Housing

Our housing department includes solicitors with a wealth of experience and ability in a variety of cases concerning housing law, as well as related public and human rights law.

We are specialists in all types of possession proceedings. If you are a landlord, tenant, borrower or leaseholder our skilled lawyers can provide you with clear and tailored advice to help you meet your objective as quickly and economically as possible.

All our lawyers are landlords, tenants, borrowers or leaseholders in their personal capacity which means that members of our housing team can closely relate to any legal problem concerning property and deliver advice to their clients as though acting for themselves. Whether owned or rented we realise that a property is a significant asset which requires robust protection from a variety of problems that can arise including rent/mortgage arrears, disrepair, anti-social behaviour, disputes over succession, subletting or any other breaches or disputes concerning residential property.

Possession proceedings involve one of the most technical and complex areas of law since the rules were not designed to cater for the complex and diverse housing needs of today’s society. With GT Stewart Solicitors you can be assured that you will be safely navigated through relevant legislation and case law which we will help you to apply to your situation in order to place you in the strongest position to preserve or recover your property.

If you have received a notice of intended possession proceedings, a claim form for possession of property or a notice of eviction then we would urge you to seek quality legal advice immediately. The government recognises that the loss of a home is of overwhelming importance to an individual and legal aid may be available to fund legal advice.

If you require assistance in preparing a notice of intended possession proceedings or a claim form for possession of property we offer fixed and competitive rates for landlords.

What is anti-social behaviour (ASB)?

In the context of housing, ASB is defined as:

Conduct capable of causing housing-related nuisance or annoyance to any person

Allegations of ASB can be used to obtain civil injunctions, closure orders and orders for possession of property.

Civil ASB Injunctions

These can be applied for by police, local authorities and social housing providers. An ASB injunction can run for a fixed period of time or until further notice.

As well as prohibiting the alleged ASB, an injunction can also ‘require’ something to be done, such as attending awareness classes or mediation. An ASB injunction is a serious measure which can also result in possession proceedings.

We can help by resisting applications for ASB injunctions and can assist with defending against committal proceedings brought for a breach of any existing ASB injunction.

Possession Proceedings

ASB can be relied upon as a ground for possession of property and many tenancy agreements will contain an express provision dealing with illegal and anti-social behaviour. Possession proceedings will almost certainly be considered in the event of an offence being committed in the property, either by the tenant or any person visiting them.

Until recently this was a discretionary ground for possession, meaning that a court would only grant the order for possession if it was reasonable to do so.

However, recent legislation has created 5 new situations in which possession can be sought by landlords on mandatory grounds relating to ASB or offending behaviour. Essentially, mandatory possession can now be applied for:

  • When a tenant or their visitor has been convicted of a serious offence committed in or around the property.
  • Where an ASB injunction has been breached (this includes both the positive and the prohibitive terms of the order).
  • Where a Closure Order has been obtained.

These types of possession claim can only be defended on much more limited grounds. It is anticipated that the new legislation will result in the tactical use of injunctive powers by local authority and social housing landlords.

The grounds for seeking an ASB injunction are broad and the consequences can be severe. It is therefore essential to seek advice at the earliest opportunity.

Please contact us if you are experiencing any of the issues referred to above.

Local authorities have a duty to house people who are homeless if they satisfy certain criteria.

Legal aid is available if a local authority has acted unlawfully.

GT Stewart’s housing team are hugely experienced in all aspects of homelessness law and can help you challenge unlawful decisions made by local authorities.

All local authorities must accept homelessness applications

The application can be made in any form: the application does not have to be in writing.

A local authority cannot delay the acceptance of a homelessness application: they cannot send you away and tell you to come back for an appointment.

Duty to provide temporary accommodation pending the outcome of a homelessness application

If a local authority thinks that you might:

  • Be homelessness.
  • Be eligible for housing assistance (this relates to your immigration status)
  • Have some kind of vulnerability (this might be because you are pregnant or have children, if you were in care when you were younger, if you have been in prison or if you have any mental or physical health issues)

They must immediately provide you with temporary accommodation which is suitable for your needs, until they make a decision on your homelessness application.

A local authority should make their decision on your homelessness application within 33 working days from the date that you made your homelessness application.

If the local authority’s decision is negative, you have 21 working days to request a review of that decision

We can help you prepare representations in writing in support of your review.

The local authority must complete their review decision within 8 weeks.

If the local authority does not make their review decision within 8 weeks or if the decision is negative, then legal aid might be available to bring an appeal in the County Court.

Your landlord may be in breach of their legal obligations to repair your home. You may have suffered past and/or ongoing disrepair. You may also have suffered some personal injury as a result or you may have suffered risk or harm to your health.

