Social housing in London Bar
Cornerstone Barristers is particularly well-known for acting for local authorities and housing associations in some of the most complex, groundbreaking cases impacting the social housing sphere. Its 'first-rate' members combine housing law knowledge with extensive expertise in related areas, such as the Children Act, adult social care, and immigration rights. Reflective of the set's involvement in high-profile cases, in 2018, Ranjit Bhose QC represented the London Borough of Haringey in Peters (on behalf of the ‘Stop the HDV Campaign Group’) v London Borough of Haringey & Lendlease Europe Holdings Limited, a judicial review claim challenging the lawfulness of the local authority entering into the proposed Haringey Development Vehicle; this is a multi-million pound 50-50 public-private partnership vehicle (the biggest local authority housing regeneration vehicle ever in the UK), which was to be used to regenerate Haringey’s housing estates. Also of note, Ryan Kohli acted as sole counsel to the appellant in the landmark Court of Appeal case of Paragon Housing Association v Neville, which concerned the impact of the Equality Act 2010 on warrant suspension applications. Chambers has been strengthened by the arrival of Riccardo Calzavara from Arden Chambers.
Doughty Street Chambers garners praise from instructing law firms, who note that it 'provides excellent service and has a number of standout barristers'. Its reputation as one of the leading sets for social housing (notably on the tenant side) is underpinned by its consistent involvement in many of the leading decisions in this area, as well as cases involving novel legal issues. Martin Westgate QC and Dominic Preston acted for Abdelrahim Alibkhiet at the Supreme Court in Alibkhiet v Brent LBC, which concerns a challenge to the local authority's procurement and allocations policy in relation to the provision of temporary accommodation. The matter is now pending before the Supreme Court. Also notable is that Westgate QC and others represented the non-governmental organisation Liberty as an intervening party in Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants v Secretary of State for the Home Department; Goloshvili v Secretary of State for the Home Department. These are two linked, systemic challenges to the government's 'Right to Rent' scheme.
4-5 Gray's Inn Square inherited a sizeable social housing team when it merged with Arden Chambers in October 2018. The group has expertise in the full range of issues, including homelessness, housing benefit, rent arrears, and anti-social behaviour. Reflective of the footprint of the amalgamated set in the sector, a number of members are playing a key role in the Grenfell Tower inquiry. In addition, numerous individuals have appeared at the Supreme Court recently; in one example, Jonathan Manning represented the local authority respondent in Samuels v Birmingham CC; this was a homelessness appeal, which concerned whether or not the appellant had lawfully been found to be intentionally homeless, on the basis that the accommodation she left was affordable. In the Court of Appeal, Toby Vanhegan represented the tenant in Powell v Dacorum BC; this is the leading case on compliance with the public sector equality duty in possession cases.
Five Paper has 'a good spread across senior and junior levels' in the social housing arena. One referee commented that it is 'second to none in terms of its knowledge and experience of the sector'. Also notable is that 'the clerks are very personable and diligent; led well by David Portch'. The set is noted for its strengths in acting for landlords, local authorities and social housing organisations. It has featured in many high-profile and landmark cases; in one example, Nicholas Grundy QC was the lead counsel to the London Borough of Brent in Alibkhiet v LB Brent, where the Court of Appeal held there was no obligation to tell applicants of available housing closer to Brent, and that the local authority's allocation policy and procurement of accommodation were lawful. Another instruction saw Grundy QC serve as the lead counsel for the local authority in XPQ v The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham; this case addressed the housing duties of local authorities to human trafficking victims. Tina Conlan represented the local authority at the Court of Appeal in Kannan v LB Newham, which involved a homelessness statutory appeal on the suitability of accommodation.
Garden Court Chambers has, according to one client, 'a huge cadre of talented barristers, and the clerks will bend over backward to ensure you have excellent cover, if necessary'; housing practice manager Tim Hempstead is 'very good at ensuring that you get a response'. The set has had significant involvement in the Grenfell Tower inquiry, with it representing circa 280 bereaved individuals, survivors and residents (BSR) core participants. As part of the ‘G4’ team, the work entails detailed scrutiny of the actions of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Tenant Management Organisation, police and fire brigade. Members are also representing former tenants in disputes involving various issues, particularly rehousing allocation. Elsewhere, the set excels in all types of general housing disputes, and is also outstanding in more specialised cases (such as public law homelessness appeals and accommodation-related community care judicial review claims). Illustrative of its excellent record in cases of the utmost significance, Tim Baldwin represented the defendant at the Court of Appeal in LB Hackney v Yavuz Yildiz; this case concerns succession to a secure tenancy and the interplay between Ground 15A of Schedule Two of the Housing Act 1985 and Section 83. In another matter before the Court of Appeal, Edward Fitzpatrick and Justine Compton acted for the defendant in Paragon Asra Housing Limited v James Neville, a test case on disability discrimination and the extent to which the Equality Act 2010 can be raised at the eviction stage of a possession claim where there was a previous suspended possession order.
Field Court Chambers has significantly strengthened its social housing offering by adding three barristers to its bench of advocates; Alexander Campbell, Clare Cullen and Sarah McKeown joined from the now dissolved Arden Chambers in 2018. According to one source, chambers are 'willing provide some advice on the way forward with matters, even if they have not yet been instructed', which is well received by clients. Sarah Salmon represented the London Borough of Wandsworth in its successful possession claim, which had been defended by the defendants on the basis that the doctrine of survivorship was incompatible with Article 8 ECHR. Elsewhere, practitioners have handled cases involving challenges connected with the allocation of accommodation, homelessness appeals, disrepair cases, and service charges, among various other matters.
Hardwicke has 'tremendous depth in the social housing sphere' and is 'always able to find someone to deal with a matter'. Chambers has a strong track record acting for local authorities, housing associations and tenants across the entire spectrum of issues. The trend for a number of housing associations to consolidate into 'super housing associations' has led to the set becoming a first port of call for a number of those large entities. In one case highlight, Morayo Fagborun Bennett (who recently completed a secondment with the Peabody Trust) acted for A2 Dominion in a possession claim arising from the tenant's rent arrears, and also her failure to occupy the premises as her only or principal home. In a notably high-value matter, Laura Tweedy is defending Family Mosaic against a circa £14m damages claim brought by a tenant.