Social Housing Landlords should be aware of a recent County Court decision, where the Claimant was criticised for pursuing an anti-social behaviour Injunction against a tenant with obsessive compulsive disorder, and ordered to pay significant damages to the tenant as a result of a counterclaim for disability discrimination.
The case in question is Rosebery Housing Association Limited v Cara Williams & Another  12 WLUK 464.
The Claimant, Rosebery Housing Association (RHA), is a private registered social housing provider and landlord of the Defendant. The Defendant lives with severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) which compels her to engage in behaviour which caused tension with neighbours, including a need to “obsessively film” her surroundings. RHA received complaints from neighbours, whilst others became abusive towards the Defendant and reports were made to the Police. Counter complaints were also made by the Defendant about the conduct of the neighbours towards her.
RHA issued proceedings for an Injunction under Part 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act 2014, as well as issuing a Notice seeking Possession under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988. In response to the Injunction proceedings, the Defendant filed a counterclaim alleging that the pursuit of the Injunction by RHA constituted unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
At Trial, HHJ Luba QC, sitting in the County Court, found that only one of the six allegations made by RHA was made out, and that by itself did not warrant an Injunction. In particular it was found that many of the allegations relied upon had never actually been raised with the tenant, nor had they been recorded contemporaneously. RHA was significantly criticised for pursuing the Injunction given the weaknesses in the evidence.
As to the Defendant’s counterclaim, this was successful and damages were awarded in the sum of £27,500.00. The Judgment notes that whilst RHA had the right to enforce the tenancy terms, the decision to pursue the Injunction was disproportionate and in fact exacerbated the Defendant’s OCD.
Social Landlords should take careful note of the criticisms within the Judgment, both of the process followed by RHA, but also their conduct of the proceedings. In particular care should be taken to:
- Properly consider complaints made by all parties, including the individual identified as the perpetrator. In this case RHA had encouraged the tenant and her neighbours to film each other’s behaviour, due to the allegations that they were acting in an anti-social manner, however this simply served to increase tensions. No steps had been taken to protect the Defendant e.g. by offering a move, installing CCTV in the locality or encouraging neighbours to accommodate her condition.
- Follow your own anti-social behaviour policy, including logging and properly considering allegations before raising them with the alleged perpetrator in a timely fashion. Defendants should not find out about allegations for the first time during the Court process.
- Ensure that appropriate staff have training relevant to their role, particularly where decisions are being made around the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty.
- Ensure that documentation filed as part of proceedings, and included in a Trial Bundle, are relevant to the issues in the case to ensure the proportionate use of the Court’s time.
If you have any questions about this particular case, or the issues that arise from it, please do not hesitate to contact David Low, Partner on email@example.com or 0191 3755060.