We can offer public funding in disrepair cases where there is serious risk of harm arising from the disrepair in your home.

Alternatively, we can offer a no win, no fee agreement. Under this funding arrangement, you will not pay anything towards legal costs. We will pursue your case for repairs and damages for loss suffered. If we are successful, your opponent will usually pay your legal costs. In the event that we are unsuccessful, you will not usually have to pay anything.

If you would like further advice on pursuing a disrepair claim then please contact us for further information.

EPA Actions

We also have expertise in taking proceedings in the Magistrates Court against landlords for allowing a statutory nuisance.

A statutory nuisance is anything that causes a risk to public health. It can include, for example, cockroach or other infestations.

A prosecution against the landlord can lead to them taking action to abate the nuisance and paying compensation for the loss suffered.

A recent example of a successful prosecution can be found here (link to Dirghayu’s recent EPA case).

Succession is a right given under statute law for certain types of tenancies to pass on to family members following the death of a tenant in prescribed circumstances. Our housing team can advise you on succession rights and any discretionary duties of a social landlord to allow succession where there is no statutory right of succession, and possession proceedings following the death of a tenant ( in circumstances were the right to succeed is dispute or a right is accepted but the succeeding tenant would be under occupying).

Certain types of residential occupiers can have there right to occupy premises terminated on the landlord giving written notice to quit/notice seeking possession. In such cases if the landlord is a social housing landlord it may be possible to defend the claim for possession on the basis that it is not proportionate to do so, raising arguments that would normally be raised in public law proceedings (also known as Judicial Review proceedings) or with regards to Article 8 rights. Article 8 provides that everyone has the right to respect for their home and family life and that this right can only be interfered with if it is proportionate. A public law defence would examine whether the decision to seek possession was proportionate and/or unlawful. The threshold which must be reached before a Human Rights or Public Law defence will be considered by the Courts is one of “serious arguability”. This test will be applied by the Judge when they decide whether to adjourn possession proceedings at the first hearing so as to allow a defence to be filed.

Factors which are considered in cases of this type include:

1. Did the social landlord have regard to all relevant considerations (Including relevant policy and guidance)?

2. Did the social landlord conduct any required review?

3. Did the social landlord carry out its own proportionality assessment?

4. In cases involving people with protected characteristics such as disability, did the social landlord consider this and apply its obligations under its duties under the Equality Act?

5. Did the social landlord act fairly?

6. Did the social landlord provide reasons to the occupant for its decision to seek eviction and why it decided that there was no alternative option?

At GT Stewart, our housing lawyers have a wealth of experience in dealing with such cases and can provide you with comprehensive and effective advice.

We offer competitive rates and fixed fee charges to residential landlords in the following areas of work:

  • Taking possession proceedings
  • for rents arrears
  • s21 proceedings
  • breaches of tenancy -i.e) illegal subletting
  • anti -social behaviour
  • unauthorised occupiers/squatters
  • Enforcing Possession orders/Evictions
    • Representation in disrepair claims/EPA actions
    • Drafting notices, tenancy agreements and/or advising on the terms and conditions of tenancy
    • Gas Servicing Access injunctions
    • Advising on tenancy deposit disputes/protection

    We aim to provide a speedy cost effective service to our client. Our team of expert lawyers are responsive to the urgent demands of the client and recognise that taking legal action can be extremely stressful and difficult for even an experienced landlord in an increasingly heavily regulated area of law.

    Public Funding

    Most of our work is conducted under the Legal Help or Legal Aid scheme. The firm possesses housing legal aid contracts in several areas including Dartford, Southwark, Lambeth , Hackney and Croydon. Legal Aid is available for cases of Anti-Social behaviour, Homelessness, possessions and Eviction, disrepair if there is a serious risk to health. Exceptional funding is available if , for instance, the refusal of legal aid would lead to a breach convention of human rights. If your case is in scope then we would assess eligibility for public funding before continuing with the case.

    Private Funding

    We can act privately for you in a case. Our hourly rates vary according to the type of case and level and experience of the fee earner conducting the case.

    We give you an estimate of the likely costs of the case from the outset so that you are kept fully aware of the costs position.

    Fixed fee

    We can offer a fixed fee . This is generally for one off advice.

    CFA

    We can offer “ No Win No Fee” otherwise known as Conditional Fee Agreements ( CFA).We fund certain types of cases in this way such as disrepair and illegal eviction claims. With CFA s you only pay our fees if you win as a large proportion of our costs will be paid by the opponent. Every case would undergo a risk assessment where we would assess the chances of success and if we believe that your case would be successful and we are likely to recover costs from the opponent then we will generally agree to represent you on that basis.