Our monthly Housing Case Law brings you a roundup of the latest cases and court decisions in one practical update.

Rahimi v Westminster City Council [2024] EWCA Civ 73

Court of Appeal; 5 February 2024

The Court of Appeal has held that a grandson was not entitled to succeed to the secure tenancy of a local authority flat on the death of his grandmother.

In 2005, Westminster City Council (The Council) had granted the joint tenancy of a flat to Mrs Hussain (H) and her husband, Mr Kazam (K) under a written agreement. K subsequently moved out of the flat in 2011 and was rehoused in 2012. Consequently, the Council amended an internal document relating to details of the secure tenancy, including a record that the tenancy had changed from “joint to sole” tenancy following K’s departure from the home. There was no evidence that H or K were aware of the change. 

Mr Rahim (R), H’s grandson, had lived with H from 2017 until H’s death in July 2020. In May 2021, the Council served a notice to quit addressed to K, on the basis that K had succeeded to the tenancy by right of survivorship but, as he was no longer living there, it had ceased to be a secure tenancy. In August 2021, the Council issued possession proceedings. However, R claimed that he was entitled to succeed to the tenancy. 

The First-tier Tribunal held that H was the sole tenant by way of implied surrender and re-grant following K's departure from the home, and that R had succeeded to the tenancy. However, the Council successfully appealed the decision at the High Court. Consequently R appealed, arguing that the change of the Council’s internal document amounted to the grant of a new tenancy to H in her sole name and, with the consent of K, that that amounted to a surrender by re-grant.

The Court of Appeal, in dismissing the appeal, held that R was not entitled to succeed to the secure tenancy. There was no proper basis on which it could be inferred that the Council had granted a new sole tenancy to H, with K’s consent, following his departure from the home. The internal document did not, in itself, effect a new sole tenancy. H had therefore remained a joint tenant until her death, when the tenancy vested in K by right of survivorship and was then validly terminated by the Council.

The ruling clarifies that it is possible for a joint tenancy to continue many years after one of the tenants has moved out of the home and been re-housed elsewhere.

A copy of the judgment is here.

Willott, R (on the application of) v Eastbourne Borough Council [2024] EWHC 113 (Admin)

High Court, 25 January 2024

The High Court has held that a local authority had been entitled to decide that a tenant with “behavioural disabilities”, and who was being evicted for anti-social behaviour, should not be permitted to re-apply for social housing.

The Claimant (Ms Willott) – who suffered from autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), alcoholism and had been the victim of domestic violence – was a secure tenant, but had been evicted from her home due to complaints from her neighbours about anti-social behaviour.

Ms Willott, who already had a poor history of anti-social behaviour prior to her eviction, applied to re-join Eastbourne Borough Council’s (The Council) housing allocation scheme, but her application was refused due to her past conduct. The Council’s housing allocation scheme stated that a person who had engaged in unacceptable anti-social behaviour, which was serious enough to make them unsuitable to be a tenant, could not re-apply to join the scheme.

Ms Willott sought judicial review, challenging the rigidity and lawfulness of the Council’s policy of disqualifying housing applicants with a poor history of anti-social behaviour, including those who were disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010, from joining their housing waiting list. Ms Willott also claimed that her “behavioural disabilities” were responsible for her anti-social behaviour and reasonable adjustments should have been made.

The High Court, in dismissing the application for judicial review, held that the Council’s policy was not rigid; as an applicant’s personal circumstances could be considered and there was a residual discretion available that allowed a designated senior officer to authorise a direct let which was sufficient to prevent any unfairness arising. It also held that Ms Willott had not been able to prove that there was a connection between “behavioural disabilities” and anti-social behaviour. Consequently, the Council’s policy had not breached the Equality Act 2010.

The ruling will be welcomed by local authorities that include similar qualifying criterions in their housing allocation policies.

A copy of the judgment is here.

Welwyn Hatfield BC v Wang [2024] UKUT 24 (LC)

Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber), 29 January 2024

The Upper Tribunal has held that a local authority’s notices of intent to impose financial penalties on a landlord were not invalid.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (The Council) had issued to Mrs Wang notices of intent, made under section 249A of the Housing Act 2004, proposing financial penalties of £21,000 for faults it had found in a house in multiple occupations owned by her and inviting her to make representations. A council inspector had found various faults with fire detection, damp and mould in the bathroom and obstructions in internal passages. Mrs Wang was sent a letter with a schedule of required works (although these were omitted from the notices of intent), but she did not respond to an invitation to attend an interview under caution. Mrs Wang made no representations and the Council proceeded to impose the penalties.

Mrs Wang challenged the imposition of the financial penalties at the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) (the FTT). The FTT allowed the appeal against the financial penalties on the grounds that the information given in the notices of intent had been insufficient to enable Mrs Wang to make meaningful representations and that the notices were therefore invalid. The penalty notice was consequently quashed. The Council appealed.

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber), in allowing the appeal, held that the notice of intent was vague about the specifics of the alleged offence; however, it was not the only material supplied to Mrs Wang. She had been sent a letter setting out the breaches and identifying what remedial works needed to be undertaken. Therefore, the notice of intent had to be understood in light of this correspondence. There was no evidence that Mrs Wang did not understand what the notices of intent were referring to. Consequently the notices of intent were valid and the case should return to a newly constituted panel of the FTT for determination.

A copy of the judgment is here.