News, events and consultations

Brent and allocations – deadline for responses extended to Friday 24 September

Dear HLPA members,

HLPA has been approached for assistance with an information gathering exercise. Its solicitor/trainee solicitor/paralegal members are invited to spare a few minutes to complete a 7 question survey relating to casework experience of clients who have approached the London Borough of Brent for housing assistance – https://forms.gle/wbTatJ1D4tgmkRJQ6. Please provide responses by 20/09/2021.

The purpose of the survey is to further inform issues in a judicial review challenge of Brent’s Allocations Scheme. Representatives of both parties are HLPA members; Sam O’Flaherty of Osbornes Law and Tim Baldwin of Garden Court Chambers for the Claimant and Justin Bates of Landmark Chambers for the Defendant. The survey has been prepared by the Claimant’s representatives.

What is the judicial review challenge about?

It is accepted between the parties that Brent’s 2013 Allocations Scheme, as currently drafted, fails to give reasonable preference to homeless applicants who have not had a main s193(2) homelessness duty accepted, contrary to s166A(3)(a)-(b) of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended). The scheme places them in Band D where they are prohibited from bidding at all. It only affords reasonable preference to those homeless applicants who have had a s193(2) accepted, by placing them in Band C.

A Freedom of Information response from Brent indicated that 847 applicants since 2013 presented as homeless but the main duty was not accepted and were either placed in Band D or had their applications refused. It also confirmed that there are currently 638 applicants in Band D who presented as homeless but have not had a main duty accepted.

Brent are amending the Scheme to rectify the fault and have agreed to take steps to identify affected applicants, with a view to affording them reasonable preference. There is a dispute about whether the proposed steps are adequate and whether the timeframe for amending the Scheme is justified (by January/February 2022, following consultation & approval).

There is also a dispute about whether the Claimant still has standing, as they have had a main duty accepted and been placed in Band C as a result since the challenge was raised.

A permission hearing is due to be listed at the end of October or in November 2021.

If HLPA members know of homeless clients in the Brent area that may fall within the affected group and wish to take part in the proceedings, they are welcome to contact Sam O’Flaherty of Osbornes Law.

Samuel O’Flaherty samuel.oflaherty@osborneslaw.co.uk
Solicitor
Litigation & Housing & Social Care Departments

HLPA survey for solicitors with Brent clients – Deadline: 20/09/2021

Dear HLPA members,

HLPA has been approached for assistance with an information gathering exercise. Its solicitor/trainee solicitor/paralegal members are invited to spare a few minutes to complete a 7 question survey relating to casework experience of clients who have approached the London Borough of Brent for housing assistance – https://forms.gle/wbTatJ1D4tgmkRJQ6. Please provide responses by 20/09/2021.

The purpose of the survey is to further inform issues in a judicial review challenge of Brent’s Allocations Scheme. Representatives of both parties are HLPA members; Sam O’Flaherty of Osbornes Law and Tim Baldwin of Garden Court Chambers for the Claimant and Justin Bates of Landmark Chambers for the Defendant. The survey has been prepared by the Claimant’s representatives.

What is the judicial review challenge about?

It is accepted between the parties that Brent’s 2013 Allocations Scheme, as currently drafted, fails to give reasonable preference to homeless applicants who have not had a main s193(2) homelessness duty accepted, contrary to s166A(3)(a)-(b) of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended). The scheme places them in Band D where they are prohibited from bidding at all. It only affords reasonable preference to those homeless applicants who have had a s193(2) accepted, by placing them in Band C.

A Freedom of Information response from Brent indicated that 847 applicants since 2013 presented as homeless but the main duty was not accepted and were either placed in Band D or had their applications refused. It also confirmed that there are currently 638 applicants in Band D who presented as homeless but have not had a main duty accepted.

Brent are amending the Scheme to rectify the fault and have agreed to take steps to identify affected applicants, with a view to affording them reasonable preference. There is a dispute about whether the proposed steps are adequate and whether the timeframe for amending the Scheme is justified (by January/February 2022, following consultation & approval).

There is also a dispute about whether the Claimant still has standing, as they have had a main duty accepted and been placed in Band C as a result since the challenge was raised.

A permission hearing is due to be listed at the end of October or in November 2021.

If HLPA members know of homeless clients in the Brent area that may fall within the affected group and wish to take part in the proceedings, they are welcome to contact Sam O’Flaherty of Osbornes Law.

Samuel O’Flaherty
Solicitor
Litigation & Housing & Social Care Departments
Direct Dial: 020 7681 8406

HLPA CONFERENCE 2021

HLPA Conference 2021 will take place online and it will be held on 9 December 2021.

The proposed theme is ‘Improving the quality of social housing’. Details to follow.

Next HLPA Meeting 21 July 2021 – 6:30pm

The next HLPA meeting will be held on 21 July 2021 from 18.30-20.30 on the topic of Developments in Homelessness and Judicial Review.

