Possession on the domestic violence ground (without proving domestic violence)

28 Feb 2019


Paragraph 14A of Part 2 of Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 provides that a social landlord may gain possession of a property where it is occupied by a couple and one partner is forced to leave the property as a result of the other’s domestic abuse towards them.

Housing providers have often exhibited a degree of reluctance to rely on this ground because it is seen as difficult to prove, especially where the alleged victim is unwilling to make a statement or attend court.

The recent case of London and Quadrant Housing Association v S (unreported) provides two important lessons. First a strong case can be made on Paragraph 14A without the alleged victim attending court. The Claimant relied on extensive contemporaneous notes and documents and statements from support workers who had assisted the alleged victim at the time of the abuse. Further, the court agreed that, in line with Lady Hale’s judgement in Yemshaw v Hounslow LBC [2011] 1 W.L.R. 433, “domestic violence” is not limited to physical violence and can also include controlling behaviour.

Second, a notice of termination provides an alternative route for landlords to obtain possession in domestic violence cases. In London and Quadrant Housing Association v S, one partner was driven to leave the family home after (allegedly) over a decade of domestic violence. After that partner left the property, they submitted a tenancy termination form.

Under a joint tenancy, either tenant can terminate the tenancy unilaterally even without the consent of the other tenant(s) [Hammersmith & Fulham LBC v Monk [1992] 1 A.C. 478 24 H.L.R. 206; Sims v Dacorum Borough Council [2014] UKSC 6, [2015] AC 1336]. When presented with this argument, the Judge held that the tenancy termination form amounted to a notice to quit on the part of the tenant and so terminated the tenancy on expiry. The Judge consequently made an order for possession without the necessity of ruling on the paragraph 14A ground.

This offers the victims of domestic violence a route out of abusive relationships where the abuser is a joint tenant. It avoids the trauma of a trial and also offers landlords a simple and cost-effective way to assist the victims of domestic abuse and evict abusers.

Dr Sam Fowles acted for the successful landlord in this matter.