Two cases show that courts will act robustly if tenants abuse the litigation process, says Jane Plant
Occasionally, tenants who are brought to court can cause unjustified delays by misusing litigation processes.
In the case of Byanti v Poplar Harca earlier this year, Poplar sought possession following a closure order. The tenant failed to file witness statements and disclose evidence, and Poplar applied for them to be prohibited from further defending the claim.
In response, a judge refused to re-list the debarring order and made an outright possession order against the tenant. At appeal, the tenant’s claim was dismissed and the court held that there was no basis for suggesting that the judge’s exercise of discretion had been wrong, especially when there was no assurance the tenant’s behaviour would change. This case is interesting, as often applications for a debarring order will be refused on the basis that the tenant is acting in person and should be treated leniently.
Another useful case is Riverside Group v Ms Thomas. The association granted Ms Thomas a starter tenancy. After complaints about her anti-social behaviour, Riverside served a notice and sought possession. While awaiting trial, an ASB injunction was granted. The defendant acted in person and sought a full trial to see if possession was proportionate under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and if mandatory possession was compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998. The High Court held that her defence did not meet the threshold for full trial and possession did not violate human rights.
These recent cases reassure landlords that the courts can and will make robust decisions if the litigation process is being misused.
Jane Plant is associate in the social housing team at Weightmans