The speakers will be:

Derek Bernardi
Camden Community Law Centre
Sarah Steinhardt
Doughty Street Chambers

Open letter to Secretaries of State for Housing and Justice

House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA
robert.buckland.mp@parliament.uk
robert.jenrick.mp@parliament.uk

CC’ed
Rt Hon Thangam Debbonaire, Shadow Secretary for Housing
Rt Hon David Lammy, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

6th January 2021

Dear Rt Hon Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State HCLG
Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC, Lord Chancellor

On 4 January 2021 a further national lockdown was announced. The public health crisis is worse now than in March 2020 and the new, more virulent strain of Covid-19, has accelerated the crisis alarmingly. It is 50-70% more contagious than it was in March and it is considered that up to 1 in 50 people have it.

During relatively less torrid periods of the pandemic, possession claims were stayed to protect parties, advocates and court staff from the inherent dangers in conducting possession lists at court, as well as the unthinkable consequences of tenants and borrowers being made homeless.

There is no logical or persuasive reason why the measures put in place in March 2020 should not be put in place again pending roll out of the vaccine:

Nobody should lose their home during a pandemic where their personal and economic circumstances are entirely beyond their control . These are unprecedented times and peoples’ incomes and financial circumstances are worse than they were in March 2020.

Nobody should lose their home where they are unable to effectively access legal advice and representation and the courts. In April 2020, HLPA submitted written evidence in the Court of Appeal case of Arkin v Marshall to illustrate the difficulties faced by HLPA members and their clients. That evidence, which was not disputed, remains as relevant now as it was then.

Nobody should be forced to travel to court to try to save their home. Individuals must always have the absolute right to act in a way which does not to place their life at risk; and they must not be forced to choose between that right and preserving a roof over their head.

Nobody should be out on the streets. People without a home or at risk of losing their home must engage in frequent and repeated contact with others in order to keep themselves and their families safely housed. That is simply not compatible with public health guidance and regulations.

HLPA calls for the government to act now:

(i)  extend the moratorium on eviction beyond 11 January 2020;

(ii)  put the ‘everyone in’ policy on a formal footing so that councils are obliged to accommodate everyone at risk of rough sleeping, including those with no recourse to public funds; and

(iii)  there must be an immediate stay on possession proceedings.

We welcomed the commitment of the Secretary of State for Housing when he said on 18 March 2020, that “no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home.” It follows, therefore, that he must also:

•  Abolish s.21 (as promised in the government’s manifesto).
•  Suspend Ground 8 in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 to allow judges to decide in rent arrears cases.
•  Reform the benefits system to ensure that at the very least it acts as an effective welfare safety net.

HLPA is also deeply concerned that its members, the ones who have only just survived brutal attacks on legal aid through LASPO, will again be at risk of financial meltdown. Many will not survive. It is imperative to the administration of justice, the rule of law, and the government’s stated aim of a fair deal for renters that our sector is sustained. Housing lawyers need to be supported, not attacked, and they need it urgently.

Yours sincerely,

Marina Sergides
Simon Mullings
Co-Chairs of HLPA

HLPA Autumn Survey – Legal Aid and Administrative Law Review

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfwU8a12tEnASDQGmdrb_OODtx6qzOoVsAlXzEEbHZp9RZ1ag/viewform?usp=sf_link

HLPA is surveying members and others in order to help respond to (i) the Justice Select Committee’s inquiry in to Future of Legal Aid and (ii) the Government’s review of Administrative Law.
These two inquiries deal with existential issues not just for HLPA members, but also affect our clients and their rights very deeply. The same is true for many other areas of law and advocacy.
Please help to re-publicise the survey widely.
Legal aid – the rights of ordinary people to access the law have already been eroded. This process is not inevitable and must be reversed to prevent inequality between those who can and can not afford access to justice.
Administrative law – HLPA members use administrative law to guarantee the legal rights of homeless people in the county courts and the High Court, tenants facing eviction in the county courts, and people needing social care for themselves or their children.
Please complete the survey and urge anyone else who you think should in order to that we can make sure ourselves heard at this critical moment.
We’ll leave the survey open as long as we can but please respond as soon as you can.

Thank you.

Extension of the CPR 55 stay (redux)

HLPA welcomes the short extension of the stay on possession proceedings announced on 20 August 2020. However, the stay itself will not prevent an unmanageable flood of evictions, many of which will be manifestly unjust unless the government uses this time constructively to address the longer term protections needed for renters.

Our message is clear: We call on the government to honour its manifesto commitment to abolish s21 ‘no fault’ evictions, to let judges decide on ALL possession cases, to urgently reform the chaotic benefits system and to extend homelessness duties for those who are evicted as a result of this pandemic. This must include those with No Recourse to Public Funds.

HLPA is working hard with the Master of the Rolls’ Working Group on making the eventual lifting of stay work as best as possible for our members and our clients. We will continue to do so while campaigning on the issues above which are outwith the Working Group’s remit.

Judicial Review Matters – Justice Alliance meeting Weds 5th August 6:30

On Wednesday 5th August 6:30 our friends Justice Alliance will host by Zoom a first public meeting to discuss the government’s Independent Review of Administrative Law.

Many are deeply concerned about this review. Judicial review provides an essential check on Executive power.

Sign up here and please share the link with friends and colleagues: https://eventbrite.co.uk/e/judicial-review-matters-tickets-115699711953

#JudicialReviewMatters