A Judge had not erred in making a possession order against a tenant because of her son’s repeated acts of nuisance.

The tenant’s teenage son had exhibited anti-social behaviour in the locality of the property for a number of years. The tenant herself had not engaged in any anti-social behaviour but, under her Tenancy Agreement, was responsible for the behaviour of those in her household. Possession proceedings were brought on the basis of her son’s alleged misconduct. The trial Judge hearing the case made an outright possession Order.

The tenant appealed on a number of grounds, including, amongst other things, that the Judge had failed to apply the decision in Bryant v Portsmouth City Council, where it was found that it may be unreasonable to order possession against a tenant based on the behaviour of another. In this case, the tenant argued that the Judge had failed to consider the lack of any specific allegations made against her directly.

The tenant’s appeal was dismissed. It was held that even though the allegations all related to the son’s conduct, the Judge had considered the tenant’s responsibility for her son, that she had underestimated the effect his conduct had on others and that it had led to fall outs with neighbours. When considering whether to suspend the Order, the Judge concluded that the tenant had been unsuccessful in her attempts to deal with her son’s behaviour and had not taken a hard enough line with her son which meant he could cause further harm in the future.

This case will be useful to quote in those instances where the tenant is not the perpetrator of anti-social behaviour but where the behaviour is being committed by somebody else within their household and they are ineffective at dealing with it.

REHANA HUSSAIN v WALTHAM FOREST LONDON BOROUGH COUNCIL [2015]

Widening the scope of persons owed duties under homelessness legislation?

Ms Hussain made a homeless application to the Local Authority on the basis that the conduct of her neighbour’s son (“X”) made it unreasonable for her to continue to occupy her property within s175(3) of the Housing Act 1996 (“the Act”). X had made racist remarks to Ms Hussain, had parked his car to obstruct hers, made throat slitting gestures, spat at her and generally behaved in an intimidating manner. The officer reviewing Ms Hussain’s application concluded that X’s conduct fell short of actual violence or threats of violence within the meaning of S177 of the Act, and therefore found no duty was owed.

The Court quashed the review officer’s decision. The Local Authority appealed. The issue to be decided was whether the term "other violence" in s.177(1) extended beyond physical violence so as to cover psychological harm.

The appeal was dismissed. It was held that, the phrase "other violence" in s.177(1) covered not only actual or threatened physical violence, but other threatening or intimidating behaviour or abuse, if it was of such seriousness that it could give rise to psychological harm. It would have to be conduct that was liable to put the victim in fear; it did not extend to behaviour which was merely offensive or upsetting. The Local Authority was therefore required to conduct a fresh review of its decision.

A potential consequence of this decision is that the class of persons who could establish that they are homeless under the legislation, has been widened. In time, this may well put additional strain on the already stretched financial resources of Local Authorities.  The Court considered this argument but decided the class of persons covered was not likely to be that large.

For more information

Contact Emilie Pownall.

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