Trecarrell House Ltd v Rouncefield [2020] EWCA Civ 760

Court of Appeal, 18 June 2020

The Court of Appeal has held that a landlord's failure to provide the assured shorthold tenant with a gas safety certificate before occupation did not preclude the service of a Section 21 notice.

An assured shorthold tenant (Ms Rouncefield) lived in a flat which was heated by a gas boiler located elsewhere in the building. The tenancy was granted in February 2017, but Ms Rouncefield did not receive a copy of the gas safety certificate, dated 31 January 2017, until November 2017; also, a copy was not displayed in the premises. The landlord served a Section 21 notice on Ms Rouncefield in May 2018 but she defended the possession proceedings, claiming that as no gas safety certificate had been provided prior to her occupation, the landlord had not complied with the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and was therefore unable to serve a Section 21 notice.

Ms Rouncefield’s argument was dismissed by the District Court and a possession order was granted. However, on appeal, the County Court found in favour of Ms Rouncefield, ruling that a failure to provide a gas safety certificate before the tenancy had commenced could not be remedied. The landlord appealed.

The Court of Appeal, in allowing the appeal, held that a Section 21 notice could be served, provided that the landlord had, prior to the service, given the tenant a copy of the gas safety certificate that was in force before occupation had commenced, and a copy of any subsequent certificates. The Court held that it did not matter that the January 2017 certificate had not been given to the tenant until November 2017.

The ruling will be welcomed by landlords – but highlights the importance of providing the original gas safety certificate to the tenant before the Section 21 notice is served.

A copy of the judgment is here.

R (Mitchell) v Islington London Borough Council [2020] EWHC 1478 (Admin)

High Court, 10 June 2020

The High Court has held that where a homeless applicant is not in priority need and the relief duty is owed, the duty to accommodate under the Housing Act 1996 only comes to an end when the local authority expressly notifies the applicant of this.

The Claimant (Mr Mitchell) had applied to Islington London Borough Council for homelessness assistance. He was initially provided with temporary accommodation, but was then informed by letter that the Council would not provide him with further temporary or permanent accommodation, as he did not have a priority need for housing assistance. He was also told that he would have to vacate his temporary accommodation. Mr Mitchell requested a review of the decision, but this was rejected. He subsequently sought a judicial review of the decision.

The High Court held that Islington London Borough Council’s letter did not end its interim duty to accommodate. Whilst Mr Mitchell was not in priority need, and therefore the duties under the Housing Act 1996 could not be owed to him when its initial duty to help him obtain suitable accommodation expired, Islington London Borough Council had not expressly informed him of this in the letter, as required under the Act. Consequently, the ‘interim’ duty had not ended. Nevertheless, the Court also held that as long as the appropriate notice is delivered, the ‘interim’ duty can be ended while the ‘initial’ duty is still ongoing.

This decision highlights the fact that to end their ‘interim’ duty, local authorities must follow exactly the procedure laid out in the Housing Act 1996.

A copy of the judgment is here.

Jarvis v Evans & Anor [2020] EWCA Civ 854

Court of Appeal, 7 July 2020

The Court of Appeal has held that, in Wales, a landlord's failure to obtain a licence precluded the service of a Section 8 notice.

Mr and Mrs Evans were assured shorthold tenants in Wales. Their private landlord (Mr Jarvis) alleged that they had not paid rent for several months and were now in arrears to the extent of £8,000. He served a notice under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988. However, at the time the notice was served, Mr Jarvis was not licensed. Under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, landlords of domestic tenancies in Wales have to be licensed to carry out letting activities or property-management activities. A claim for possession of the property was subsequently issued and the District Court made a possession order. However, Mr and Mrs Evans appealed to the County Court, successfully arguing that Mr Jarvis was not licenced and that the Section 8 notice was therefore invalid. Mr Jarvis appealed.

The Court of Appeal, in dismissing the appeal, held that a Section 8 notice is a “notice to terminate a tenancy” under section 7 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, and that a Section 8 notice served by a landlord who is unlicensed in Wales is invalid.

Landlords in Wales will be disappointed by the decision as, without a licence, they may not be able to repossess their properties even if there are grounds for possession under the Housing Act 1988

A copy of the judgment is here.

R (Fisher) v Durham County Council [2020] EWHC 1277 (Admin)

High Court, 21 May 2020

The High Court has rejected a judicial challenge brought by a woman who made involuntary sounds against the decision of a local authority to issue her with a noise abatement notice under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The Claimant (Ms Fisher) lived in a privately rented, mid-terraced house. She had a neurological disorder that caused her to make involuntary sounds and to shout and scream loudly, which disturbed her neighbours. Durham County Council tried unsuccessfully to deal with the problem and eventually served a statutory nuisance (noise) abatement notice under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, requiring Ms Fisher to cease making the noises. Ms Fisher applied for a judicial review to quash the notice, claiming that the notice was unlawfully discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010 as she could not control her vocalisations.

The High Court, in dismissing the application, held that Durham County Council’s decision to serve the noise abatement notice did not amount to unfavourable treatment by reason of disability and was a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aim of abating a statutory nuisance.

This case provides some clarity to local authorities, but also highlights the difficulties they face in trying to balance the health condition of a local resident and the distress it inadvertently causes other residents in neighbouring properties. This is the first reported decision to deal with how the statutory nuisance regime found in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Equality Act 2010 interact.

A copy of the judgment is here.

Karimi v Southwark LBC

County Court (Central London), 26 April 2020

The County Court has held that a housing applicant can bring only one appeal against a local authority’s decision on housing provision.

The Claimant (Mr Karimi) applied to Southwark London Borough Council for homelessness assistance under the Housing Act 1996. However, the Council deemed that he was not in priority need, and Mr Karimi subsequently sought a review of the decision.

After agreeing an extension of time, it was agreed that the review would be completed by 6 August 2019. However, Mr Karimi was not notified of the decision until 8 August 2019. Mr Karimi lodged an appeal against the original decision and the review decision, arguing that the review decision was voided because it was made out of time. The appeal against the original decision was struck out.

The County Court, in dismissing the appeal, held that the fact that the review decision was out of time did not void it. Legislation did not contain any timescale within which a review must be made. The Court also held that making two appeals was not permissible.

The decision will be welcomed by local authorities. It shows that, at least in the County Court, if the review decision is late, the housing applicant must decide whether to appeal the original decision or the review decision – both decisions cannot be appealed.

A copy of the judgment is not available.