(*And yes, I am aware that the preceding line is ‘A tale told by an idiot’.)
The much trumpeted Wandsworth riot related eviction has stalled even before possession proceedings were issued. According to a press release from Liberty, following a meeting with the tenant’s legal representatives (the tenant is represented by Liberty), LB Wandsworth agreed not to bring proceedings.
If you recall (and here is our very first take on the matter, written on the day of the press release and subsequent service of Notice Seeking Possession by Wandsworth), the son of the tenant was charged with riot related offences. The son has now been sentenced for burglary. The tenant has an 8 year old daughter and was generally regarded as a community asset for voluntary work with youth groups and domestic violence victims.
Wandsworth had stated their intention to rely on their amended tenancy agreement which had as a condition that no-one in the household should do anything naughty or upsetting in the whole borough – thus considerably wider than Ground 2 Housing Act 1985. (The full text of Wandsworth’s clause is in the previous post). While clearly it is a good thing for the tenant that proceedings have been dropped, it would have been interesting, to say the least, to see this tested in Court, against an Article 8 defence amongst other things.
We should not forget that this whole sorry episode started with a Wandsworth press release trumpeting that they were the first to pursue a riot related eviction. Now, they are no doubt hoping that dropping the case will pass quietly and without a splash. Meanwhile, the tenant’s life has been laid open to press and public by Wandsworth in pursuit of what looks like a grandstanding political gesture.
One wonders whether things might not be entirely over. Certainly Wandsworth’s conduct would invite scrutiny.
And is there a question mark over riot related possession steps taken by LB Southwark?
After sending out warning letters of intent last summer to quite a few tenants whose household members were ‘suspected’ to have been involved in the riots, Southwark did serve some five Notice Seeking Possessions this January on the basis of riot related convictions being a breach of tenancy agreement. It is not clear if the tenant was the person convicted, or a member of the household. But, rather bizarrely, Southwark stated that no further proceedings would be taken against the five, instead any ‘further breaches could result in eviction’.
Now while it is not, perhaps, uncommon for Local Authorities to use NSPs as a warning shot in effect – e.g. in arrears cases – it is very odd to find NSPs being publicly and ‘officially’ used in this way. An NSP is, after all, a formal statement of the landlord’s intention to bring proceedings, not a conditional agreement. I do find myself idly wondering whether the decision to use an NSP in this way may be open to a public law challenge. If anyone is bringing such a challenge, we’d be very interested to hear from you.