Notting Hill Housing Trust v Esan

Court of Appeal

16 May 2018

The Court of Appeal has held that a judge had been entitled to order a tenant to pay the costs of committal proceedings brought by her landlord after she refused to obey an injunction that required her to give the landlord access to her property.

The tenant (Ms Esan) leased a property from the landlord (Notting Hill Housing Trust) and was obliged to allow access for repairs. When this was denied, Notting Hill Housing Trust applied for an injunction requiring Ms Esan to allow access. A process server attended the premises on several occasions and posted the relevant injunction documentation into Ms Esan’s letterbox at the property and also at alternate address for her. Ms Esan continued to refuse access to the property, so Notting Hill Housing Trust brought committal proceedings; the relevant documentation was again put through the letterboxes at both addresses on several occasions. Eventually Ms Esan provided access to the property and the committal hearing fell away. The judge ordered that she should pay Notting Hill Housing Trust’s costs, summarily assessed at £3,052, due to her lack of co-operation during the process.

Ms Esan appealed. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, ruling that Notting Hill Housing Trust had provided evidence that Ms Esan had been served the relevant documentation on numerous occasions, and she had not provided any evidence to contradict that.

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

(1) Worthington and (2) Parkin v Metropolitan Housing Trust Ltd [2018] EWCA Civ 1125

Court of Appeal

17 May 2018

The Court of Appeal has held that a housing association had unlawfully harassed two of its tenants.

Two tenants (Mr Worthington and Ms Parkin) lived in different houses on the same street and raised concerns with the landlord (Metropolitan Housing Trust) about anti-social behaviour in the neighbourhood. Ms Parkin had received consent from Metropolitan Housing Trust to install CCTV at her home for her own security (she later moved home and installed further CCTV at the new property, based on the previous consent given). Mr Worthington had established a residents' association and set up a website on which he posted images of what he deemed to be unacceptable behaviour. However, some residents complained to Metropolitan Housing Trust that the CCTV was an invasion of privacy and that both Mr Worthington and Ms Parkin were taking inappropriate photographs of other residents, including children. Metropolitan Housing Trust wrote to the two tenants to ask for the CCTV to be removed and threatened injunction and possession proceedings if the requests were not complied with.

Mr Worthington and Ms Parkin successfully sued Metropolitan Housing Trust for harassment. The County Court held that Metropolitan Housing Trust had behaved in an unacceptable manner and that the threats made to the two tenants constituted harassment. Mr Worthington and Ms Parkin were awarded damages.

Metropolitan Housing Trust appealed. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, ruling that Metropolitan Housing Trust had made incorrect allegations against the tenants It held that Metropolitan Housing Trust had (1) been aware of the tenants’ concerns about antisocial behaviour and that the CCTV was being used in a proper manner; (2) made an unwarranted assertion that the CCTV had to be removed; (3) submitted solicitors letters that contained no proper justification for the threats made within them and were likely to cause the tenants’ personal distress; and (4) threatened the tenants with injunctive relief and/or possession proceedings, when actually no action was being pursued at all.

The case is a warning to housing providers that they should only proceed with enforcement action once they have sufficiently analysed the evidence against a tenant.

A copy of the judgment is here.

Turner v Enfield London Borough Council

High Court

25 May 2018

The High Court has held that a possession order issued by a local authority to reclaim a three-bedroom council house inhabited by a mother and son, who had medical issues and who did not have a tenancy, was necessary and proportionate as there were other families with a greater need for a property of that size.

The mother (Mrs Turner) and her son lived at the property with her parents. After both parents died, she had no succession rights and the local authority (Enfield London Borough Council) served a notice to quit. When Mrs Turner failed to respond, possession proceedings were initiated. Mrs Turner and her son had medical issues and, through a letter, Enfield London Borough Council offered them alternative accommodation in a ground floor flat. However, the letter failed to notify them of the right to review. Mrs Turner complained and was subsequently offered new accommodation. She refused it and a possession order was made. Subsequently, Mrs Turner was diagnosed with cancer.

Mrs Turner appealed against the possession order. The High Court, in dismissing the appeal, held that the possession order was necessary and proportionate. Medical issues and a long residence did not defeat Enfield London Borough Council’s claim where there was no succession, and it had been entitled to say that the large house could be allocated to a family with a greater need for it (at the time there were 1479 local people waiting for a three-bedroom property). It was up to a local authority to decide, according to policy, how to allocate its housing stock.

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

R (on the application of Martina McDonagh) v Enfield London Borough Council [2018] EWHC 1287

High Court

24 May 2018

The High Court has held that although a local housing authority had breached its statutory duty by failing to secure accommodation for a mother who was likely to be made homeless, the mother was not entitled to damages under the Human Rights Act 1998 because the local authority had not acted incompatibly with her human rights.

The Claimant (Mrs McDonagh) had come to the UK from Ireland with her three children, one of whom had spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and relied on a wheelchair. After living in a series of short-term bed and breakfast accommodations, the family moved into a two-storey house. Two bedrooms and a bathroom were on the first floor and therefore inaccessible to her disabled son. Mrs McDonagh applied to the local authority (Enfield London Borough Council) for alternative accommodation, but none was provided until three years later.

Mrs McDonagh applied for judicial review of Enfield London Borough Council’s failure to determine her application for housing assistance and provide interim accommodation under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996. She sought a mandatory order requiring Enfield London Borough Council to provide suitable accommodation. After securing suitable accommodation, she no longer sought a mandatory order but sought damages under the European Convention on Human Rights on the basis of alleged breaches of duty by the defendant local authority during the aforementioned three-year period.

The High Court found in favour of Enfield London Borough Council. It held that the Council had made efforts to find suitable accommodation for the family and, although it breached its statutory duty, its degree of culpability was not great. Breaches of statutory duty under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 did not, by themselves, constitute contravention of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

A copy of the judgment is here.

Servis v Newham London Borough Council

High Court

1 May 2018

The High Court has held that arrangements under which a local authority had outsourced the review of some of its homelessness decisions were not relevant to an appeal against a decision that the temporary accommodation on offer was suitable.

The Appellant (Ms Servis) issued an application for a review of the suitability of her temporary accommodation. She had suffered harassment at the property and wished to be relocated in another part of London. Newham London Borough Council had outsourced its homelessness reviews and, subsequently, the review officer decided that the accommodation was suitable. Ms Servis appealed the decision and sought disclosure of the arrangements for the contracting-out of homelessness reviews. Newham London Borough Council disclosed a cabinet report and minute relating to the outsourcing of their homelessness functions, but refused to disclose the relevant agreement. The judge refused the application for specific disclosure on the basis that the document sought was not relevant to the grounds of appeal and because it was made too late.

Ms Servis appealed against the refusal of her application.

The High Court, in dismissing the appeal, held that the judge had been right to refuse the application. The appeal was based on the information that the review officer had, or did not have, when deciding that the temporary accommodation was suitable; it was not based on what the review officer might have been entitled to from the Council under the outsourcing agreement.

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