News, events and consultations

Next HLPA Meeting 13th March 2018

Allocations Cases and How to Run Them Effectively

The speakers will be Ann Bevington, Hopkin Murray Beskine Solicitors and Martin Westgate QC, Doughty Street Chambers

Please note that the meeting will take place from 18.30 to 21.00 (to include the AGM from 18.30-19.00). The location for this meeting is:

BPP University Law School, Lecture Theatre, Lower Ground Floor, 68-70 Red Lion Street, London, WC1R 4NY

Fitness for Habitation Bill passes Second Reading

The Housing (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill passed Second Reading in the House of Commons unanimously on 19 January 2018. The Bill is a private members bill brought by Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, but, very unusually, it now has the support of both Labour and the Government. This means it now has a very good chance of becoming law.

The Bill will insert an implied term into all English tenancies of less than 7 years term that the landlord will ensure the property is fit for habitation at the start of the tenancy and keep it fit throughout. It will apply to all new social and private tenancies after it is in force, and then to all existing periodic tenancies after one year.

Giles Peaker, former chair of HLPA, and Justin Bates, former vice-chair, have been working closely with Karen Buck on the drafting and progress of the Bill since the conception of the first version of the Bill in 2015. HLPA members have been active in support – and it is the breadth and strength of support that encouraged the Government to also get behind the Bill.

The Bill will now go to committee stage. There is no timetable yet, but it is possible that the Bill will get Royal Assent in July and be in force by the autumn of this year.

HLPA’s Executive Committee would like to thank both Giles and Justin for their continued work in ensuring this vitally important piece of legislation, which goes hand in hand with the work done by HLPA’s Law Reform and Grenfell Sub-Committees, becomes law.

Simon Marciniak

HLPA Chair

January 2018

Next HLPA Meeting 17th January 2018

Homelessness Update-Vulnerability after Panayiotou

The speakers will be Tessa Buchanan, Garden Court Chambers and Toby Vanhegan, Arden Chambers.

Please note that the meeting will take place from 6.30 to 8.30pm and will be at the new venue. The location for this meeting is:

BPP University Law School, Lecture Theatre, Lower Ground Floor, 68-70 Red Lion Street, London, WC1R 4NY

Next HLPA Meeting 15 November 2017

Housing Law Update

The speakers will be John Gallagher, Shelter and Marina Sergides, Garden Court Chambers.

Please note that the meeting will take place from 6.30 to 8.30pm and will be at the new venue. The location for this meeting is:

BPP University Law School, 68-70 Red Lion Street, London, WC1R 4NY

HLPA STATEMENT-THE GRENFELL PUBLIC INQUIRY: WHAT NEXT?

On the 4th August 2017, HLPA wrote to Sir Martin Moore-Bick following his invitation for responses re the proposed terms of reference in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. HLPA proposed that the Inquiry consider more than merely the direct cause of the fire, but the relationship between the tenants and the TMO and RBKC and wider issues concerning the standards of the residents’ accommodation and their entitlement (or lack of) to hold their landlord to account. It asked the Inquiry to examine the institutional failures, both of Local and Central Government, and to investigate any institutional and political disregard demonstrated towards social tenants which arguably led to this tragedy”. It went on to state that current legislation, regulations and housing standards do not protect the safety and rights of tenants, who are unable to effectively enforce those housing standards. A full copy of HLPA’s proposed terms of reference can be found on HLPA’s website.

 

Following this consultation process, Sir Martin Moore-Bick wrote to Theresa May on 10th August 2017 setting out his recommended terms of reference. Those were as follows:

 

(i) to examine the circumstances surrounding the fire at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017, including

(a) the immediate cause or causes of the fire and the means by which it spread to the whole of the building;

(b) the design and construction of the building and the decisions relating to its modification, refurbishment and management;

(c) the scope and adequacy of building regulations, fire regulations and other legislation, guidance and industry practice relating to the design, construction, equipping and management of high-rise residential buildings;

(d) whether such regulations, legislation, guidance and industry practice were complied with in the case of Grenfell Tower and the fire safety measures adopted in relation to it;

(e) the arrangements made by the local authority or other responsible bodies for receiving and acting upon information either obtained from local residents or available from other sources (including information derived from fires in other buildings) relating to the risk of fire at Grenfell Tower, and the action taken in response to such information [emphasis added];

(f) the fire prevention and fire safety measures in place at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017;

(g) the response of the London Fire Brigade to the fire;

(h) the response of central and local government in the days immediately following the fire;

(ii) to report its findings to the prime minister as soon as possible and to make recommendations.

