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Social landlords sadly often have to evict nuisance tenants – but what are the correct procedural steps that have to be taken if they are disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010? The Court of Appeal addressed that issue in a case that raised an important question of principle.
After receiving complaints from a tenant’s neighbours about his unruly conduct, a social landlord sought a possession order against him. He admitted breaches of his tenancy agreement, but claimed that they had arisen from his personality and behavioural disorders and that the proceedings discriminated against him as a disabled person.
The landlord’s claim was disposed of on a summary basis and a possession order was granted by a district judge, but suspended on condition that the tenant remedied his behaviour. The order recited the landlord’s acceptance that the tenant had a characteristic that merited protection under the Act, but that the judge had found it reasonable to grant possession.
Complaints about the tenant’s behaviour continued thereafter and, after the landlord applied to lift the suspension and enforce the order, an issue arose as to whether the discrimination issue had already been decided, thus precluding the tenant from running the same argument for a second time. A more senior judge found that he could and refused to issue an immediate possession order.
In upholding the landlord’s appeal against that ruling, the Court found that the tenant was not entitled to a second bite of the cherry. The district judge had already found that the possession order was a proportionate means of achieving the landlord’s legitimate aim. In the absence of any material change of circumstances, the tenant had no right to require that issue to be considered again before the landlord was granted immediate possession.