A fifth edition of this text on homelessness and allocations has just been published.
Written by three barristers from Garden Court Chambers, the book provides a comprehensive explanation of the legislation governing homelessness duties and the allocation of social housing. The position in both England and Wales is covered.
When I say 'comprehensive' I'm not kidding. The principal difference between this book and its main competitor (Arden et al's 'Homelessness and Allocations', reviewed here) is that many of the issues receive a fuller explanation. This is reflected by the cost (£100) for its 1239 pages (excluding appendices).
Personal preference will no doubt determine which of the two books you reach for first.
It can be ordered direct from LexisNexis here.
Luba et al certainly compares favourably to Arden in its treatment of allocations. There are six chapters devoted to the various aspects of how social housing is allocated (compared with just one chapter in Arden).
I found this first half of the book invaluable when recently helping a council adopt a new allocation scheme. The following issues benefit from pretty exhaustive commentary:
Its larger size ensures the book comes into its own in several key respects.
Firstly, when explaining the various legal rules which must be applied by councils, the separate limbs which make up the relevant legal test are often considered separately and in detail. This methodical treatment of the subject helps the reader identify whether a local authority's actions may be unlawful.
Secondly, many Ombudsman reports and unreported cases are cited, including county court cases. References are made to Legal Action's monthly updater for those cases which are not in the law reports, which can be invaluable if you want to read a fuller summary.
The second half of the book deals with the legal duties councils have towards homeless people.
The text has been revised to take account of the significant amendments to the statutory safety net made by the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. In this respect it should be noted that co-author Liz Davies drafted the original version of the Homelessness Reduction Bill for Crisis.
A separate chapter explains the duties which are owed to homeless persons in Wales, while there are two chapters on the various homelessness duties in England: one chapter covers the various duties to secure accommodation while another addresses the non-accommodation duties. The separate treatment of the English and Welsh position helps to ensure the commentary is not muddied by the cross-border differences.
As you'd expect there are separate chapters dealing with the five 'hurdles' for the homeless applicant (eligibility, homelessness, priority need, intentionality and local connection).
There are also chapters on:
There is also a very useful chapter on the obligation on housing authorities to formulate local homelessness strategies. This will be invaluable if you're reviewing the services available to homeless people in your council's district.
In addition to setting out the legal position suggestions are often made about approaches which, although not strictly required in a legal sense, constitute good administration.
If all that isn't enough, then two appendices reproduce the relevant legislation and regulations in amended form, and the statutory guidance (for England). There's also a cd which contains the same in Word format, as well as the Welsh equivalents.
What this book doesn't have is a separate and detailed explanation of the underlying principles of public law and the grounds on which the actions of local authorities can be unlawful albeit that these 'errors of law' are listed in Chapter 19).
Neither, unlike the Arden book, are there precedent documents for solicitors and barristers.
Given its size and the detailed way in which the subject matter is treated, the first task when using this book may be actually finding what you're looking for.
It's therefore unfortunate that, unlike the previous edition, a full pdf version of the text is not available (I would often use a key word or the name of a case to search the electronic copy to identify where to look in the hard copy). Somewhat surprisingly, the publisher informs me there's been little demand for pdf versions of LexisNexis titles.
Having said that, the structure of the book is clear are logical and there's an index. Also, the sections of each chapter are listed both in the main contents and at the start of each chapter.
Since it was first published in 2006, I've found this book an essential companion.
In what I think is the acid test for a reference book, my copy of the last edition is thoroughly battered. To look at it you wouldn't think it was less than three years old.
Whether you're advising housing applicants or administering housing applications this is an essential purchase if you need to get to grips with (or need your staff to understand) the relevant law.