‛simply wrong-headed’

Apparently Wandsworth are very very unhappy with the Court of Appeal judgment in Wandsworth v Randall on underoccupation possessions via ground 16 HA 1985. So unhappy that they are lobbying Caroline Flint to change the law via the Housing and Regeneration bill.

There are, of course, extremely good policy reasons for underoccupation possessions. Multiple bedroom council properties are in extremely short supply and demand is high.

Wandsworth, however, are putting more than a little spin on this. Martin Johnson, Cabinet member for housing said:

Our concern is the Court of Appeal judgement provides an incentive for underoccupying successor tenants to artificially increase their household as a way to defeat such a possession application.

The judgment expressly said that artificial inflation of numbers of people living in the property would be an issue for reasonableness at the hearing. It is fully open to the landlord to present evidence on the issue. So to say

the case left landlords with ‘very little power’ to pursue ground 16 repossessions.

is nonsense.

But Mr Johnson is trumped by Brian Reilly, deputy director of housing, who fumes that this is

clearly a case where there has been an interpretation of the law that is simply wrong-headed.

Call me an old stick-in-the-mud, but that would be for the House of Lords rather the deputy director of housing of the frustrated claimant to decide.

I take it that this sound and fury means an application for permission to appeal to the Lords will not be forthcoming, but why ever not, Mr Reilly?

About Giles Peaker

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts, and still is Nearly Legal on Google +.
Posted in Housing law - All, Possession and tagged , , , .

5 Comments

  1. As the solicitor for Mr Randall I find the comments made by Mr Johnson and Mr Reilly of Wandsworth council very strange. The Court of Appeal only held that the Court dealing with a possession claim needs to consider the composition of the tenant’s household at the date of the hearing rather that at the date of the death of the previous tenant. To suggest otherwise as Wandsworth did does not make sense. At the time of the death of the previous tenant the property will always be underoccupied because the tenant has just died. It is in the nature of a family home that following the death of one member of the family another member of the family or another person may move in to the property. It therefore makes sense for the Court to consider the household as it finds it at the date of the possession hearing.

    The Cout of Appeal remitted the case back to Wandsworth County Court for further hearing once the above point had been clarified. Despite their strong feelings Wandsworth have not actually done anything about getting back into Court. At the next hearing the council are perfectly entitled to argue that suitable (smaller) alternative accommodation has been offered to Mr Randall and can still obtain a possession order.

    Mr Randall maintains that his mother and sister who came to live with him after his grandfather died genuinely form part of his household and that it reasonable for them to be allowed to continue to occupy the family home. The County Court are able to consider any arguments which the council wish to make to the contrary.

    I think that it is Wandsworth council’s interpretation of the Court of Appeal judgment which is “simply wrong headed” rather than the judgment itself. As Nearly Legal has pointed out if Wandsworth really felt that the Court of Appeal were wrong they could have appealed to the House of Lords which they have not done. More surprising still is that they have not even done anything to progress the County Court proceedings either. Mr Reilly and Mr Johnson’s time would be better spent finding out why the council have not pursued the legal remedies available to them rather than trying to get the law itself changed.

  2. maybe they want to contract the whole thing out and get another equaly incompetent bunch to ‘assist’ the vulnerable – not to mention the benefit of avoiding them pesky hra issues.
    and rsl’s are awfully good at legal action…
    congratulations on the decsion btw william

  3. To be honest, Simply, there are very few active HRA issues left in social housing. It probably wouldn’t make a great deal of difference is an RSL was subject to the HRA.

    William, I’m astonished that the case hasn’t been back to the County Court. Got to be worth an application on Mr Randall’s part, surely.

  4. i’m sure you’re right nl, but no reason to lose the rights if they are available. in my expereince the culture of one large rsl is that movement only happens when they are hit with a large stick. there is no effective governance and the more they put in place newsletters and surveys and resident forums and tell themselves they are ‘consulting’ the more they excuse themselves from listening and providing the service that is paid for partly with government money and often for people who are vulnerable and in need. sorry – not preaching at you, because i know you know all that, but the more sticks available for the little (wo)man the better. and i don’t see a down-side.

  5. Simply – I agree wholeheartedly. I just meant that just about every human rights issue in relation to social tenancies has been raised and, mostly, rejected. There are many reasons why a secure tenant might want to opposes a stock transfer, but losing HRA ‘coverage’ would, practically, be low on the list.

    There will now be a human rights LS tenancy case appearing tomorrow to prove me utterly wrong.

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