Secure tenant was too late to apply for statutory review of a possession order

In the case of Aaron Harris v Hounslow London Borough Council, it was decided that it was too late for a secure tenant to secure a statutory review of a local authority’s decision to apply for a possession order.

This was because the seven days set down in s.85ZA of the Housing Act 1985 had already elapsed.

On 13 October 2016, on the application of the London Borough of Hounslow, a possession order was made against one of its secure tenants, Mr Aaron Harris. This was done on a new mandatory ground for possession inserted into the Housing Act 1985 by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. The question on this appeal was whether Hounslow's actions could be successfully challenged on public law grounds.

The 2014 Act introduced a range of remedies for anti-social behaviour. Two of these were a closure order which can be made by a magistrates' court, and a new mandatory ground for possession of premises let under a secure tenancy in a case where a closure order has been made. Both these remedies were designed to be speedy, which is important to this case.

Mr Harris held his flat under a secure weekly tenancy. Hounslow had been receiving frequent complaints about noise coming from his flat from about October 2014. There were also complaints about excessive numbers of visitors loitering in the stairwells, smoking, drinking and drug use. Hounslow first tried to deal with the problem by serving a noise abatement notice; and then by entering into an acceptable behaviour contract with Mr Harris. But the complaints continued. Eventually the police applied to Feltham magistrates' court for a three-month closure order. On 17 November 2015 the court made such an order. On 23 December 2015 Hounslow served Mr Harris with a notice seeking possession. The form of the notice complied with all the requirements of s.83ZA of the 1985 Act. It stated that court proceedings for possession might be begun after Monday 25 January 2016. Hounslow heard nothing from Mr Harris by 30 December. However, on 4 January 2016 his solicitors e-mailed Hounslow's housing department asking for a time extension. Having not received a reply, the solicitors e-mailed again on 18 January. Hounslow's legal department replied on the same day and the extension of time was refused. Hounslow issued proceedings on 29 January 2016. On 16 August 2016 Hounslow offered to review its decision. The review was completed on 25 August. The upshot was that Hounslow confirmed its decision to proceed.

The Court of Appeal held that there was no obligation or power to conduct a statutory review if a tenant was out of time in making a request, and no obligation to serve a fresh notice seeking possession (which would provide a further seven-day window of opportunity to request a review) if the tenant's failure to make a request in time was outside his control. The appeal was dismissed.

 

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