Monthly housing case law October 2017 update09/10/17
The Court of Appeal has held that a secure tenant was not entitled to a statutory review of a local authority's decision to apply for a possession order because he had applied outside the seven-day period laid down by section 85ZA(2) of the Housing Act 1985.
A local authority (London Borough of Hounslow) had received frequent complaints about noise coming from, and excessive numbers of people visiting, a flat occupied by one of its tenants (Mr Harris). The local authority served a noise abatement notice and entered into an acceptable behaviour contract with Mr Harris; however, the complaints continued, resulting in the local authority serving Mr Harris with a notice seeking possession. The notice stated that court proceedings for possession would begin after 25 January 2016 and that Mr Harris had the right to request a review of the decision before 30 December 2015. On 4 January 2016, Mr Harris’ solicitor requested an extension of time in order to request a review, but the local authority refused (it later decided to carry out a review, but decided to proceed). The possession proceedings took place in October 2016. The County Court judge stated that the local authority should have granted the extension, but found that the procedural defect had been cured by the local authority's subsequent decision to review. Mr Harris appealed against the decision.
The Court of Appeal, in dismissing the appeal, held that (1) there was no express power in section 85ZA to extend the time within which a request for a review should be made, or the time by which a review had to be concluded. The only requirement was that the request had to be made within seven days; thus, a tenant who requested a statutory review outside the seven-day period was not entitled to a statutory review and the landlord had no power or obligation to conduct one; and (2) the local authority could not be criticised for rejecting the request for a review in the absence of any indication of the grounds upon which the review was requested. A copy of the judgment is here.
Khan v Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (unreported)
13 September 2017
The High Court held that a landlord (Khan) who had not been notified that a tenant had vacated his property was liable for council tax for the period after the tenant had notified the billing authority (Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council) of his intention to move out of the property.
The tenant had notified Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council that he intended to move out of the property, but he did not notify Mr Khan and did not return the keys. Mr Khan argued that he had not known, and could not have known, that the tenant intended to move out. When he became sure that the tenant had definitely left the property, he changed the locks.
The High Court, whilst sympathising with Mr Khan’s position, held that the valuation tribunal had not erred in finding that the tenant was not liable under the Local Government Finance Act 1992 because he had not been resident at the property after the notified date, and his statutory tenancy did not amount to a material interest in the property. A copy of the transcript is not yet available.
Farakh Rashid v Mohammed Rashid  UKUT 332 (TCC)
30 August 2017
The Upper Tribunal (Tax and Chancery Chamber) has considered whether a registered proprietor who had gained possession of the property unlawfully could be in adverse possession of the registered land.
The property was originally owned by Mr Mohammed Rashid (M). The father of Mr Farakh Rashid (Father) forged M's signature on a transfer of the property and was registered as the proprietor. The Father later transferred the property to Farakh Rashid (F) as a gift and F was registered as the proprietor of the property. M applied to alter the register of title to restore M as the registered proprietor. F objected to this, arguing that there were “exceptional circumstances” under Schedule 4 of the Land Registration Act 2002 (i.e. that F was in adverse possession of the land). The First-tier Tribunal rejected F's argument on the basis that a registered proprietor could not be in adverse possession.
On appeal, the Upper Tribunal agreed with the First-tier Tribunal, ruling that it was irrelevant that F had acquired title unlawfully. As F was not in adverse possession, there were no “exceptional circumstances” that would justify not altering the register in M's favour. A copy of the judgment is here.
Hughes (VO) v York Museums and Gallery Trust (Rev 1)  UKUT 200 (LC)
29 August 2017
The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has considered a business rates appeal for an historic property.
The historic property comprised a museum, abbey ruins and a Hospitium. These different elements formed one ‘historic landscape’ within a walled garden (the former abbey). The Hospitium was not open to the public, but could be hired for private events. The owners argued that the property should be treated as separate units – the Hospitium's use for private events meant that it should be rated separately from the rest of the property.
The Upper Tribunal held that, despite the different uses, the “spatial, visual and historical relationship between the Hospitium and the gardens and Abbey” meant that it should be listed as one property for rating purposes. A copy of the judgment is here.
Partridge v Gupta  EWHC 2110
15 August 2017
The High Court has held that a landlord, who had written to his tenant before making an application for a writ of possession, had given the tenant sufficient notice of the proceedings under the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR).
The landlord (Gupta) obtained an order for possession against the tenant (Partridge) in the County Court. Mr Gupta applied for the case to be transferred to the High Court for enforcement, informing Mr Partridge by letter of his intention to make an application for a writ of possession under CPR 83.13. He made an application on a without notice basis under CPR 83.13 to obtain a writ of possession, which the High Court subsequently granted. Mr Partridge appealed, arguing that he should have received actual notice of the hearing to apply for permission for a writ.
The High Court dismissed Mr Partridge’s appeal, ruling that he had been given sufficient notice of the proceedings through a combination of having fully participated in the previous proceedings in the County Court and having received the letter informing him of Mr Gupta's intention to make an application under CPR 83.13. The case clarifies that what constitutes “sufficient notice” of the proceedings for the purposes of CPR 83.13 will vary from case to case. A copy of the judgment is here.