Housing case law - April 2019 update15/04/19
Salix Homes v Mantato  EWCA Civ 445
Court of Appeal
20 March 2019
The Court of Appeal has held that a landlord was not estopped from obtaining an order for possession of a property because of the tenant's non-payment of rent, when there was an existing undischarged order for payment of earlier arrears and for possession for non-payment of those arrears.
The tenant (Mr Mantato) was a secure tenant of Salford City Council. He got into rent arrears and the landlord obtained a postponed possession order. Mr Mantato failed to pay the arrears and, consequently, a date for possession was fixed. Following a stock transfer of properties to Salix Homes, which included Mr Mantato’s property, Mr Mantato became an assured tenant. However, rent payments were still not made and Salix Homes issued fresh possession proceedings. A suspended possession order was made by the court, but due to the terms being breached, a warrant of possession was issued. On the same day that the eviction took place, Mr Mantato paid his rent arrears and costs.
Mr Mantato successfully applied to set aside Salix Homes’ possession order because, due to Salford City Council’s undischarged possession order, the claim for a further order was barred res judicata. Salix Homes appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal restored Salix Homes’ possession order, finding that the facts entitling Salix Homes to possession were different to those entitling Salford City Council to the original possession order.
This decision will be welcomed by social landlords, as it confirms that they can make second claims for possession based on rent arrears, even where an existing possession order based on the same grounds exists. However, it would be prudent for landlords to deal with the first possession order when making another one.
A copy of the judgment is here.
London Borough of Tower Hamlets v Al Ahmed  EWHC 749 (QB)
26 March 2019
The High Court has refused to allow an appeal in a homelessness case, which was brought out of time.
The claimant (Mr Al Ahmed) had requested a review of London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ decision that he was not in priority need for housing under the Housing Act 1996. The review upheld the original decision and Mr Al Ahmed was told that he could appeal to the County Court. However, due to problems arranging legal representation, with the assistance of a housing charity, Mr Al Ahmed missed the deadline to bring his appeal and therefore sought to bring it out of time. The extension was granted by the County Court, but London Borough of Tower Hamlets appealed the decision.
The High Court, in allowing London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ appeal, held that Mr Al Ahmed’s reasons for the delay – a lack of funds, the fact that he was a litigant in person and the role of the housing charity – were not sufficient reasons for granting an extension.
The decision is a useful guide for local authorities in the how the courts view litigants in person, particularly when it comes to seeking time extensions in appeals in homelessness cases.
A copy of the judgment is here.
Godson v Enfield London Borough Council  EWCA Civ 486
Court of Appeal
22 March 2019
The Court of Appeal has held that a local housing authority can move a homeless applicant between different sets of temporary accommodation - and a refusal to accept this would result in the individual becoming intentionally homelessness.
The applicant (Mr Godson) had had applied to Enfield London Borough Council for assistance with homelessness, and was given emergency temporary accommodation under the Housing Act 1996 while it investigated his application. Enfield London Borough Council subsequently accepted that it owed him a full housing duty under the Act and offered him a tenancy at different accommodation. Mr Godson refused the offer and Enfield London Borough Council terminated its duty to him. Mr Godson did not appeal and was later evicted, resulting in him moving to bed and breakfast accommodation. When he subsequently made another application for housing assistance, Enfield London Borough Council found that he was intentionally homeless. That decision was upheld on review.
After unsuccessfully appealing to the County Court, Mr Godson appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal, in refusing the appeal, held that Mr Godson had intentionally made himself homeless. He had deliberately refused the temporary accommodation offered to him, and the reviewing officer had been entitled to conclude that that refusal was the effective cause of his homelessness.
The decision will be welcomed by local housing authorities, as it shows that a decision to move a housing applicant between different, but suitable, accommodation is difficult to challenge.
A copy of the judgment is here.
Radbourne v Peterborough City Council
County Court (Cambridge)
3 December 2018
The County Court has held that a council was wrong to stop providing temporary accommodation to a homeless man.
A street homeless man (Mr Radbourne) who suffered from mental health issues had been provided with temporary accommodation by Peterborough City Council. However, when drug paraphernalia was allegedly found in his room, the Council decided to withdraw his licence to occupy the room and end its Housing Act 1996, section 193 duty because Mr Radbourne had made himself intentionally homeless. A possession order was also issued and Mr Radbourne was evicted. Mr Radbourne appealed.
The Court, in allowing the appeal, held that the Council had mishandled the issue. The Council had not complied with legal requirements to give Mr Radbourne written notification that it was satisfied the temporary accommodation offered was suitable for him. Mr Radbourne was not homeless and had not made himself intentionally homeless and, therefore, the section 193 duty had not ended. The section 193 duty did not end simply because Mr Radbourne had been threatened with homelessness intentionally. Also, the Council’s adverse review decision had been procedurally unfair, as an adverse inference drawn by the reviewing officer had not been put to Mr Radbourne.
This decision highlights the need for councils to ensure that they have complied with their legal requirements before launching possession proceedings.
The judgment is currently not available.
Investigation into a complaint against Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council (reference number: 17 012 432)
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman
8 February 2019
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has upheld a complaint against Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council for denying a father his housing rights.
The man had been living and working abroad when the courts removed his children from the care of his ex-partner. He returned to the UK to look after them and was placed in an unaffordable flat by the Council, with no opportunity to appeal.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found that the Council’s actions had denied the father his rights as a homeless person, whom the Council had a legal duty to help. It found that the Council should have informed the father of its legal duty, but instead arranged a six-month private let without explaining the consequences of signing a six-month tenancy agreement, even though he could not afford the rent. Over the next few years, the rent was increased and the father received a possession order because of rent arrears.
The Ombudsman asked the Council to apologise to the father, place him top of the list for each eligible property he bids for until he makes a successful bid, and pay him £4,500 compensation.
The Ombudsman cannot force councils to implement their recommendations, but can follow up its report if satisfactory action is not taken.
A copy of the decision is here.