ON APPEAL FROM CENTRAL LONDON CIVIL JUSTICE CENTRE
HIS HONOUR JUDGE MITCHELL
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE WILSON
LORD JUSTICE TOULSON
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London Borough of Hounslow
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Mr Donald Broatch (instructed by London Borough of Hounslow) appeared on behalf of the Respondent.
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Lord Justice Toulson:
"We therefore put it to the review panel that our client was not in rent arrears but this was claimed falsely by our client's ex landlord."
"6. I believe the only reason why my landlord pursued possession proceedings was because I complained to him about the disrepair issues within the property. The reason why I did not want to complain to the council directly was because I thought my landlord was the person to whom I had to go to discuss matters concerning my accommodation. I was not aware I could go to the council as my tenancy was a private one. I complained about many things to the landlord. I did not have a lock on my room door and I was burgled. I had asked my landlord many times before the burglary that I needed a lock on my door but he did not get round to it. I reported the incident to the police but they told me that as the door was unlocked, they could not do anything about it. I had even offered to put my own lock on the door but Mr Brar [the landlord] refused saying he would get round to it which he did not.
7. I also complained about there not being any hot water in my bathroom, no heating in my bedroom, no space to store my medication and no lock on my door. I raised these complaints often but my landlord never addressed them.
8. I disagree with the council's decision that I am intentionally homeless because of rent arrears. I always paid my rent on time. During my tenancy, Mr Brar never once told me I was in arrears...."
The thrust of the statement is clear, that the appellant was not in arrears of rent but that he had been evicted because the landlord had become tired of his incessant complaints about various matters relating to the condition of the property.
"This letter represents the Council's decision on review and, under the Act, concludes all internal review processes. If you are dissatisfied with this decision, you may appeal to the county court on point of law relating to this decision under Section 204 of the Act. Any application for appeal must be made within 21 days of the date of the letter."
"In this statement you also go on to suggest that the Property had a number of disrepair issues and you brought this to the attention of the Landlord on a number of occasions. You have also previously indicated that you feel that the Landlord had evicted you because you incessantly complained about these disrepair issues. The Landlord however stated that he had no problems with you as a tenant and in fact, whilst you paid your rent on time during the times you were employed, you managed your tenancy well. You suggest that you brought the disrepair issues to the attention of the Landlord from the start of your tenancy. However, you were only evicted from the Property after you had accumulated rent arrears. Furthermore, Ms Moore (another tenant) has also suggested that she has complained about various disrepair issues, I note however, that she has not been evicted. I therefore conclude that the reason the Landlord evicted you was because of your accumulated rent arrears, not because you complained about disrepair issues."
"(1) The Secretary of State may make provision by regulations as to the procedure to be followed in connection with a review under section 202.
(3) The authority, or as the case may be either of the authorities, concerned shall notify the applicant of the decision on the review.
(4) If the decision is –
(a) to confirm the original decision on any issue against the interests of the applicant…
they shall also notify him of the reasons for the decision.
(5) In any case they shall inform the applicant of his right to appeal to a county court on a point of law, and of the period within which such an appeal must be made (see section 204).
(6) Notice of the decision shall not be treated as given unless and until subsection (5), and where applicable subsection (4), is complied with.
(7) Provision may be made by regulations as to the period within which the review must be carried out and notice given of the decision.
(8) Notice required to be given to a person under this section shall be given in writing and, if not received by him, shall be treated as having been given if it is made available at the authority's office for a reasonable period for collection by him or on his behalf."
"(1) If an applicant who has requested a review under section 202 --
(a) is dissatisfied with the decision on the review, or
(b) is not notified of the decision on the review within the time prescribed under section 203,
he may appeal to the county court on any point of law arising from the decision or, as the case may be, the original decision.
(2)An appeal must be brought within 21 days of his being notified of the decision or, as the case may be, of the date on which he should have been notified of a decision on review."
1. The review decision letter dated 28 September 2009 was defective because the final paragraph did not comply with Section 203(5) in that it stated that the time for appealing to the county court was 21 days from the date of the letter, whereas it should have said that it was 21 days from his being notified of the decision.
2. By reason of Section 203(5) notice of the decision was therefore not to be treated as having been given.
3. Accordingly, his appeal under Section 204(1) had to be treated as an appeal from the original decision.
4. The judge in the county court erred in failing so to treat it.
2) If, contrary to his first argument, Section 203(4) was not complied with, either because there was a defect in the form of the letter or because notification to his solicitor was not the same as notification to the appellant, the consequence was that the time limit for appealing did not start to run against him, but it did not follow that the decision must be treated as a nullity so that the appellant could not legally appeal against it even if he chose. 3) He issued a notice of appeal against the decision on the Section 202 review and the court had jurisdiction to hear it.
2) Even if it did, the decision letter was still defective in form, regardless of the fact that it was notified to him on the same day;
3) The language in the Act allowed no scope for interpretation in the way for which the local authority argued. The Soneji line of authority did not assist the local authority since the language of the Act provided explicitly that notice of a decision was not to be treated as given unless there was proper compliance with the Act's requirements;
4) There has been no waiver by the appellant of his right to argue that there was no review decision capable of being the subject of a statutory appeal. His grounds of appeal and skeleton argument in the county court made it clear that his primary case was that there had been no effective review decision and that his appeal was against the original decision.
"A person becomes homeless intentionally if he deliberately does or fails to do anything in consequence of which he ceases to occupy accommodation which is available for his occupation and which it would have been reasonable for him to continue to occupy."
Lord Justice Wilson:
Lord Neuberger, MR:
Order: Appeal dismissed