Interesting decisions in Housing law to end 2014
Our Housing team review some the interesting legal decisions in 2014 affecting the Housing sector and some to look forward to in early 2015.
Damages in Unlawful Eviction Cases – How much?
The Supreme Court has recently awarded a former tenant of Lambeth LBC damages of £90,500 plus £9,000 for the loss of his personal possessions. This followed the tenant's unlawful eviction by the Council while he was abroad. This case has clarified that statutory damages for unlawful eviction are to be calculated in the same way, regardless of whether or not the property is owned by a private or public sector landlord.
This case is a timely reminder of the need to exercise caution when dealing with an abandoned property. All housing teams should be aware of this significant legal decision.
Landlord's Liable for Disturbances by Tenants
A recent decision by a District Judge could have significant ramifications for letting agents and landlords. The case concerned neighbours of a property in Poole Harbour in Dorset. The neighbours had complained about excessive noise from stag and hen parties. The lettings agent argued that as they were not present on the premises when the noise was occurring, they could not be held responsible for disturbances caused by guests. The District Judge disagreed and his ruling means that landlords and letting agents could be liable for fines of up to £20,000 if they ignore Noise Abatement Orders in the future.
…..and looking ahead to early 2015
CCTV Cameras in Domestic Properties
In recent years, it has become common for tenants and other householders to install their own closed circuit television cameras on their property. The recent annual report of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner indicated that householders could shortly have rules imposed on them following a rise in complaints about snooping. Guidance is to be issued in January 2015 to address privacy concerns. The Commissioner has warned that if the new guidance proves ineffective, he will recommend that the Government take action.
In addition, a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice found that images captured on a household surveillance camera could breach data protection rules if the person was filmed whilst on a public footpath when videoed. This judgment could have significant consequences for tenants and householders in the UK who use CCTV.
Anti-Social Behaviour Injunctions – The New Law
Much of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 came into force on 20 October 2014. However, the introduction of the new anti-social behaviour injunction was delayed in order to make sure that minors would have access to legal aid to challenge them. Changes were required to be made to legal aid and this process is expected to be completed in January 2015. Consequently, the existing system for applying for an anti-social behaviour injunction remains in place. There is already speculation that the new injunctions could be delayed until closer to the general election in May 2015.
Shared Ownership – New Guidance
Guidance has been produced for lenders and housing associations to explain best practice in handling mortgage and/or rent arrears. It aims to ensure that enforcement procedures are handled efficiently and effectively between the housing association and the lender. The guidance stresses the importance of communication between the housing association and the lender. It suggests:
- a service level agreement between the parties setting out common understanding; and
- a framework regarding expected standards of responsibilities and service.
If you haven't reviewed the arrangements you have with lenders then make this a priority in 2015 to ensure arrears are tackled quickly and effectively.