Those working in the Social Housing sector will be very familiar with the introductory, or starter, tenancy regime – i.e. a tenancy which effectively provides for a 12 month trial period before converting to either a secure or assured tenancy at the end of that period. However, if the landlord experiences any problems in that time, it may either seek to extend the trial period by a further 6 months, or end the tenancy.
To end the tenancy, the landlord must serve the tenant with notice of their intention to seek possession.
For secure tenancies, the notice should provide reasons for the landlord’s decision to seek possession and inform the tenant of their right to request a review; for assured tenancies, the case of Pinnock suggests the same practice should be followed.
In the recent case of Camden LBC v Stafford, Ms Stafford was an introductory tenant about whom, within weeks of taking her tenancy, Camden began to receive complaints of noise nuisance. Camden served Ms Stafford with a notice to end her tenancy; and she requested a review. Ms Stafford apologised and said her ex partner had been responsible for most of the nuisance.
Camden’s review panel upheld the decision to serve Ms Stafford with a notice. However, the panel did not agree that possession proceedings should have been commenced at that stage and instead made alternative recommendations to its housing officers, such as the use of an Acceptable Behaviour Contract. The panel did however explain to Ms Stafford the consequences should further complaints of nuisance be received.
Following the review, further complaints were received and Camden issued possession proceedings without serving a further notice – effectively relying on the previous notice. Ms Stafford defended the claim on the basis that the review panel had decided not to seek possession.
Camden’s claim was dismissed, as was their appeal to the Court of Appeal. The claim failed as the purpose of the review was to either uphold or disagree with the initial decision to seek possession in unequivocal terms. Camden’s panel did not do this – on the one hand it upheld the decision to serve notice upon Ms Stafford; but on the other it did not agree to act upon that notice by commencing possession proceedings at that stage. It did not give an unequivocal decision either way.
This case serves as important guidance as to the purpose of a review and how a panel should approach the issue.
If you have any queries as to your review procedures or the procedure for ending an introductory tenancy, please contact John Murray or Simon Thirtle of the Emsleys Housing Law Team.