A couple of county court cases, with grateful thanks to Legal Action Housing: recent developments for reporting them. (Link requires subscription. Of course you should be subscribing.)
Majiyagbe v Singh and Sandhu, County Court at Central London, 30 August 2019
Mr Singh and Mr Sandhu granted Mr Majiyagbe an assured shorthold tenancy on 20 June 2011. The fixed term was for six months. On the same day, a section 21 notice was served on Mr M (as used to be a common practice). The tenancy because a statutory periodic tenancy after the six month term expired.
On 6 February 2019, Messrs S brought possession proceedings against Mr M, relying on the 20 June 2011 section 21 notice. At first instance, a possession order was made, but permission to appeal granted on the issue of the validity of the s.21 notice.
The Circuit Judge allowed the appeal. The statutory periodic tenancy was an assured shorthold tenancy for the purposes of section 41(3) Deregulation Act 2015 (the ‘in force for all ASTs from 1 October 2018’ provision). Housing Act 1988 section 21(4D) therefore applied – proceedings cannot be begun more than 6 months from the date of service of the s.21 notice, or four months after expiry of notice period.
The proceedings were therefore not validly brought.
This is, I think, entirely right. If the proceedings had been brought before 1 October 2018, they would arguably have been valid, but the ‘use it or lose it’ provisions now apply to all ASTs. This is exactly the sort of ‘sword of Damocles’ practice that the Deregulation Act was intended to end.
Guinness Partnership Limited v England, County Court at Slough, 29 April 2019
Ms E was the assured tenant of Guinness. She had two children, one of whom was autistic. She had moved to the property following the death of her mother.
There was an admitted incident of threatening an officer of Guinness over the phone in the period after her mother’s death. There was also an admitted conviction and suspended sentence in July 2017 for possession of a bladed article in a pyblic place.
Guinness served a s.8 notice, relying on grounds 7A (conviction of a serious offence in the locality), 12 (breach of any obligation) and 14 (conduct likely to cause nuisance or annoyance to others in locality, or to landlord in housing management function). Ms E sought a review of the decision to serve notice. In her submissions, she said that her neighbours were racist towards her. Guinness upheld the decision on the basis that there was no evidence she was being racially harassed, and there had been complaints of harassment against her from neighbours.
Guinness brought a claim for possession. This was defended on the basis that Guinness had failed to comply with its own policies and with the Public Sector Equality Duty (s.149 Equality Act 2010). Medical evidence was provided that Ms E had a depressive disorder with anxiety and panic attacks and that eviction would cause her mental health to deteriorate.
Guinness carried out an Equality Act assessment which concluded it was proportionate to recover possession.
Ms E then provided video evidence showing she was subject to racist abuse and harassment by a neighbour. Ms E stated at trial that she had taken a knife into the street after provocation from this neighbour and this was what had result in the conviction
Guinness carried out a further impact assessment which did not address this evidence and did not accept Ms E was disabled.
The possession claim was dismissed by the Circuit Judge. Guinness had repeatedly breached the PSED and had still not observed it.
There had been no regard to the impact of eviction on Ms E’s autistic son.
The impact assessment had rejected Ms E’s evidence on her mental health without giving any reason for doing so.
The most recent assessment had merely stated that Ms E and her son might be disabled, when there was clear evidence that both were.
The evidenced racial harassment was not considered in the context of explaining why the criminal offence had been committed.
Guinness’ own policy required it to consider whether the complaints of racial harassment meant Ms E should be considered as a victim and given support. This had not happened.
Guinness’ policy also required it to consider in such circumstances whether alternatives to eviction (eg a suspended order, acceptable behaviour contract or a transfer) were appropriate. This had not happened.
This was far from a situation in which the PSED breaches could be said to make no difference to the outcome, and the failure to meet the duty was serious.