In a decision of crucial importance to public and social landlords, the Court of Appeal has reaffirmed the rule that they are not required to pursue possession proceedings in order to lawfully evict homeless people from temporary accommodation with which they are provided under a licence pending inquiries as to their status.
In concluding that the rule established almost 20 years ago had survived the advent of human rights legislation and remained good law, the Court noted the immensity of the pressure on social housing stock and the serious impact that a requirement to bring possession proceedings in every case would have on the ability of public authorities to provide homes to those who need them most.
The two cases before the Court involved mothers and their young children who were declared intentionally homeless after quitting previous accommodation. Pending further inquiries, the families were provided with temporary accommodation by the relevant local authorities under the Housing Act 1996.
After reviewing each case, the local authorities decided that they owed no duty to provide permanent homes to the families. Whilst accepting that they would be obliged to re-accommodate the children under the Children Act 1989, they served notices on the mothers to terminate their temporary licences.
The Court of Appeal held in a 1995 test case that the expression ‘occupied as a dwelling under a licence’ within the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 did not apply to temporary accommodation provided to assist homeless people whilst further inquiries are made as to their rights.
It was argued by the families that that decision was no longer good law in the light of more recent Supreme Court authorities and that the right to respect for home and private life, enshrined in article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, meant that formal possession orders were required in the circumstances.
Dismissing the appeal, the Court rejected arguments that accommodation provided under a temporary licence enjoys the same protection as that extended to demoted and introductory tenancies. The Court concluded that article eight does not require possession proceedings before a person may be evicted from temporary accommodation occupied under a licence.
The Court noted that article eight could still be deployed as a defence to eviction from temporary accommodation in judicial review proceeding where the court would have power to consider proportionality arguments.