Thursday, 21 August 2014

'Pinnock' defence tenant loses eviction fight

A housing association has won a court battle to recover possession of one its homes from a tenant claiming the ‘Pinnock’ defence.

West Kent Housing Association had taken Alan Grant to court to reclaim possession of his flat following complaints of anti-social behaviour.

Mr Grant, who is in his 40s, argued that the way the housing association went about evicting him from his home in Edenbridge, Kent, was unlawful and the decision was disproportionate within the meaning of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In 2010, Cleveland Pinnock took Manchester Council to the Supreme Court alleging his eviction on the grounds of anti-social behaviour was a breach of his human rights because it was ‘disproportionate’.

He lost, but the court ruled that other courts could carry out ‘proportionality reviews’ of demoted tenancy possession claims.

Mr Grant used the defence at Tunbridge Wells County Court arguing that West Kent had other remedies available to it, including an anti-social behaviour injunction.

District Judge Hebblethwaite dismissed the claim on 13 July saying it was not disproportionate as Mr Grant had admitted anti-social behaviour and had agreed to a starter tenancy and knew the consequences of breaching its terms.

Dean Underwood, the barrister representing West Kent, said: ‘Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Pinnock, proportionality has become a common defence in many possession claims, especially those involving defendants with no security of tenure, such as ‘starter’ tenants like Mr Grant.

‘This case is important because it demonstrates Pinnock in action. Mr Grant’s defences were not seriously arguable and, accordingly, they were dismissed summarily, as the Supreme Court envisaged they should be.’

Frank Czarnowski, chief executive of West Kent, said: ‘Starter tenancies are very important to allow both tenant and landlord a probationary period. We are very pleased that the court has found our decision to evict Mr Grant to be proportionate.

‘We have very clearly defined procedures for recovering possession of our properties and, when we have to use them, we aim to apply them fairly to all of our tenants.

‘We are pleased that Mr Grant was found to have suffered no prejudice in the way we applied them to him.’

The case was dismissed and an outright possession order was made, enforceable in 14 days. Currently the association is waiting on bailiffs to assist in the eviction.

Readers' comments (3)

  • There are loads of these cases hitting the Courts - I'm yet to hear of one that has succeeded. But the cost and delay are significant for small housing associations and local authorities.

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  • It's the newest delaying tactic. Evicting me? Call for proportionality! At best it gets you off the hook, at worst it buys you several months rent free living. Either way it costs a lot and I highly doubt any of it is payed by the defendant.

    Small and medium size landlords simply can't afford to fight these in the courts, so it's an instant avoid eviction card.

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  • McMadman

    Yes, but as more of them are rejected there is a growing body of case law that limits the applicability of Pinnock as a defence (particularly in self admitted cases like this one).

    Not sure I agree with the small/medium landlords can't fight this line. Not many, if any, private landlords issue anything other than six month tenancies where there is an automatic and relatively low cost mandatory possession ground available. RSL's and Councils should be financially viable - and have legal expenses insurance in any event - so the cost of pursuing the relatively low number (as a proportion of all tenancies) should be sustainable, unless the evidence is sketch or highly contentious.

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