Failed Succession Claims – Know Your Policies And Follow Them 

The recent case of Tower Hamlets LBC v Ali, County Court at Clerkenwell & Shoreditch. 21 July 2021 is a cautionary tale to Registered Providers of Social Housing and Local Authorities. Although this is a County Court case and therefore not binding, I would still expect it to be an authority relied on by tenants’ Solicitors in an attempt to sway a Trial Judge. 

The brief facts of the case are that Mr. Ali’s mother was a secure tenant, and after she passed away, Tower Hamlets issued possession proceedings against Mr Ali. 

Mr. Ali’s mother had previously succeeded and Mr Ali could not succeed under s87 Housing Act 1985. Mr. Ali applied to succeed his mother relying on Tower Hamlet’s own discretionary policy for failed successors. This stated that Tower Hamlets would grant a new tenancy to an occupant where they had lived with the tenant for 12 months before the tenant’s death, and they occupied the property as their only or principal home.  

Mr Ali provided information of his residence to Tower Hamlets, who reached a decision in September 2018 that Mr. Ali had failed to provide sufficient information to satisfy them that he succeeded under their discretionary policy.  

Tower Hamlets relied on letters that Mr. Ali’s mother had written whilst alive, which stated that Mr Ali did not live with her, but they did not necessarily say during which periods of time this was the case.  

Mr Ali provided further evidence including letters of support from neighbours, and an explanation for why his mother stated he did not live there. Mr. Ali requested that Tower Hamlets reconsider their position. 

Mr. Ali raised a public law defence, stating that there was a lack of procedural fairness and, following a request for reconsideration, that Tower Hamlets had cherry picked the evidence, and ignored evidence provided by him.  

Tower Hamlets stated that it was not obliged to reconsider the position, but argued that it did anyway, and that the earlier decision stood. 

Social Landlords are of course treated as a public body and public law challenges can be brought against them in the same manner as a Local Authority. 

The Court had to decide whether Tower Hamlets had applied its policy lawfully during its decision-making process. It was not for the Judge to decide whether Mr Ali fulfilled the criteria within the policy. 

During cross examination, Tower Hamlets said they were flexible in the approach to their policy and would consider all the evidence provided, however it seems in this case they did not. The claim for possession was dismissed.         

The Judge found that Tower Hamlets had not considered the additional information provided by Mr. Ali, and that their decision was affected by the Tower Hamlet’s own knowledge of the Property. This was not actually put to Mr. Ali to allow him to respond. 

The housing manager who attended Trial did not appear familiar with the evidence provided by Mr. Ali. In cross examination, the housing manager was given the opportunity to comment on the evidence when they could have dealt with any points relating to unfairness but did not, and stood by the initial decision. 

This is an important lesson for Social Landlords in failed succession claims. It is important to: 

  1. Know and apply your own policies and procedures. 
  2. Know and apply the contents of the deceased tenant’s tenancy agreement. 
  3. Consider in detail any application to succeed and personal circumstances before making a decision. 
  4. So long as any relevant policy and procedure has been applied there should not be any procedural unfairness, which was the problem in the above case. 
  5. Where there is any request to reconsider the decision, the prospective successor should be asked to provide any further information, in particular of personal circumstances, which they wish to be taken in to account. 

For any further information please contact Phillip Coburn, Senior Associate Solicitor at  

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