Tenant’s human rights trump landlord’s possession claim

Wednesday 12 March 2014

The Court of Appeal today, in an unprecedented development, upheld the dismissal of a claim for possession against an Introductory Tenant on the basis that an eviction would infringe his human rights.

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Southend Council granted Mr Robert Armour an introductory tenancy in January 2011 and within two months there were three complaints that he had been abusive. The Council decided to seek eviction and its decision was upheld on a review. The Housing Act 1996 gave it an 'absolute' right to a possession order.

But by the time the case came to trial in March 2012, Mr Armour's mental health issues had been identified. A GP certified that he lacked the capacity to defend the claim. Despite his condition, there had been no further incidents of misbehaviour for 11 months and Mr Armour had the support - in keeping his tenancy - of his teenage daughter (who lived with him), youth services, the probation service, his sister and his ex-partner. The judge (a Recorder) decided that a possession order would infringe his human rights and dismissed the claim.

The council brought an appeal in the High Court. That failed. The appeal judge said that the Recorder had given a "model judgment" showing how these cases should be dealt with.

The council then brought a second appeal in an attempt to show that the first two judges had been wrong on the test to apply in human rights cases. It also tried to rely on 'fresh evidence'.

Today, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. It said the Recorder had balanced the factors weighing for and against it being 'proportionate' to grant possession and had not been wrong to put into the balance Mr Armour's 11 months of good behaviour. It rejected the application to rely on fresh evidence and adopted a stricter test for such evidence being introduced on second appeals.

This is believed to be the first time the Court of Appeal has upheld the dismissal of a possession claim on human rights grounds.

The judgment can be read here.

The tenant was represented by Jan Luba QC. Jan is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Housing Team.

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