first hearing in this case in November 2011, his prognosis was about 6 months.
The City of London has succeeded in its court High Court battle against the Occupy London movement which is currently occupying an area close to St Paul’s Cathedral. As things stand, subject to any appeals, the movement has been evicted.
The Judiciary website will be publishing the full judgment tomorrow morning, but for those seeking it before then, I have uploaded it here. Below is the very helpful summary of the judgment sent to me by the Judicial Office (with apologies for the numbering, which is a quirk of the blog formatting, not the summary).
Denry Okpor v London Borough of Lewisham, Bromley County Court 25 October 2011 [Transcript not publicly available]
Adam Wagner represented Mr Okpor in this case. He is not the author of this post.
This was a rolled up permission to appeal and appeal hearing (on which more later) for appeal to a Circuit Judge from a possession order made by a District Judge at Bromley. At issue was whether the District Judge was wrong to reject a) a proportionality defence and b) a gateway B public law defence arising from Lewisham’s failure to follow its own policy. It is interesting as an example of proportionality/gateway B defences in action in the County Court, but also somewhat frustrating, for reasons which will become clear.
Mr Okpor was the secure tenant of Lewisham. At the age of 15 he had been taken into care by Lewisham following abuse. He left care aged 18 in 2006. In 2009, aged 21, he was given the secure tenancy. Mr O went into full time higher education later that year and has remained in full time higher education. This meant that the relevant Children Act 1989 provisions for care leavers continued to apply and would do until he was 24, if still in full time higher education. Mr O was receiving support from the Lewisham Leaving Care Team.
Child Poverty Action Group v Secretary of State for Work & Pensions  EWHC 2616 (Admin) – Read judgment
On 13 October 2011 Mr Justice Supperstone in the High Court held that changes to rules for calculating housing benefit were lawful and in particular did not breach equality legislation.
Two particular measures were under challenge. The first was the introduction of maximum weekly caps on the amount of local housing allowance (LHA). The second was the reduction of the maximum size in accommodation eligible for housing benefit from five bedrooms to four bedrooms.
Today, an open letter from 158 lawyers and academics has been published in The Guardian claiming that the law on squatting, on which the Government has proposed reforms, has been misrepresented by politicians and the media.
I am one of the letter’s signatories. Amongst other things, it states that:
a significant number of recent media reports have stated that squatters who refuse to leave someone’s home are not committing a criminal offence and that a change in the law – such as that proposed by the government – is needed to rectify this situation.
The accompanying article is here. One interesting aspect of this campaign is that it was organised in part by one of the longest standing and best legal blogs, Nearly Legal. Nearly Legal have used social media, which an ever increasing number of lawyers follow, to gather many of the signatures. Their response is here and some of their previous posts on the topic here and here.
Voyias v Information Commissioner and the London Borough of Camden EA/2011/0007 – Read Judgment
The First Tier Tribunal has overturned a decision of the Information Commissioner and ordered Camden Council to provide information about empty properties in the borough to a former member of the Advisory Service for Squatters.
When one thinks of the term “human rights”, the first example that springs to mind is likely to be the right to life, or the right not to be tortured or enslaved – fundamental guarantees that protect the basic dignity of our human condition. Yet human rights are also intended to serve the core goal of preserving and enhancing the strength and rigour of democratic and pluralistic societies, and so the European Convention of Human Rights (EHCR) also contains provisions guarding against discrimination, and protecting freedom of religion and expression.
In a 1996 episode of The Simpsons, a bear frightens residents of Springfield by strolling down from the mountains. Homer rallies an unruly mob and convinces the town mayor to create a state of the art Bear Patrol, including branded stealth bombers. All is well until Homer receives his pay cheque, which includes an additional $5 “bear tax”.
Which of the proposed responses to this month’s rioting and looting will be a bear patrol, that is a disproportionate and expensive response prompted by an unruly mob of citizens demanding action?
Alongside the human rights review of every public sector organisation, an early candidate is the plans to create a new discretionary power of possession to enable landlords to take swifter action to evict their most anti-social tenants. The government consultation is open until 7 November; see also this letter from Grant Shapps MP explaining the change .
Updated | London Borough of Hounslow v Powell  UKSC 8 (23 February 2011) - Read judgment / press summary
The Supreme Court has given important guidance as to when eviction from local authority housing amounts to a breach of a tenant’s human rights. It has also confirmed that courts should have the power to consider the proportionality of previously automatic possession orders relating to council properties.
The judgment forms a double act with the recent decision in Manchester City Council (Respondent) v Pinnock (Appellant), a path-breaking ruling in which the Supreme Court held that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to private and family life) requires that a court, when asked by a local authority to make an order for possession of a person’s home, must have the power to assess the proportionality of making the order (see Nearly Legal’s excellent discussion of that decision).
Yemshaw (Appellant) v London Borough of Hounslow (Respondent)  UKSC 3 – Read judgment / press summary
The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that “domestic violence” in section 177(1) of the Housing Act 1996 includes physical violence, threatening or intimidating behaviour and any other form of abuse which, directly or indirectly, may give rise to the risk of harm.
The effect of the decision is that anyone threatened with domestic violence, within the Supreme Court’s wider meaning, will not be expected to remain in local authority housing with their abuser. Although the judgement, given by Baroness Hale, did not mention human rights, it clearly impacts on article 8 rights to family life, and alongside the recent decision in Pinnock, could greatly increase the number of people to which local authorities are obliged to provide housing.