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Housing case law - May 2018 update

Armstrong v Ashfield District Council [2018] EWCA Civ 873

Court of Appeal

18 April 2018

The Court of Appeal has held if a tenant breaches the terms of his or her tenancy agreement during the period of suspension of a possession order, the automatic discharge of the suspended possession order does not apply.

The tenant (Mr Armstrong) was served a possession order by his landlord (Ashfield District Council) after breaching his tenancy agreement. However, the possession order was suspended for a year in order to give Mr Armstrong an opportunity to improve his behaviour and to show that he would comply with the terms of the tenancy in the future. Mr Armstrong failed to comply with the tenancy agreement and Ashfield District Council applied to the county court for a warrant for possession, which was issued. However, the Council did not follow the procedure set out in the original possession order.

The Court of Appeal held that Ashfield District Council was entitled to evict Mr Armstrong, even though the circumstances differed from those in the original court order. It held that a provision in the original suspended possession order, providing for the order's automatic discharge after one year, was predicated on Mr Armstrong complying with the conditions of suspension and the absence of any action by the Council in that time. As the Council 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 County Court had therefore been within its rights to order the warrant for possession, even though the trial took place after that date.

A copy of the judgment is here.

 

WB v W District Council [2018] EWCA Civ 928

Court of Appeal

26 April 2018

The Court of Appeal has held that a homeless individual who lacked the mental capacity required to complete a homelessness application under the Housing Act 1996 was not within the scope of priority need.

The individual (WB) made a homelessness accommodation application to W District Council under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996. WB was unsuccessful, as the Council decided that she was intentionally homeless. WB appealed to the County Court, but it was held that WB lacked mental capacity to conduct litigation and an Official Solicitor was appointed on her behalf. WB was found to be incapable of making decisions as to where she should live. WB appealed.

The Court of Appeal, in dismissing the appeal, held that WB lacked capacity to conduct litigation and, later, to manage her own affairs. As there was no deputy or representative with adequate authorisation to make the application on her behalf, and in accordance with previous case-law, the Court held that a housing duty is owed only to those individuals who have the capacity to respond to offers of accommodation. WB’s application for housing was therefore dismissed.

A copy of the judgment is here.

 

R. (on the application of Mawbey) v Lewisham Council [2018] EWHC 263

High Court

16 February 2018

The High Court has held that a Council misinterpreted the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 regarding the siting of radio masts on its property.

Lewisham Homes, which manages social housing on behalf of Lewisham Council, had granted a Telecoms company a licence to install telecommunication apparatus on the roof of one of its properties, Forsythia House. The apparatus included nine antennae, which were installed in groups on the four corners of the building; the antennae were not free standing, but were supported by antenna poles and attached to central support poles

The Claimant (Mr Mawbey), who lived in the same road as Forsythia House, asked Lewisham Council to take enforcement action against the telecommunication apparatus, arguing that the term ‘mast’ in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order should be broadly defined and therefore should include the central support poles. Also, as the apparatus included masts within 20 metres of the highway, express planning permission from the Council should be required.

The Council refused, as they considered that the support poles were not ‘masts’. Mr Mawbey sought judicial review.

The Court, in granting the judicial review, held that Lewisham Council had wrongly interpreted the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015. The central support poles were masts and, as the apparatus was within 20 metres of the highway, express planning permission was required from the Council.

A copy of the judgment is here.

 

Breaks v Rimkiene (unreported)

High Court

19 March 2018

The High Court has held that a landlord, who had a legal duty to repair a serious damp problem in a flat occupied by a tenant, had derailed the repair process by claiming wrongly that the tenant had refused to allow contractors access to the flat.

The landlord had launched a claim for possession of the flat; however, the tenant had counterclaimed for disrepair, alleging that the flat had a serious damp problem. Initial work to rectify the problem was carried out, but the landlord’s agent claimed that the tenant had failed to provide appropriate times and dates for further work to be undertaken. The landlord's claim for possession was dismissed for technical reasons. However, at the trial of the counterclaim, the landlord claimed that the tenant had refused him access to the flat, meaning the rest of the work could not be carried out. However, the judge held that the repair process had been derailed by the aggressive behaviour of the landlord's agent, and that 18 months had passed before the landlord had taken further steps to rectify the issue. The landlord appealed.

The judge, in dismissing the appeal, held that (1) the repair process had been thwarted by the aggressive behaviour of the landlord's agent, and (2) the landlord had a duty to resolve the damp issue - the landlord’s agent had derailed this and this may have been tactical. Either way, the landlord had not fulfilled his legal duty and the tenant could not be criticised for being uncooperative, given the agent’s aggressive stance. Even if there had been a duty on the tenant, there was no basis for concluding that the tenant had breached it.

This is an extempore (oral) decision and no transcript is currently available.

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