BLJ Successfully Defends Possession Proceedings, Obtaining Judgment of Significance for Vulnerable Client

Bishop Lloyd & Jackson acted for a vulnerable client who faced possession proceedings brought by a property development company in December 2016. The company had purchased our client’s ground floor flat together with 4 other properties in 2007 after the death of the original landlord. The company had previously brought possession proceedings against our client in 2014, using the accelerated possession procedure, claiming that the tenancy was an assured short-hold one. That claim was dismissed by the Court on the basis that there was no evidence that the tenancy was in fact an assured short-hold one, despite the Claim Form making reference to the existence of a written AST agreement.  The company brought subsequent proceedings, claiming that our client was in fact an assured tenant who had moved into the property on 15 September 1990. Our client’s case was that he had been a protected tenant since the 1980’s and owed a rent of £520 throughout his tenancy. Indeed, the pre-completion report obtained by the company’s previous solicitors before the building was purchased, set out that it was possible that our client was either a controlled/protected tenant or an assured one.

The company also argued that our client was in significant rent arrears because he had failed to pay the increased rent of £900 per month following service of a section 13 rental increase notice allegedly served in September 2014. Our client brought a counterclaim for disrepair and sought compensation for breach of repairing obligation under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

Judgment: The Claimant was unable to successfully determine that our client was an assured tenant and as such could not claim that the rent had been lawfully increased. As a result, there could be no claim for rent arrears and the claim for possession could therefore not succeed. Our client was able to adduce sufficient evidence to show that the Claimant had bought the property in the full knowledge that his flat may be subject to a Rent Act protected tenancy. He was also able to adduce letters from his bank and GP Surgery to confirm that he had been resident at his address since the 1980’s.

Significance: The judge has made a declaration that our client is a protected tenant, thereby giving him and his family security of tenure and certainty for the future. As a result of the judge’s ruling, our client can remain in his property, which has been his home for 30 years. This case is of considerable importance to our client who can now enjoy living in his property without further litigation regarding the status of his tenancy. His counterclaim for disrepair will be heard in February 2018.

Law: What is a Rent Act Tenancy?

Rent Act tenancies are tenancies granted by private landlords before 15 January 1989. They are regulated by the Rent Act 1977 and offer the following protections:

  • Tenants can register a ‘Fair Rent’ so that the rent due remains static and cannot be increased by the landlord
  • Landlords can only gain possession if they can offer the tenant suitable alternative accommodation or if they can bring a claim within one of two distinct categories:
  • Part 1 of Schedule 15 of the Rent Act 1977: the landlord must establish the case and the Court must consider that it is reasonable to make a possession order. Cases in Part 1 of Schedule 15 include recovery for rent arrears and recovery for nuisance.
  • Part 2 of Schedule 15 of the Rent Act 1977: the landlord must establish the case and the Court must subsequently make a mandatory order for possession. Examples of cases set out in Part 2 of Schedule 15 include recovery by the owner occupier.
  • When a protected tenant dies, any spouse or civil partner living with him or her immediately before the tenant’s death can inherit the protected tenancy. A child of a protected tenant can inherit an assured tenancy provided he or she was resident in the property for two years immediately before the death of the protected tenant.