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Social Housing Speed Read – Misinformation and possession

This week, we take a look at an appeal put forward by a Housing Association following the court's dismissal of their claim for possession.

Luton Community Housing Ltd brought  Ground 17 possession proceedings after it came to light that a tenant had provided false information in her application for local authority accommodation.

Luton Community Housing Ltd v Durdana (2020)

Ms Durdana – a former employee of Luton Council – lived at 3 Griggs Gardens (the “Property”) with her husband and two children. Her youngest daughter suffered with cerebral palsy and the Defendant herself had been diagnosed with PTSD.

She first applied for homelessness assistance in 2009. The local authority operated a joint allocations policy,so she was required to submit a Bedfordshire Housing Register Application form. In this form, Ms Durdana provided information surrounding her housing situation at the time. She was later nominated for housing allocation in 2013.

On the application form, the Defendant stated the following (false) information:

  • The family’s current address was 41 Maidenhall Road;
  • Her only bank account had a credit balance of £1,000;
  • She was living with her parents and had been asked to leave due to overcrowding; and
  • She had lived at 34 Highbury Road, Luton from September 2005 until 2009 and then at 41 Maidenhall Road since that date.

On the basis of that information, Ms Durdana  and her family were granted an assured shorthold tenancy of the Property on 5 August 2013.

In truth, Ms Durdana and her family lived in a ground floor flat at 425 Dunstable Road, Luton under an assured shorthold tenancy at the time of submitting her application. They had also rented another property in Maryport Road, Luton between September 2001 and March 2012. Further, her husband had another bank account into which he had been paying a second income, thus contributing towards a combined annual household income of £70,734.40. Finally, the credit balance in an account of Ms Durdana’s was more than £6,000 – significantly more than what she had previously declared.

Upon finding out this information, the Council issued Ms Durdana with a caution in March 2017. Her husband was taken to court and pleaded guilty to the offence of providing false information in order to obtain housing.

On 17 May 2017, the Council served Mrs Durdana with a notice seeking possession of the Property. Ground 17 of Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988 (“HA 1988”) was relied upon, which enables the Court to order possession where the landlord was induced to grant the tenancy by a false statement made knowingly or recklessly by the tenant or someone acting at the tenant’s instigation. It is a discretionary ground so, even if the grounds are made out, the Court must then decide whether it is reasonable to make the order for possession.

Mrs Durdana maintained that she had told the truth for the most part, but did admit that she had made a false statement about never having had any legal or financial interest in rented property. Ground 17 was therefore made out. However, Mrs Durdana argued that, should the court make an order for possession, it would be unreasonable due to both her own and her daughter’s health conditions. She also alleged that Council had not performed its Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) under s.149 of the Equality Act 2010 by properly considering in advance the impact that seeking and obtaining possession of the Property would have on herself and her daughter.

The judge was satisfied that Mrs Durdana had in fact provided misinformation and that the Council had been induced to grant a tenancy on those grounds, but also accepted that the Council had breached its PSED. The claim was therefore dismissed.

On appeal, it was accepted that s.149 did not amend the statutory powers and functions of a public authority prescribed by other legislation. Therefore, the Council was entitled to seek possession and was not barred from doing so on the basis that its tenant had a protected characteristic. It did, however, have to consider the duty that s.149 conferred upon it when deciding whether or not it wished to continue possession proceedings. It was highlighted that the Council had failed to pay sufficient regard to the effects that the proceedings may have had on Mrs Durdana and her daughter. Nevertheless, even if the assessment had been properly carried out, the outcome would likely have been the same. The medical evidence presented did not suggest that eviction would have had a disproportionate effect on Mrs Durdana and her daughter, and, given the shortage of public housing, it was not unreasonable for the Council to have a policy of removing tenants who had obtained tenancies by deception.

The appeal was allowed.

It is important for all housing providers, however, to pay keen attention to the requirements that the Public Sector Equality Duty imposes and to ensure compliance. It is even more important to do so when knowledge of a protected characteristic is held.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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