In this case, the tenant had been diagnosed with Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder following abuse as a child and being “failed by the system”. He was being housed in temporary accommodation on a one-week periodic tenancy under the local authority’s homelessness duties. There were 11 bids for various flats, several of which were successful, and one of which was on the same street as his temporary accommodation. He still refused to move. His position was that he could not move until he had therapy for his PDSD, and that because of his PDSD, he was unable to engage in any therapy. An expert psychologist said that he had seldom seen anyone in more need of therapy than the tenant, and that his behaviour was a result of his disorder.
The landlord sought possession. The tenant said that he was the subject of disability discrimination, because his inability to move “arose out of his mental illness” – . This was a case, he said, where equality legislation required his landlord to treat him differently from someone who was not disabled.
The Supreme Court held that whereas social landlords will usually be able to defeat Article 8 defences at the summary stage, they will rarely be able to do the same with discrimination defences – . The court will normally have to decide for itself whether or not the landlord’s decision to seek possession is proportionate. In doing so, it will consider whether there was any lesser action which the landlord could have taken – [38-39]. Even if there was not, it may still decide that “the impact of being required to move from this particular place on this particular disabled person may be such that it is not outweighed by the benefits to the local authority or social landlord of being able to regain possession” – .
On the facts of this case, the social landlord was now being required by a mortgagee to deliver up the building in question with vacant possession. The Supreme Court was unanimous that this meant the purported discrimination defence could not succeed, and granted the landlord possession. Landlords who have housed potentially disabled tenants in the private sector will no doubt see this as a ray of hope. Otherwise, social landlords should expect to be faced with many more discrimination defences in the years to come.
Ross Beaton / 1st Apr 2015
The information and any commentary on the law contained on this web site is provided free of charge for information purposes only. Every reasonable effort is made to make the information and commentary accurate and up to date, but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by any member of Chambers. The information and commentary does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal advice from a lawyer about your case or matter and not to rely on the information or comments on this site. No responsibility is accepted for the content or accuracy of linked sites.
If you like what you've read but want to know more about how we can help you, simply call us:
Alternatively you can send us an email and a member of our team will contact you as soon as possible.