Ending a residential tenancy on the ground of “false statement by the tenant”
The Housing Act 1988 as amended by the Housing Act 1996 makes provision for the possession of residential properties let under Assured and Assured Shorthold Tenancies.
However, a landlord can only bring a residential tenancy to an end by obtaining a court order for possession.
One very useful ground for possession for landlords is ground 17, a mandatory one of “false statement by tenant”. This can be used in certain circumstances.
Possession (and eviction) can only be carried out under certain specified circumstances, or “grounds for possession” some of which are mandatory and some discretionary.
Where the proven ground is mandatory, the court has no option but to award possession of the property to the landlord and therefore evicts the tenant.
Where the ground is discretionary, eviction is at the discretion of the court depending on all the surrounding circumstances: in other words the judge will decide whether or not to evict.
Landlords need to bear in mind that the courts tend to be sympathetic to tenants in difficult circumstances.
Landlords should also realise that local authorities, housing benefits offices and Citizens Advice Bureau will advise tenants not to leave the tenancy voluntarily as the tenants may not be re-housed if they voluntarily make themselves homeless.
On discretionary grounds, courts will often make allowances for tenants who are in debt or out of work etc., and may not necessarily award possession, or the judge may delay the possession order for a long period to give the tenant/s more time.
Courts may also award the costs to the landlord where it is felt that the tenant cannot be held to be fully culpable given all the circumstances.
Ground 17 – false statements, can be used where it can be proven that a landlord or agent was induced to grant a tenancy by a false statement made knowingly or recklessly by the tenant, or someone acting on her behalf.
With regard to ground 17 in particular, the importance of using a Tenancy Application form cannot be over emphasized.
If the tenant makes substantial false statements on her application form, statements which could to be judged to have been unfair in the way they have induced the granting of the tenancy, then the landlord has good evidence for the granting of a possession order.
Because this is a discretionary ground the court would take several factors into account:
- The nature and seriousness of the false statement
- Was the statement fundamental to the granting of the tenancy
- How seriously did the landlord take the information when he discovered the truth?
- Did the landlord act immediately on discovering the truth ? or,
- Did the landlord diminish its importance by delaying action ?
When a false statement is involved, a fully completed Tenancy Application form will normally give the landlord all the evidence he need to use ground 17 successfully.