Housing Law Handbook
Regular readers and attendees at my training courses will know that one of my favourite books on housing law has always been Diane Astin’s “Housing Law Handbook”, published by LAG.
I have championed this book for some years now, as a great grab and go-to guide for so many issues, from possession proceedings and common landlord and tenant problems, through to homelessness law, leaseholder legislation, disrepair and duties on social services in housing-related problems.
It has always had such a comprehensive sweep of knowledge that I can’t imagine anyone working in a variety of housing law related fields not finding it essential.
Now in its 4th edition
So I was much enthused to find the fourth edition arriving on my doorstep (as with all housing law books, too big to go through a letterbox), covering the usual suspects and all the changes that have come in over the past three years since the third edition, which in landlord and tenant law terms have been humungous, given the Deregulation Act and the Housing and Planning Act, not to mention the curates egg that is the Homelessness Reduction Act.
Last week I did a presentation to a landlord’s forum for a London authority and emphasised the point that since the introduction of the recent legislation no landlord can afford to just ‘Get-by’ anymore.
Government legislation has put paid to that. The days of the well-meaning amateur are well and truly over and getting things wrong at any stage can prove a costly exercise.
Why I like this book
Diane’s book has long been a mainstay for housing advisers, solicitors, lay representatives and homelessness workers, for the same reason that Tessa’s Landlord Law Blog is way out in front, on their ability to explain complex legal matters to people who aren’t trained lawyers.
Believe me, that is a difficult challenge that even those qualified up to the hilt rarely manage to do and in these days, where legal aid and qualified representation is becoming as thinly spread as the hairs on my bald head, a book like the Housing Law Handbook is a godsend.
When I reviewed the third edition I did so from the perspective of housing advice frontliners but given the legal developments since 2015, it occurs to me that this might also just be the best guide for landlords as well.
Landlords should take a look
There is now a hostile environment for landlords, which seems at odds to government’s stated support for the sector, whilst simultaneously stripping it back with tax rules and punitive legislation. The Housing Law Handbook is now an important grab and go-to guide for more than just my housing advice colleagues.
Whilst landlords might not be too interested in chapters on homelessness, social housing or community care – the first 10 of the 21 chapters are invaluable for understanding the new duties incumbent on a landlord when setting up a new tenancy or seeking to evict tenants, given the vast array of laws that can cause the wheels to come off of a possession application these days.
LAG also produce a similar tome written by Andrew Arden and I also have a copy of that as well, because it’s my job to keep on top of this stuff but to be honest and no criticism of the eminent Mr Arden, I can’t remember the last time I used it.
Housing must be one of the few places where lay-people are required to work in the realm of trained lawyers, which you don’t get in, for instance, social services, and where Mr Arden’s book seems more geared towards those legally qualified, Ms Astin’s book, as I mention above is accessible to all.
Easy to understand and well set out
For advice workers of all stripes, the Handbook sets out all the tenancy types, issues with contracts and disrepair, how to do Rent Repayment Orders, dealing with illegal eviction and harassment etc. And for the growing army of those new to homelessness work since the advent of the Homelessness Reduction Act in April 2018, the main Acts are concisely explained in not only a usable form but with also swift navigation, essential in a busy office or working triage.
Lay reps who need to work on repossession cases are also well served here. The main bible on that work is another LAG publication, Defending Possession Proceedings and whilst also essential, for the most part, duty desk advisers, support workers, TROs etc aren’t going to be engaging in litigation to that level. We just get cases adjourned or warrants suspended to buy time while more heavyweight assistance is called in or the council can sort out payments to clear the arrears. The Housing Law Handbook goes into more than enough legal detail to facilitate this kind of work.
Whilst professionally I have little involvement in community care issues, those two chapters are of huge value to people challenging decisions made by local authorities and Chapter 21, where I had not delved before, provides a great explanation of how county courts and civil claims work, which caused me many raised eyebrows and lightbulb moments as I read through it.
It’s a ‘thumbs up’ from me
So, the fourth edition is as welcome as the previous editions and maintains the house style of its predecessors. Easy to navigate and easy to understand.
Arriving just at the time when my copy of the third edition is falling apart.
Buy it here for £60 (or £57 for the kindle version) from Amazon.