Disabled man awarded damages after Housing Association found to have 'systemic failings'

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Mr M, a disabled man who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, successfully defended against efforts of his landlord, the Heart of England Housing Association, to evict him from his flat. He was awarded damages after the Housing Association was found to have discriminated against him because of his disability. Mr M was represented by Sebastian Elgueta of Garden Court’s Housing Team who was instructed by Nikki Greenwell of LDJ Solicitors.

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Mr M has been a tenant of the Housing Association since 2005. In August 2017 they brought a claim for possession against him on the grounds that he had allegedly committed anti-social behaviour.

A medical expert had concluded that many of the allegations against Mr M were directly and indirectly connected with his underlying mental health problems.

At trial, the Housing Association argued that it had done everything it reasonably could have to accommodate Mr M’s disability and had complied with its duties under the Equality Act 2010 to not discriminate against him.

In a judgment handed down on 22 October 2018 District Judge Bull, sitting in Coventry County Court, dismissed both arguments.

The Judge found the factual case against Mr M largely proven but held that the Housing Association had given little thought to Mr M’s disability and the effect thereof upon him. There had been no balancing exercise informed by knowledge of the relevant principles. The Judge accepted the evidence of a local mental health recovery worker that many of the effects of Mr M’s disability could be managed with adequate support but that the Housing Association had not liaised with or notified the relevant support networks so that it could be provided.

The Judge noted that the erroneous views advanced in evidence as to the duties under the Equality Act 2010 by the two members of staff of the housing association and the fact that (at least one) had been trained on the issue was “suggestive of systemic failings” within the association.

For breaching the Equality Act 2010 and discriminating against Mr M, the Judge dismissed the claim for possession and awarded him £3000 by way of damages. The Judge further found that the Housing Association had breached its public sector equality duty.

Sebastian Elgueta is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Housing team.

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