Our client was living in a shared house ran by a housing association on an assured shorthold tenancy. Our client was Eritrean, and for the 7 years he had lived there all the other tenants had also been Eritrean. The landlord wanted to change the use of the building.
His social landlord served him with a Section 21 notice in 2022. The cover letter to the notice said “This Property is no longer used for the Eritrean Community”. The landlord then issued possession proceedings, and the documents included a witness statement from a housing officer which stated: “the property is no longer used for the Eritrean Community (professional support provider)”.
Our client defended the possession proceedings on the basis that this amounted to direct discrimination as the cover letter showed that our client was being evicted because he was Eritrean. In the event that the landlord meant to say that they were actually only ceasing referral arrangements with an Eritrean community organisation, then it was submitted that this amounted to indirect discrimination. This is because ending such a referral arrangement would clearly disproportionately affect Eritreans. Also, any indirect discrimination was not justified as instead of evicting our client, they could have rehoused him. It was also alleged that the cover letter and witness statement amounted to harassment under the Equality Act 2010.
After a defence and counterclaim was filed the parties engaged in settlement negotiations. Although the landlord did not admit any discrimination, they agreed to rehouse our client into a permanent one bedroom flat from their own stock as a means of resolving the proceedings. They also agreed to pay his legal costs.
We were greatly assisted in this case by counsel Nick Bano.