Family saved from eviction over 8 years after possession order
When the housing team at Miles & Partners received an order giving a landlord permission to issue a warrant for the eviction of one of our clients, our swift response enabled the family to remain in their home and recover their legal costs.
This was a case where a landlord tried to evict a family, comprising a married couple and their six children, on the basis of a possession order it had obtained eight and a half years ago. We represented the mother of the family – K. Significant rent arrears had built up in the years leading up to the original possession proceedings in 2008, mainly because of difficulties with housing benefit and a relationship breakdown within the family. When the possession order was made in November 2008, the arrears were very high, at around £9,000.
At that time, we helped to suspend an eviction warrant on the basis that K paid the current rent plus £5 a week towards the arrears.
There were a number of further applications by the landlord to issue a warrant when arrears built up again, and each warrant was successfully suspended.
Since that time K has made the £5 weekly payments – in fact, she and her husband paid significantly more than this. However, there were further problems with housing benefit and K had difficulties managing her benefit claims as she spoke and read no English.
By November 2014 the possession order was six years old. The court rules (CPR 83.2) provide that a warrant to enforce an order that is more than six years old can only be issued with the permission of the court and case law has established that exceptional reasons will be needed to persuade a judge to give such permission.
2017, dealing with the eviction notice
The landlord applied, ex parte, for permission to issue a warrant for the family’s eviction in March 2017. The first the family knew of this application was when the court sent the order granting permission to Miles & Partners, as we were still on record as acting for K.
Award-winning housing lawyer Lou Crisfield arranged an urgent meeting with K and filed with the court, the same day, an application to set aside the order granting the landlord permission to evict.
We argued that there were no exceptional circumstances to justify the application to issue a warrant out of time. The existence of large rent arrears does not, in itself, constitute exceptional circumstances and the landlord had failed to address the correct test in its application.
The hearing of K’s application was held at Bow County Court and Alex Grigg from Garden Court Chambers represented K. The judge set aside the order, enabling our client and her family to remain in their home, and awarded K her legal costs.
The rights of a tenant
Should the landlord still wish to evict this family, it must take several steps which ensure protection for these vulnerable tenants. The landlord would need to serve a new notice of seeking possession and follow the rent arrears pre-action protocol. This involves engaging with the family to see what assistance they may need to deal with the rent arrears and housing benefit problems before the landlord could issue a fresh claim for possession.
For more information on housing law, please contact Lou Crisfield 020 7426 0400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.