Gaining possession when a residential tenancy goes wrong is something landlords generally don’t get involved with, because most tenancies start and end in a fairly straightforward way. Yes, there may be the odd dispute over damage and the deposit, or some rent arrears, but in most cases letting residential property does not involve a private landlord or his agent is court action.

However, there are a small number in proportion to the whole (around 20,000 UK possession every year in the UK), that prove the exception to the rule. In fact, surprisingly, given the media antipathy towards private landlords, by far the majority of these possession claims are in the social housing sector.

Defending Possession Proceedings

If you are going to get involved in possession proceedings, whether you are a professional or a layperson, knowing the rules, and these change on a regular basis, is vital. You get your claim wrong, even down to the smallest detail, and the chances are you’ll have your claim thrown out of court by the judge presiding. With court fees now starting at £350, and a long delay having to serve another notice on your tenant, you just don’t want that to happen.

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It is perfectly feasible for the lay-person to handle a possession claim, and save the thousand pounds or more you would pay a solicitor or eviction specialist, but you must appreciate that without doing your homework, you will almost certainly fail. However, if you treat it as a learning exercise, and work through the process diligently, not only will success give you a great deal of personal satisfaction, you will benefit from the knowledge gained for the future.

Why then a book on “defending” possession proceedings. Well, although the book is an up-to-date rendition of the rules a solicitor would need to know to successfully defend a tenant faced with possession proceeding against her, the exact same situation applies in reverse, and knowing what actions can be brought to defend a claim puts a landlord in a stronger position when attempting an eviction.

The Legal Action Group produce some of the best legal guides available to legal professionals and this guide, now in its eighth edition, is, at the time of writing, perhaps the most up to date and comprehensive available.

The book deals with three main types of residential tenant: social housing tenants, private tenants and mortgage borrowers (landlords), and seeks to help advisers in dealing with possession claims. It traces the court process right through from the initial notice given to the tenant, right through to a bailiff eviction.

The writing style is user-friendly and jargon free, easily followed and understood by the layperson, yet precise and compressive enough for the most experienced legal practitioner. The latest, and some forthcoming legislation, is covered, including:

  • the Housing and Planning Act 2016
  • the Deregulation Act 2015
  • the Immigration Acts 2014 and 2016
  • the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014
  • the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012
  • the Localism Act 2011
  • the Equality Act 2010

For social landlords the book covers, in detail, the impact of the Government’s welfare reform agenda through the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ and the benefit cap. The chapters on possession procedure incorporate all relevant changes in the Civil Procedure Rules, in particular the new Pre-action Protocol on possession claims by private and social landlords and the updated Pre-action Protocol on mortgage arrears.

The latest test cases, important cases in the residential rented sector feature, including: Ivanova v Bulgaria in the European Court of Human Rights; the Supreme Court cases Akerman-Livingstone v Aster Communities Limited, Hounslow LBC v Powell, McDonald v McDonald,R (ZH and CN) v Newham LBC  and Sims v Dacorum BC; and in the Court of Appeal, Barnsley MBC v Norton, Zinda v Bank of Scotland plc,R (JL) v Secretary of State for Defence  and City West Housing Trust v Massey.

Jan Luba QC is a circuit judge. He was formerly a barrister in the housing team at Garden Court Chambers in London. He was called to the Bar in 1980 and was made Queen’s Counsel in 2000. He is one of the leading authorities on housing law and practice.

If you are looking for an up-to-date and comprehensive guide to the law and practice relating to possession proceedings, written by the leading authorities in the field, then this is it.

Tom Entwistle.

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