Housing cases of interest
By Tara O’Leary
A local authority allocation scheme which prioritised people who had been resident in the local area for 10 years, and provided an additional uplift for households with an urgent need to move or an identified housing need, did not discriminate against a refugee who had been refused registration on the allocation scheme. The rule was justified by its objective of seeking to allocate a local authority’s housing stock fairly at a time when the demand for public housing vastly exceeded supply; moreover, the limitation in issue required only that the claimant be treated the same as any other recent arrival.
Provisions contained in a local authority’s social housing allocation scheme were unlawful insofar as they contained a residence qualification which meant that only households with at least 10 years’ continuous residence in the borough qualified to join the priority bands of the local authority housing register, and a “residence uplift” which gave additional preference to certain households. A residence requirement was almost certain to have a significant and adverse impact on Irish Travellers, but the position of Irish Travellers did not appear to have been considered when the local authority conducted its equality impact assessment.
Abimbola Esan v Notting Hill Housing Trust  EWCA Civ 1462
A judge had been entitled to order an individual to pay the costs of committal proceedings brought by her landlord after she refused to obey an injunction requiring her to give the landlord access to her property. The landlord had provided evidence that she had been served numerous times with all relevant court orders and documentation, and she had not provided any witness statement contradicting that evidence.
A housing association had unlawfully harassed two social housing tenants within the meaning of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 s.1 when, over an eight-month period, it sent letters threatening injunction and possession proceedings without any proper foundation. Such conduct was oppressive and unacceptable.
Where a property’s occupier had been unlawfully evicted and sought damages for trespass but did not pursue a claim for reinstatement to the property, damages were to run for as long as the right of occupation had in fact continued.
Wendy Lomax (Appellant) v Gosport Borough Council (Respondent) and Equality and Human Rights Commission (Intervener)  EWCA Civ 1846
The Court of Appeal considered the interaction between the public sector equality duty and the Housing Act 1996 s.177(2), which enabled a local authority to have regard to the general circumstances relating to housing in its area when determining whether an applicant for housing assistance as a homeless person could reasonably be expected to continue to live in their current accommodation.
Matt Lewin acted for the Respondent authority.
If, pursuant to the Housing Act 1996 s.184, a local authority completed its enquiries and notified an applicant for housing assistance that it was satisfied that he met the qualifying conditions in s.193(1), that was a final decision notwithstanding any local connection referral made under s.198. The local authority was not entitled to revoke or revisit such a decision.
Where a local authority’s reviewing officer sent a letter indicating an intention to make a decision contrary to the interests of an applicant for homelessness assistance on a review under the Housing Act 1996 s.202, the Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Review Procedures) Regulations 1999 reg.8(2) did not require the letter to specify in terms that the applicant could make representations to the reviewer orally at a face-to-face meeting.
Riccardo Calzavara acted for two of the Appellants.
A local authority had correctly decided that a tenant had made herself intentionally homeless by deliberately failing to meet her rental liability. The tenant had failed to provide documents essential for the processing of her housing benefit claim and had failed to meet the shortfall between her housing benefit and her rent.
Peggy Etiebet acted for the Respondent authority.
Although a local housing authority had acted in breach of its statutory duty under the Housing Act 1996 s.188 by failing to secure accommodation for a mother where it had good reason to believe that she might be homeless for the purposes of s.175(3), the mother was not entitled to damages under ECHR art.8 in respect of that breach, because in all the circumstances the local authority had not acted incompatibly with her art.8 rights.
Andy Lane acted for the Defendant authority.
Claudette Servis v Newham London Borough Council  EWHC 1547 (QB)
The arrangements under which a local authority had outsourced the review of certain homelessness decisions were not relevant to the appellant’s appeal against a decision that her temporary accommodation was suitable, and accordingly, specific disclosure of the outsourcing contract was refused.
WB (a protected party through her litigation friend the official solicitor) (Appellant) v W District Council (Respondent) and Equality and Human Rights Commission (Intervener)  EWCA Civ 928;  HLR 30
It was not necessary to consider whether a construction of the Housing Act 1996 Sch.19 Pt VII compliant with the ECHR could be made to permit a housing application on behalf of a homeless person with a mental disability. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 now provided a judicial process for making or supervising decisions about where a person with mental incapacity should live and for making a tenancy agreement on that person’s behalf.
Wayne Beglan acted for the Respondent authority,
The owner of a house in multiple occupation was providing a “service” for the purposes of Directive 2006/123 and the Provision of Services Regulations 2009. The licensing provisions of the Housing Act 2004 Pt 2 were an authorisation scheme for the purposes of the Directive and the Regulations. Therefore, the local authority was not entitled to demand that the owner, when applying to renew his licence for the HMO, pay a fee of £1,799 because that fee was not limited to the cost of the procedures and formalities of the authorisation scheme under Pt 2 of the Act. The fee, therefore, infringed art.13(2) of the Directive and reg.18(4) of the Regulations.
In possession proceedings against a disabled tenant, where the court had held that making a suspended possession order would be proportionate within the Equality Act 2010 s.15(1)(b) and thus not discriminatory, it did not have to reconsider the same question when the order came to be enforced in the absence of a material change of circumstances.
Ryan Kohli acted for the Appellant association.
Kirsty Eales v Havering London Borough Council  EWHC 2423 (QB)
A district judge had been entitled to make a possession order in favour of a local authority where a tenant in a non-secure contractual tenancy, although suffering from a psychological disability, had engaged in anti-social behaviour primarily due to her drug and alcohol misuse. The possession order was a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aims of protecting the rights of other tenants and allowing the local authority to manage its own housing stock.
Turner v Enfield London Borough Council  EWHC 1431 (QB)
A possession order made in a local authority’s favour in respect of a three-bedroom house inhabited by a mother and son who did not have a tenancy and who had a host of medical issues, was necessary and proportionate as there were others with a greater need for a three-bedroom property. Further, the local authority had cured the procedural defect in its decision offering alternative accommodation by making a fresh decision.
Jenni Oscroft acted for the Respondent authority.
David Armstrong v Ashfield District Council  EWCA Civ 873
A provision in a suspended possession order, providing for the order’s automatic discharge after one year, was predicated on the tenant complying with the conditions of suspension and the absence of any action by the landlord in that time. Since the landlord had asserted a breach of the order’s conditions and applied for a warrant of possession before the discharge date, the order was not discharged on that date, and the trial judge had been entitled to order the warrant for possession despite the trial occurring after that date.
In respect of statutory time limits such as that imposed by the Housing Act 1988 s.13(4), which specified the time in which it was open to a tenant to refer a notice of a rent increase to the First-tier Tribunal, there was no room for a discretion to extend time in sufficiently exceptional circumstances, such as that exercised in Pomiechowski v Poland  UKSC 20.