Adesotu v Lewisham London Borough Council [2019] EWCA Civ 1405

Court of Appeal, 2 August 2019

The Court of Appeal has held that the County Court does not have jurisdiction to determine allegations of unlawful discrimination made by a homeless person under the Housing Act 1996.

A single parent (Ms Adesotu) who suffered from depression had applied to Lewisham London Borough Council for homelessness assistance. She was offered suitable accommodation, but refused to confirm her acceptance of the offer and Lewisham London Borough Council subsequently wrote to her to inform her that its duty to accommodate her had ended.

Ms Adesotu asked for a review of the decision, claiming that Lewisham London Borough Council had not permitted her sufficient time to consider the offer, which she claimed had breached the Equality Act 2010 as it did not take into account the fact that she had recently given birth and had a history of mental health issues. The review subsequently concluded that Ms Adesotu was not “disabled” within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. Ms Adesotu appealed, but the County Court held that it had no jurisdiction to determine claims alleging unlawful discrimination, and struck them out (click here for full details of the ruling, covered in our March 2019 Alert). Ms Adesotu appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal upheld the County Court's decision, stating that the County Court did not have jurisdiction to determine alleged breaches of the Equality Act 2010 in homelessness appeals.

A copy of the judgment is here.

Yildiz v London Borough of Hackney [2019] EWCA Civ 1331

Court of Appeal, 24 July 2019

The Court of Appeal has held that a Council's notice of seeking possession to a successor secure tenant had lapsed and was ineffective, as possession proceedings had been issued outside the specified time period.

The Tenant (Mr Yildiz) had succeeded his father’s secure tenancy following his death. At a later date, London Borough of Hackney informed the tenant that he was under-occupying the property and would have to move to a one-bedroom accommodation. Mr Yildiz refused and London Borough of Hackney sought possession under ground 15A of Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1985. Ground 15A requires the landlord to have served a Housing Act 1985, section 83 notice of proceedings for possession between six and 12 months after the previous tenant’s death. However, due to a clerical error, London Borough of Hackney issued proceedings just outside the 12 months deadline. Despite this, the District Court dispensed with the requirement of the section 83 notice and granted a possession order. Mr Yildiz unsuccessfully appealed the ruling to the County Court. He subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal, in allowing the appeal, held that the notice of seeking possession had lapsed and therefore the London Borough of Hackney could not rely on ground 15A to issue possession proceedings. It said that the 12 months period intended to ensure that the tenant is not disturbed immediately after settling into the property.

Local housing authorities should take note of this decision, as it will affect how they deal with housing succession cases where there could be an issue of under-occupancy. If relying on ground 15A, authorities need to ensure that notices of seeking possession are served within the statutory timeframe.

A copy of the judgment is here.

Forward v Aldwyck Housing Group Ltd [2019] EWCA Civ 1334

Court of Appeal, 29 July 2019

The Court of Appeal has held that although a housing association failed to sufficiently consider the public sector equality duty before seeking a possession order against a disabled tenant, the decision to bring possession proceedings should not be quashed.

Mr Forward, an assured tenant, was accused of anti-social behaviour (drug use) and a possession order was made in favour of the housing association, Aldwyck Housing Group. He appealed the decision, claiming that he had a physical and mental disability, and had been unable to prevent other people accessing his flat to deal drugs. Aldwyck Housing Group had failed to carry out an adequate public sector equality duty assessment under the Equality Act 2010 before issuing a possession order application; however, the County Court did not believe that Mr Forward was mentally impaired and found no link between his physical disability and the anti-social behaviour. Possession was granted on the grounds that it was proportionate and reasonable. Mr Forward unsuccessfully appealed to the High Court (click here for full details of the ruling, covered in our February 2019 Alert) and subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal, arguing that if a landlord breaches the public sector equality duty, the courts cannot exercise their discretion.

The Court of Appeal, in dismissing the appeal, held that where the public sector equality duty has been breached, it did not necessarily follow that the possession order must be set aside. If, after considering the facts of the case, it was very likely that the decision would not have been substantially different if the breach of the public sector equality duty had not occurred, there would be no need to set it aside.

The decision will be welcomed by social landlords – however, it remains important that, prior to bringing possession proceedings, landlords carry out a thorough public sector equality duty assessment..

A copy of the judgment is here.

R (on the application of S) v Hammersmith & Fulham London Borough Council and Croydon London Borough Council (Interested party)

High Court, 1 August 2019

The High Court granted interim relief to a 17-year-old girl from Grenada under the Children Act 1989, ordering a local authority to continue providing her with accommodation.

A 17-year old girl from Grenada had been living in the UK since 2013. She had firstly lived in Hammersmith & Fulham London Borough Council’s area with her uncle and his family, and then moved to stay with other family in Croydon London Borough Council’s area until she was forced to leave following a family argument. She asked Croydon London Borough Council for assistance, but it did not carry out an assessment and no accommodation was provided. She temporarily stayed with a family friend in Hammersmith & Fulham London Borough Council’s area, but then became street homeless.

She was granted interim relief and Hammersmith & Fulham London Borough Council was ordered to provide her with subsistence and accommodation until the hearing, and she was placed in foster care. She applied for the continuation of interim relief pending an application for permission for judicial review and also sought an interim assessment of her needs, which included accommodation. Hammersmith & Fulham London Borough Council argued that Croydon London Borough Council owed the girl an obligation the Children Act 1989 and that the Court should consider which of the two local authorities would be found at a trial to have responsibility under the Act.

The Court granted interim relief to the girl against Hammersmith & Fulham London Borough Council, requiring it to continue to provide her with accommodation and support. It held that it was inappropriate, due to insufficient information, for it to consider at an interim hearing which of the two Councils would ultimately be responsible to meet her needs.

This was an extempore (oral) decision, so the transcript is not yet available.

R (on the application of OA) v Camden London Borough Council

High Court, 15 July 2019

The High Court granted a mother and her child interim relief, so that the local authority would continue to house them until the hearing of her application for judicial review.

Camden London Borough Council had housed a woman and her 12-week old baby since he was born. However, following an assessment, Camden London Borough Council held that she was not destitute and had family in the UK who could support her. It offered to house her if she agreed to leave the UK with her baby and return to Nigeria.

The woman submitted evidence of her destitution, including emails that showed that her relationship with the father of her child and her sister had broken down and that they would not help her, and argued that Camden London Borough Council should have taken that evidence into account in a review of its assessment. She argued that as the baby's father was Finnish, the baby was an EU citizen who could not be forced to leave the EU; however, Camden London Borough Council submitted that there were doubts as to the woman’s credibility and her perceived destitution.

The High Court, after weighing up both arguments, granted interim relief, but for as short a period as possible. It said that the judicial review hearing should be considered as soon as reasonably possible.

This was an extempore (oral) decision, so the transcript is not yet available.