Islington Council must pay costs after dismissing tenant's long-term homosexual partner as friend in succession case

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Adrian Marshall Williams prepared the defence and written submissions and Oscar Davies represented Mr Bariotakis at trial. Both are part of the Garden Court Housing Law Team. They were instructed by Serdar Celebi at Islington Law Centre via legal aid.

(London Borough of Islington v (1) the Personal Representatives of the Estate of Panayiotis Evripidou (2) Michael Bariotakis J01E074)

Press coverage in Local Government Lawyer.

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Oscar Davies and Adrian Marshall Williams win succession case for tenant that Islington Council did not consider was in a homosexual relationship with former tenant/deceased.

The original tenant of the council flat (‘the Property’), Mr Evripidou, died on 20 November 2020 (‘the Deceased’). The Council brought possession proceedings against the second defendant, Mr Bariotakis, who was living at the flat and was the long-term partner of the deceased at the time of his death. Both men were Greek Cypriot.

The Council disputed both the fact that (1) they were living ‘as if they were a married couple or civil partners” – instead suggesting they were merely friends – and (2) that he was living there as his only/principal home at the time of the deceased’s death. These are the two requirements for succession under S.86A Housing Act 1986 for post-Localism Act tenancies.

Mr Bariotakis had been open to some people about his relationship with Mr Evripidou (some of whom attended as witnesses) but was not open to everyone because of the stigma attached to homosexuality in his culture (Greek Cypriot). He had remained closeted for many years.

District Judge Hayes, giving an oral judgment on 7 March 2024, found that Mr Bariotakis had been living at the Property at the time of the deceased’s death, and that they were in a “committed, stable, independent, interdependent same sex relationship, as if they were married”. Accordingly, the second defendant had succeeded the tenancy under S.86A HA 1986.

The possession claim was dismissed, a declaration was made that Mr Bariotakis had succeeded the tenancy, and the Claimant was ordered to pay the second defendant’s costs of the claim.

Throughout the case, the Council had treated a requirement to succeed the tenancy as Mr Bariotakis having to live at the Property for a year until Mr Evripidou’s death. However, given this was a post-Localism Act tenancy, this was clearly not the test. Rather, the test was if “(a) P occupies the dwelling-house as P's only or principal home at the time of the tenant's death, and (b) P is the tenant's spouse or civil partner” (S.86A HA 1986). There is no requirement for a one-year living period for post-Localism Act tenancies of this kind.

The case sheds light on evidential issues whereby a tenant may be closeted due to cultural reasons and stigma, but still has to show to the council (and if unsuccessful, the court) that he was in a committed homosexual relationship akin to being a spouse in order to succeed the tenancy.

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