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Out of time! Strict time limit for reviews under the Housing Act 1985, s.85ZA

In Aaron Harris v Hounslow London Borough Council [2017] EWCA 1476 the Court of Appeal has underlined the importance of social landlords being permitted to provide speedy relief to the victims of anti-social behaviour.

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 introduced closure orders and a new mandatory ground for possession of premises let under a secure tenancy in a case where a closure order has been made – Housing Act 1985, s.84A (“HA 1985”).

Mr Harris was a secure tenant of Hounslow London Borough Council (“Hounslow”).  The Police obtained a closure order in respect of Mr Harris’s property due to anti-social behaviour. On 23rd December 2015, Hounslow served Mr Harris with a notice seeking possession (“the Notice”).  In accordance with s.85ZA(2) HA 1985, the Notice informed Mr Harris that he had seven days to request a review of Hounslow’s decision.  No request was made in time.  On 4th January 2016. Mr Harris’s solicitors requested an extension of time in order to request a review. Hounslow refused. Subsequently, Hounslow carried out a review and affirmed its decision.

Hounslow was granted possession, but the judge below found that time an extension of time should have been granted. The procedural defect, however, was cured by the subsequent decision to review.

Mr Harris appealed.  The issues were whether:

(a) Hounslow had the power to waive compliance with the statutory time limit;

(b) if not, Hounslow had an obligation to serve a fresh notice if Mr Harris’s failure to request a review was outside his control.

The Court of Appeal held that there was no express power in s.85ZA HA 1985 to extend the time which a request for a review could be made.  Further, compliance with the time limit could not be waived as it engaged the wider public interest of providing swift relief for victims, witnesses and the community who had to endure such anti-social behaviour. The application of the seven day time limit was a clear, readily ascertainable and workable rule that had been prescribed by Parliament.

Accordingly, if no power to conduct a statutory review existed if a tenant was out of time in making a request, a local authority was not obliged to serve a fresh Notice to provide a further seven day window.  Such a course of action would run contrary to the legislative purpose of the provision; namely, bringing speedy relief to the victims of anti-social behaviour.

 

Elizabeth Dwomoh / 13th Oct 2017


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