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Water and youth


Not, I hasten to make clear, a Daily Mail style piece on the health giving properties of drinking expensive water, but a couple of quick notes.

First, a Southwark rent arrears possession case, demonstrating that the effects of Jones v London Borough of Southwark [2016] EWHC 457 (Ch) (our report) rumble on in Southwark, despite the Council agreeing to repay overcharged water rates for the period 2001-2013 to the tenants. (Our thanks to Serdar Celebi, Cambridge House Law Centre and Tim Baldwin, Garden Court Chambers for the note).

LB Southwark v SH. 29 March 2017, Lambeth County Court.

In June 2016 (after the decision to refund tenants) Southwark brought a possession claim against SH for rent arrears. The sum claimed and the rent statements took no account of the water rates refund.

SH defended on that basis, and also that the arrears were in large part due to housing benefit issues. In July 2016 a payment of £676.10 was made to the rent account by Southwark for the water rates refund. In the same month, arrears of housing benefit of £1,515.68. These brought the rent account into credit.

On 29 March 2017 DDJ Rollason dismissed the Claim and ordered the Claimant to pay the Defendant’s costs. The DDJ found that given judgment was given in Jones v Southwark in March 2016 and this Claim was issued in June 2016, the figures in the Particulars of Claim were ‘wholly incorrect’ and the imminent water rates refund ‘should never have been included’ in the Claim. The DDJ further found in relation to the rent arrears caused by Housing Benefit arrears, proceedings should not have been commenced due to the outstanding issues. The DDJ referred to paragraph 2.6 of the pre action protocol on rent arrears possession claims.

The water rates issue continues – we have seen Greenwich being involved, and Lambeth are also facing such defences. As some 67 councils and housing associations had the same agreements with Thames Water (37 of them or so councils), the fall out will spread. Certainly anyone looking at a social landlord arrears claim in the Thames Water area so look at whether water rates are being charged as rent.


The DWP has issued guidance notes on the Housing Costs Element for 18-21 year olds (or rather the removal thereof).

At para 20 is a (non-exhaustive) list of circumstances in which it may be deemed to be inappropriate for the young person to live with their parents. It starts, rather obviously one might think, with

those whose parents are deceased

Still, it is always best to be clear about such things.

Apparently, the Decision Maker “should accept the evidence from the person or their representative unless there is stronger evidence to the contrary or the evidence is self contradictory”.

When did you last see your father?

A DWP Decision Maker interviewing a young person.

Of course the real damage is that landlords, particularly private landlords, will simply hear the ‘no housing element for those under 22’ and not offer tenancies in the first place, because one cannot claim the housing element (and gain the exemption) unless there actually is a specific prospective tenancy.

(Hat tip to @TimMorton2 for the ‘When did you last see your father?’ joke.)

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


  1. Fiona Nicholson

    So the 18-21 “only” applies in full digital areas?

  2. david ansell

    Whilst I am loathe to interject facetiously on what is a very serious topic, bank holiday indolence compels me. Would not another caption be: “And when did you last see your housing benefit?”

  3. kjetilniki

    In a duty case, I am advising a long standing tenant of a Housing Association. The home was ex local authority stock transferred to a Housing Association. Until this month the water was paid to the Landlord and the transfer took place after 2001. As a Thames Water area Jones v Southwark should bite.

    I was uncertain whether we could deduct any overpayment made pre the stock transfer.

    I though I’d post a comment to help anyone else who hasn’t yet had to research this point. (I should have known the answer from disrepair matters but if I did know, I have forgotten.) It would appear that as the obligation and thus any over payment would touch and concern the land it is not a personal covenant and thus on assignment the new Landlord should be liable to setoff not only re matters post transfer but also matters pre transfer.

    Lotteryking Ltd and another v AMEC Properties Ltd
    Estates Gazette July 15 1995[1995] 28 EG 104
    Chancery Division March 31 1995 Lightman J

    “A tenant’s right to set off (against any liability to make payment to the landlord due under the lease) his claim for damages for breach of a provision in a collateral contract which runs with the reversion is exercisable (equally with his right to set off a claim for damages for breach of such a covenant contained in the lease) not merely against the person entitled to the reversion at the date of breach, but also against any successor in title.”

    • Giles Peaker

      Only works as set-off, though, not a free-standing claim.

      And may get complicated depending on whether HA made fresh agreement with Thames, or whether the council’s agreement was, in effect, assigned to the HA. Though I suppose would not have to be the same breach.

  4. kjetilniki

    Accordng to the lag aricle the same template was used for the LAs and HAs.
    On that basis it would be irrelevent that there was a fresh agreement between Thames & the HA apart from ongoing quantum if the discounts differed.


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