Registered Social Landlords (“RSLs”) are important in helping local authorities to carry out their statutory housing policies, including the allocation of houses in certain priorities.
The law requires local authorities to make an allocation scheme, and RSLs are the only body that statute requires them to consult before adopting a scheme.
Section 170 of the Housing Act 1996 says, if requested, RSLs must co-operate with local authorities “to such extent as is reasonable in the circumstances” by offering accommodation to people with priority under the local authority’s allocation scheme.
That co-operation is usually implemented by the local authority and the RSL entering into nomination agreements.
In the Court of Appeal case of Lawal & Anor v Circle 33 Housing Trust  the issue arose whether making a possession order against Mr Lawal had been proportionate under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights incorporated into English Law by the Human Rights Act 1998.
The leading Supreme Court case of Manchester City Council v Pinnock , stated that where the person seeking possession is a local authority, the proportionality of making an order for possession will be supported by:
1. the fact that it would serve to vindicate the authority’s ownership rights; and,
2. (normally) by the fact that it would enable the local authority to comply with its duties in relation to the distribution and management of its housing stock including, for example, the fair allocation of its housing, the re-development of the site, the refurbishing of substandard housing stock, the need to move people who are in accommodation that is more than they need, and the requirement to get vulnerable people into sheltered or warden monitored housing.
Where a local authority is entitled to possession it should be assumed to be acting in accordance with its duties, unless there is cogent evidence to the contrary. The fact that it’s a local authority that is entitled to possession will also strongly support the proportionality of making an order for possession.
So, in most cases involving a local authority landlord and any residential occupier who has no contractual or statutory protection, the onus will be on that occupier to bridge the high threshold involved in satisfying the court that an order evicting the occupier is not a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
In this case Mr Lawal contended that Circle 33 was not a local authority and so could not benefit from those principles. So Circle 33 bore the burden of establishing the proportionality of evicting Mr Lawal from the house in question.
Rejecting this the court said Circle 33 was a social landlord and a non-profit organisation whose aim was to provide low cost housing for people who might not be able to afford private sector rents.
As such it was a public authority for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998 (“HRA 1998”).
In Pinnock, the Supreme Court stated that the foregoing principles applied equally to other social landlords to the extent that they were public authorities under the HRA 1998.
Having found that Mr Lawal faced the high threshold of proving that Circle 33 had acted disproportionately in having him evicted, the court found that he had failed to discharge that evidential burden.
This blog has been posted out of general interest. It does not replace the need to get bespoke legal advice in individual cases.