Theresa May responded to Sir Moore Bick’s letter on 15th August 2017, accepting the recommended terms of reference.

 

On the 8th September 2017, HLPA applied for core participant status in Grenfell Tower Inquiry and set out how HLPA’s experience and expertise in the issues relevant to (d) and (e) above could assist the Inquiry. HLPA’s request was rejected on the 11th October 2017 for the following reason:

 

“The applicant may have useful evidence to give to the Inquiry in relation to the ability

of social housing tenants to ensure that landlords adhere to proper standards, but it

does not need to be a core participant in order to do so. It will not itself be affected by

the outcome of the Inquiry and does not have a significant interest in an important

aspect of the matters to which the inquiry relates within the meaning of rule 5(2)(b) of

the Inquiry Rules 2006.”

 

 

Beyond Sir Moore Bick’s Public Inquiry

 

 

HLPA calls for Theresa May to hold an Inquiry into the wider tenancy issues that will not be considered by this Inquiry but that are, nevertheless, hugely important to understanding the breakdown in the relationship between RBKC and the Grenfell tenants and to the future wellbeing of social and private renting tenants.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry, though clearly necessary, is simply not what (a) was promised or (b) sufficient to address the real and underlying social and economic problems that exist today.

 

Sir Moore Bick himself did not consider this Inquiry to be the best place to consider wider tenancy issues but also felt that they needed to be investigated. He made it clear to Theresa May, in his letter of 10th August 2017, that matters relating to social housing generally should be examined. He stated as follows:

 

“As a result of the consultation it has become clear that many of those who have been affected by the fire and some others feel strongly that the scope of the inquiry should be very broad and should include an examination of social housing policy and all aspects of the relationship between the residents of the Lancaster West Estate on the one hand and the local authority and the tenant management organisation on the other.

Many also feel very strongly that it should examine whether the response of local and central government to the disaster was and continues to be appropriate or adequate and whether arrangements should have been in place for responding to a disaster of this magnitude.

I can well understand why local people consider that these are important questions which require urgent examination.

I share their concerns, but on careful reflection I have come to the conclusion that the inquiry you have asked me to conduct is not the best way of satisfying their wishes for two reasons:

(i) First, there is an obvious need for my inquiry to complete its work as quickly as possible in order to identify defects in the design, construction (including refurbishment) and management of the building that may exist elsewhere and put at risk others who live and work in similar high-rise structures. To give the inquiry terms of reference which would cover all the matters requested by local residents and others would inevitably add significantly to the length of time needed to complete its work.

(ii) Secondly, the inclusion of such broad questions within the scope of the inquiry would raise questions of a social, economic and political nature which in my view are not suitable for a judge-led inquiry.

They are questions which could more appropriately be examined by a different kind of process or body, one which could include persons who have experience of the provision and management of social housing, local government finances and disaster relief planning. It could operate in parallel with the inquiry and would be welcomed by many” [emphasis added].

 

 

Theresa May, in her written response on 15th August 2017, acknowledged and accepted Sir Moore Bick’s concern and stated as follows:

 

“The terms of reference do not address some of the broader social issues that some people have called for the inquiry to consider. I understand your concern about the suitability of considering such broader issues in a judge-led inquiry and the urgent need for the inquiry to complete its work as soon as possible, so that essential lessons can be learnt. This mitigates against very broad terms of reference and I accept your reasons for focusing the inquiry in the way you have.

However, to date, there has been nothing of substance. The Housing Minster, Alok Sharma MP, has conducted a series of listening events which is neither consistent with Sir. Moore-Bick recommendations and nor is it consistent with Theresa May’s written response.

 

HLPA calls on Theresa May to urgently hold an independent inquiry into the matters set out in HLPA’s letter to Sir Moore Bick on 4th August 2017 and as proposed by Sir Moore Bick himself.

 

 

 

HLPA Grenfell sub-group

31st October 2017

POST-SCR|IPT

Please see the link below for a list of the issues to be investigated by the Inquiry:

https://www.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/List-of-issues-to-be-investigated.pdf

 

HLPA Conference 13 December 2017

The 2017 HLPA Conference is now open for booking and it will take place at a new venue: The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists at 27 Sussex Place, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4RG, on 13th December 2017. The conference is open to members and non-members alike and booking information can be found here: www.profbriefings.co.uk/hlc2017

Visitors are invited to check the site again closer to the event for more details of the format of the conference. A 10% discount on fees is offered to members who register before 18.00 on 16th November.