Conditional Orders for Possession

In the case of Reading Borough Council v Holt the tenant had been served with a notice for possession by the local authority. The County Court judge made a conditional order for possession which the tenant appealed. Her appeal was dismissed and the Court of Appeal gave guidance on the making of conditional orders for possession.

Prior to this judgment, local authorities that sought to rely upon the grounds of possession set out in the Housing Act 1985, Sch 2, were required by Pt III to satisfy the court that suitable accommodation will be available for tenants when the possession order takes effect. They would therefore commonly make an offer of alternative accommodation and have it available at the court date so the court could actually consider the suitability of the particular property.

This judgment now makes it clear that this may be unnecessary and means that local authorities can seek a conditional possession order on the basis that a suitable property will be available when the order takes effect, even though no offer has been made before the date of the hearing or that the accommodation is not available at the date of the hearing. So long as the court agrees, the local authority can be left to identify suitable properties in the future.

Obviously this will be very helpful to many local authorities. Up until now they have often held properties open and unused for months while possession proceedings were pursued. Instead, they can now identify what they consider to be suitable accommodation and if the court agrees, they can obtain a possession order on the basis that the order will not take effect until such accommodation is available.

However it was made clear that such orders should only be made when necessary and appropriate in the particular circumstances of the case, which of course leaves room for continued argument on the issue. Examples were given of relevant circumstances:

  • where it would be unreasonable to impose on the tenant the burden of bringing the matter back to court due to the tenant’s vulnerabilit;
  • whether the tenant is represented;
  • how frequently accommodation having the necessary characteristics become available; and
  • how variable such property tends to be

 

 

Oliver Kew

 

Published on 05/07/2013

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