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A holding note: Coombes v LB Waltham Forest

By Dave

We have been aware of Coombes v LB Waltham Forest (Sec of State intervening) noted at [2010] All ER (D) 59 and on Lawtel, decided on 08.03.2010 in an extempore judgment (Cranston J), but waiting for the full transcript to be provided by the High Court.  The case concerns the compatibility of section 3, Protection from Eviction Act 1977 with Articles 6 and 8.  The relevant part of Section 3 says:

(1) Where any premises have been let as a dwelling under a tenancy which is [neither a statutorily protected tenancy nor an excluded tenancy] and—(a) the tenancy (in this section referred to as the former tenancy) has come to an end, but (b) the occupier continues to reside in the premises or part of them, it shall not be lawful for the owner to enforce against the occupier, otherwise than by proceedings in the court, his right to recover possession of the premises.

Mr Coombes had lived in the property for around 54 years with his parents.  On their death, the LA served an NTQ on him.  He claims to have a secure tenancy and that he should have been dealt with through the allocation scheme.  Those claims were stayed pending a hearing in the High Court of his counterclaim on Articles 8 and 6.  On Article 8, the claim was based on his inability to bring his personal circumstances into account in the section 3 proceedings; on Article 6, that section 3 does not allow a determination of his civil rights before a fair and impartial tribunal.  The former point seems strong to me, the latter less so.

Cranston J found against Mr Coombes on both grounds but also granted leave to appeal (although not a leapfrog to the SC).  Cranston J seems to have suggested that an Article 8 defence could be raised in the county court and “The requirement to seek a possession order, rather than to recover possession without any supervision by the court, could not be incompatible with art 8. Coupled with other legislation, s 3 did not fall within the exceptional category of cases which were beyond the boundary of democratic solutions to the problem of allocating scarce public housing.” On the Article 6 point, the note is not exactly full but suggests that Cranston J suggested that the occupier has full access to the court for the determination of his claim.

More to follow on receipt of the transcript…

Posted in: Possession


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