Category: Housing


The Round-Up: Constitutional Commotions, Council Housing and Article 8, and the A6 Compatibility of ASBO Legislation

27 May 2018 by Eleanor Leydon

Yes campaigners react as they wait at Dublin Castle for the official result of the Irish abortion referendum

Image Credit: The Guardian

In a landmark moment for women’s rights, the Irish electorate has voted in favour of abolishing the 8th Amendment by a stunning two-thirds majority of 1,429,981 votes to 723,632.

Whilst abortion has long been illegal in Ireland under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the notorious 8th Amendment, which gives the foetus’ right to life absolute parity with that of the woman carrying it, was enacted after a 1983 referendum lobbied for by pro-life activists. By virtue of the amendment:

“The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

Lawyers for Yes emphasised that the amendment created ‘absolute legal paralysis in dealing with crisis pregnancies’ and had to be repealed if women in Ireland were to receive ‘appropriate’ and ‘compassionate’ healthcare. Also on the UKHRB, Rosalind English shares a powerful analysis of the extraordinary nature of the legal obligations imposed on women’s bodies by this provision.

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The Round Up: Grenfell, lost DVDs, and a Deputy Judge who erred in law.

21 May 2018 by Conor Monighan

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law.

Grenfell

Credit: The Guardian

In the News:

An independent report into building regulations, commissioned by the government in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, has called for the current regulatory system to be overhauled.

However, the report surprised some because it did not recommend a ban on flammable cladding. It also declined to recommend stopping so-called ‘desktop studies’, where materials are tested without setting them on fire. The chairman of Grenfell United expressed disappointment at this conclusion. The Royal Institute of British Architects expressed support for banning inflammable cladding and the government has said it will consult on the issue. The Prime Minister has also pledged £400 million to remove flammable cladding from tower blocks.

The author of the report, Dame Judith Hackitt, said that banning the cladding was insufficient. Instead, she stated that a ‘whole system change’ is needed. Dame Hackitt warned that cost was being prioritised over safety and that ‘banning activities and particular materials […] will create a false sense of security’.

The report recommended fundamental changes to building regulations, saying that the process which drives compliance with the regulations are ‘weak and complex’. Dame Hackitt found that there was a ‘race to the bottom’ in the building industry that was putting people at risk. She also wrote that product testing must be made more transparent, and that residents’ voices were not being listened to.

The Grenfell Inquiry will open this week. For the first two weeks, the lives of those who died will be remembered in a series of commemorations.
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The Round-up: Controversy over the Courts Charge and Serdar Mohammed

10 August 2015 by Hannah Lynes

Photo credit: The Guardian

In the news

The Howard League for Penal Reform has called for a review of the “unfair and unrealistic” Criminal Courts Charge, which “ penalises the poor and encourages the innocent to plead guilty”. The mandatory charge of up to £1,200 is imposed on those who admit committing minor misdemeanours, regardless of their circumstances.

The charity has compiled a list of cases where heavy financial charges have been demanded of people convicted of low-level offences. These include the case of a 38-year-old homeless man who admitted persistently begging in Oxford, and breaching an Asbo prohibiting him from sitting within 10 metres of a cash machine. He was jailed for 30 days and ordered to pay a £150 criminal courts charge.

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Housing, Article 8 and A1P1 in the Supreme Court

14 November 2014 by David Hart QC

mapmainSims v Dacorum Borough Council [2014] UKSC 63 – read judgment 12 November 2014 and

R (ota ZH and CN) v. LB Newham et al [2014] UKSC 62 – read judgment 12 November 2014

A brace of cases showing the limited role which Article 8 and Article 1 of the 1st Protocol has to play in housing law, so heavily regulated by a combination of statute and contract law. The human right protections conferred, as we shall see, are mainly procedural.

The contract and property issues are well illustrated by the case of Sims. Mr and Mrs Sims had lived in a council property, until Mrs Sims left, she said as a result of her husband’s violence. For her own housing reasons she sought termination of their periodic secure joint tenancy by unilateral notice. Her husband, as the other joint tenant still living in the property, maintained in response to possession proceedings that he was entitled to remain there as a sole tenant; anything else was inconsistent with his Article 8 and A1P1 rights.

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Another “Bedroom Tax” Challenge Fails

4 July 2014 by Guest Contributor

Bedroom taxRutherford and Ors v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2014] 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.

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Supreme Court find A1P1 breach in retrospective legislation

24 April 2013 by David Hart QC

19053359-2Salvesen v. Riddell [2013] 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.

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Joint tenancy rule has nothing to do with Convention rights

25 January 2013 by Rosalind English

first-home-buyersMichael Sims v Dacorum Borough Council [2013] 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 [1992] 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.
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More from Strasbourg on possession and Article 8 – Nearly Legal

24 September 2012 by Guest Contributor

BUCKLAND v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 40060/08 – HEJUD [2012] 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.

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Housing benefit system discriminated against disabled people, rules Court of Appeal

19 May 2012 by Alasdair Henderson

Burnip v. Birmingham City Council, Trengrove v. Walsall Metropolitan Council, Gorry v. Wiltshire Council [2012] 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.

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Peace campaigner evicted from Parliament Square using new law – Marina Wheeler

17 May 2012 by Guest Contributor

R (on the application of Maria Gallastegui) v Westminster City Council [2012] 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.

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Unlawful to refuse support for Portuguese with AIDS – Nearly Legal

15 May 2012 by Guest Contributor

De Almeida, R (on the application of) v Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea [2012] 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.

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Occupy London to be evicted – full judgment

18 January 2012 by Adam Wagner

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).


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Policy, possession and proportionality – Nearly Legal

1 January 2012 by Guest Contributor

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.

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Another cuts challenge fails: Changes to housing benefit scheme is lawful

14 October 2011 by Richard Mumford

Child Poverty Action Group v Secretary of State for Work & Pensions [2011] 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.

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Misrepresenting the law on squatting

26 September 2011 by Adam Wagner

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.

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