Social Housing newsletter

June 2019


Welcome to the summer edition of the social housing newsletter

by Linda Storey


You will have seen the harrowing coverage of the fire which recently tore through a block of flats in Barking. Twenty flats were destroyed and a further ten were damaged by heat and smoke. In response, this week MHCLG has issued an Advice Note advising on the risks which can arise from balconies on residential buildings. The Advice Note reminds developers that combustible materials should not be used on balconies of new residential buildings. Where you have an existing building which has balconies constructed using combustible materials, the Advice Note advises owners to

  • Ensure you understand the materials used;
  • Assess the associated risk of external fires and take appropriate action; and
  • Seek professional help where there is doubt.


The Advice Note can be read here - Balconies on residential buildings: advice note

Our social housing clients have seen a steady increase in the number of claims made by employees for alleged disability discrimination. In our first article, we describe a case where an employer dismissed an employee without knowing the employee was disabled at that time. However, this disability came to light during the appeal process, and the court said the employer should have regard to this when reviewing the dismissal.

Our second article contains our ten top tips for our social housing clients in tackling fraud in the social housing sector. We advise that by adopting these best practices, the monies lost through fraud – which are usually irrecoverable losses – will be reduced.

Finally, many of us believe it is our ‘right’ to receive a signal for our mobile phones. This signal relies on a network of telecommunication apparatus across the country. The agreements relating to the siting of such apparatus are governed by the Electronic Communications Code. The network providers are enforcing their Code rights to the detriment of land owners. Our final article summarises recent cases under the Code and which affect all our social housing clients. One case, for example, concerns a housing association dealing with a network operator who was insisting on carrying out a survey to assess whether a building was a suitable site. A dispute arose, significant costs incurred but which the housing association was unable to recover in full.

I hope you will find this edition informative, of interest and value.

Please do circulate the newsletter to your colleagues.

If you have any suggestions for future articles, please let us know.


Disability discrimination claims in the social housing sector

by Eugene Wojciechowski 


Over the years we have seen a growing number of claims being raised against employers by employees for alleged disability discrimination, including within the social housing sector.  One defence for an employer is that it did not have actual or constructive knowledge that an employee was disabled at the time it committed the alleged discriminatory act.  However, as the case below demonstrates, even though an employer may be unaware that an employee was disabled at the point of dismissal,  this is not necessarily the end of the matter.


Regulatory compliance and tackling fraud in the social housing sector: top ten tips

by Phillip D'Costa


The Annual Fraud Indicator published by Experian found that housing tenancy fraud cost local government £1.83 billion in 2017.  However, with budget cuts, the investigation and recovery of monies lost through fraud is not an operational priority for enforcement agencies. This is despite the fact that fraud in all forms is increasing. Given the relatively low chances of recovering sums lost to fraud through the criminal justice system, it is important that organisations do all they can to guard against the risk of loss through fraud. 


Swiss cheese or cheddar: telecoms update

by Laura West


Since we last covered decisions under the new Electronic Communications Code back in January, we have had four new decisions from the Upper Tribunal, three issued in April 2019 and one in May 2019. 

Two of the decisions touch on the same point; whether Code rights could be ordered to be granted over land already occupied for the purpose (in specific factual circumstances), with the third dealing with rights to require apparatus to be removed to facilitate access to a new residential development. However, the range of points arising on these three cases alone is broad, demonstrating that there is still a smorgasbord of issues up for determination under the new Code.