The latest version of the ‘Manual of Housing Law’ by Andrew Arden and Andrew Dymond is not a specialist tome like Defending possession Proceedings or Quiet Enjoyment, which I also reviewed recently, but is a compendium style book, covering a wide range of housing law matters, from security of tenure issues, through contractual problems, disrepair, rules for social landlords and on to environmental health legislation.
Housing Advisers will like this book
As such it makes it an ideal buy for housing advisers of all levels of experience, working across a range of subjects, including homelessness or property licensing, who need a quick grab and go to guide.
Comparing it to….
But soft……doth this not tread on the toes of Diane Astin’s excellent ‘Housing Law Handbook’? Also a LAG publication?
Yeah it does, so I decided to follow the lead of the cultural zeitgeist and put the 2 books head to head, in the style of Bake-off or Masterchef.
As a Non-lawyer I have 2 main look-outs for law books:-
- How quickly can I find what I want through the index?
- How easily can I understand what is written when I find it without having to read the same paragraph 4 times in order to understand it?
Such imperatives growing out of having a complex case in the interview room at 10am whilst another waits in reception for 11am, all the while batting away emails from the homelessness unit demanding to know if you can stop the eviction and ergo, protect them from judicial review challenges on placing a homelessness applicant in a bed bug ridden B&B in Luton. (Yes I’m being very cheeky).
Navigating the index
It’s a problem that always irks me in the same way that pressing F1 help in the computer does. You need an understating not only of the jargon used to input the information in order to track what you need but also the way their minds work.
The average adviser in interview room 4 would rather type in the literal problem:-
“Landlord’s daughter has stolen my toaster”
Instead of trying to guess how the qualified lawyer who wrote the book might jargonise the crime in the index.
Look in the Manual under ‘Tenancies’ and you find a list of topics on tenancies in general but little about tenancy types.
Go over to ‘Protected tenancies’ and they aren’t there either, they are actually under ‘Rent Act Protected and Statutory Tenancies’.
The handbook does the same thing under ‘Tenancies’ but also has ‘Protected tenancies’ listed under the name that most people call them, so you get there in 2 steps rather than 3.
It’s little things like this that for me makes the Handbook win out on the index front.
Small preferences aside…..
Overall both the Manual and the Handbook are about even Stevens, in other words, both a bit tricky and time consuming to navigate sometimes but to be honest I doubt anybody could devise a system that would work for everyone and no more annoying than looking up ‘Lasagne’ in a cook book only to find it’s listed under ‘See Pasta’.
Ease of understanding
Both are fairly well served on this front with Messrs Arden, Dymond and Astin taking great pains to break the arcane madness of legislation down into easily understandable chunks.
This is a much overlooked factor in finding what you want in a reference book and on a purely visual level I do like the way that the Handbook places relevant cases into grey boxes so you can isolate the content easily and there is also more white space on the pages which again makes finding what you need much smoother.
The Manual, however, is more textually dense, meaning you have to scroll through with your finger accurately instead of the relevant topic jumping out at you.
These comments may sound a bit left field but these sorts of things can be big vote winners in a busy office. I know many a law book that sits unused simply because the inability to find understandable text quickly means people fall out of the habit of using it, coz it’s a faff!
In terms of content, both books cover roughly the same topics in chapter form although the Manual has a section on houseboats and mobile homes that the Handbook doesn’t – but then again Diane Astin’s book has separate sections on community care and migrants, missing from the Arden/Dymond book.
Do you know what?
In an ideal world, flagrantly disregarding budgets I actually think any office would benefit from both books.
Just because content is broadly the same it doesn’t hurt to have 2 different approaches to the same issues, it’s just like getting a second opinion, although I think the Housing Law Handbook will always be my first choice as an agony aunt.
When resolving homelessness conundrums I have always used both the Luba/Liz Davis book and the Arden/ Vanhegan book at the same time. The former being more dry and official whilst the latter peppered with loads of case law, which for me provides different views on the same subject
But here’s an insight that few have
As a trainer, traveling the country from Cornwall to Newcastle, delivering housing law courses to front-line workers I find a worrying ignorance of even the existence of such books and if an office does have some, they tend to be locked in the bottom drawers of managers and not made widely available to the team.
Please stop doing this. If your office is to dispense sound advice and make accurate decisions then the officers need to be able to access information.
And to officers I will say that I know law books are expensive and I know budgets aren’t what they were but given how much easier your daily lives can be through having books such as these, if your manager says there aren’t the funds to pay for them, get a group together and chuck in a fiver each.
[Although as the paperback edition is £60 from Amazon you may need to chuck in a bit more if there are less than 12 of you – Ed]
Both the Manual and the Handbook are so comprehensive that you might find exactly what you are looking for in one session. If not, what you do find might prompt you to look further on websites like Landlord Law Blog or Nearly Legal.
As they say in the X-Files, the truth is out there somewhere.
Cue spooky music!