Who’s the tenant?
This was a very long-running case relating to Mrs Ahmed’s occupation of a 4 bedroomed property owned by the Council. In October 1988, Mr Ahmed signed an agreement with the Council, naming himself and his wife as joint tenants. Mr Ahmed then tried to change his mind. Within a week he returned to the Council and asked them to change it from a tenancy in his and his wife’s name to one in his and his mother’s name. The Council, bizarrely, agreed to this and signed a new agreement with Mr Ahmed and his mother.
Roll on quite a few years. Mr Ahmed left the property in 2002. He and his mother asked the Council to transfer the tenancy jointly to his mother and Mrs Ahmed. However, in 2006, another agreement was signed, this time just by Mr Ahmed’s mother who was still living at the property. The mother left the property in 2010 and initially seemed willing to assign the tenancy to Mrs Ahmed but later changed her mind. Mrs Ahmed asked for a new tenancy in her own name. The Council refused and began proceedings to evict her. The proceedings set out in the County Court but were transferred to the Chancery Division of the High Court due to the complexities of the matter. The Judge found that the first agreement for a secure tenancy, signed by Mr Ahmed on behalf of himself and his wife was valid, Mr Ahmed having signed ‘as agent’ for Mrs Ahmed, that it had not been brought to an end and that the possession proceedings were being wrongly brought against Mrs Ahmed as a trespasser. The claim was dismissed and Mrs Ahmed was free to remain in the property, until…
…Haringey appealed. The appeal (which ended in December 2017) was founded on the High Court Judge’s decision that Mr Ahmed had signed the original agreement acting as agent for Mrs Ahmed but that he could not have been acting as her agent. There followed arguments on whether there was sufficient evidence to determine that Mr Ahmed had an implied agency permitting him to make accommodation decisions on behalf of his wife. It came out in cross-examination that Mr Ahmed made all the accommodation decisions but that, crucially, he did not consult with Mrs Ahmed and she was unaware of any decisions he made. The Court of Appeal decided that Mr Ahmed could not have been acting as Mrs Ahmed’s agent in signing the first agreement. Therefore:
- The first agreement was only ever in Mr Ahmed’s sole name
- In signing a new agreement together with his mother, Mr Ahmed effectively surrendered his first tenancy
- Mrs Ahmed had no tenancy
Mrs Ahmed lost her appeal.
The case highlights how important it is to know your tenant. All parties to the tenancy should sign the agreement and any ‘changes’ need to be formally dealt with. You cannot simply enter into a new agreement and be certain that an old agreement has effectively been surrendered by the act of signing a new tenancy. In this case it was, but that would not necessarily always be the case. If Mrs Ahmed had signed in person, then the new agreement naming Mr Ahmed and his mother would not have replaced the old agreement and the lower court’s decision would have been right.
Revised guidance for ASB frontline professionals
The Government published the revised Statutory Guidance for Frontline Professionals on 24 December 2017. This is the ‘go to’ guide for housing professionals dealing with anti-social behaviour (ASB). The first edition was launched to accompany the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 and was a comprehensive and clear guide to the new powers for tackling ASB.
Many of the revisions are cosmetic changes, but they reinforce the ‘victim-centred’ approach that should be taken by partners working together to tackle ASB. Collaborative working between police, local authorities and housing providers is reinforced in the revised guidance, which may help some housing providers to persuade the local police to work with them more closely than they have done up to now.
Other points of note include clarification regarding the use of Public Spaces Protection Orders and new examples as to when a Community Protection Notice might be used.
There is a general lean towards a broader consideration as to what the threshold for ASB might be, suggesting that some of the powers available could be implemented for even lower level and less obvious behaviour.
The revised guidance can be found on the government website.