In a recent case, a local housing association brought trespass proceedings against a single man occupying a three bed roomed property.
Prior to the proceedings, the man lived at the property with a relative, the tenant. The tenant left the property, leaving the man alone in the house as an unauthorised occupier and as such, he had no right to live at the property.
The man wished to remain at the property as he had lived there for some considerable period and was settled, he got on well with his neighbours and there were no rent arrears. He also suffered from mental health problems, namely depression and social phobia.
Initially, evidence was gathered to establish he had health problems and also a petition was obtained from his neighbours to request that he be allowed to remain at the property. The information was sent to the housing association and a request was made to allow him to remain and to give him the tenancy. Despite this, the local housing association were adamant that he could not remain and issued possession proceedings.
The mans mental health deteriorated significantly due to the stress of court proceedings. A defence was filed on the basis of proportionality, public law grounds and under the Equality Act 2010. Medical evidence was obtained that confirmed the man suffered from ill health and was protected under the Equality Act 2010, therefore, the housing association must not treat him unfavourably due to his disability under the Act.
Ultimately, in a shock about turn by the housing association, when presented with the medical report and defence, the housing association agreed to allow the man to remain at the property. The reason: ‘a shortage of one and two bed roomed properties in the area’. Since the commencement of the ‘Bedroom Tax’ rules in April 2013, it now appears that the immediate area has run out of one and two bedroom properties and in this case, this factor appears to have been an important one in deciding to grant the tenancy.
Instead of giving him the tenancy, they could have offered suitable alternative accommodation, however, perhaps an unforeseen effect (by the government, at least) to the reforms is that there are no alternative smaller properties. It is also understood that in the street where the man lives, happily now, a number of three bedroom properties remain vacant. I also wonder how the local authority will now deal with the increasing number of homeless people, who, through no fault of their own, cannot afford to keep their properties and are seeking assistance. Even if the local authority accepts a duty to re-house, where exactly will they place the applicants? I anticipate that this situation will only get worse, but to what scale?
By Victoria Finley, housing law solicitor