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Social Landlord's Decade-Long Fight to Evict Rent Arrears Tenant

In an extreme case which illustrates how very difficult it can be for landlords to regain possession of residential property, a tenant remained in situ more than a decade after a possession order was issued against her in respect of rent arrears.

The order was granted to a social landlord in August 2002. However warrants for the tenant’s eviction had since been suspended no less than seven times, most recently in February 2014. In a further blow to the landlord, the tenant had on that occasion been granted permission to launch a counter-claim, alleging various dilapidations which it was said that the landlord had failed to repair in breach of covenant.

The landlord argued that a district judge had erred in law in allowing the tenant to proceed with her counter-claim. It was submitted that not enough account had been taken of the extreme delay and that the tenant’s motive was clearly to very belatedly obtain a financial set-off against her substantial rent arrears.

However, in dismissing the landlord’s appeal, a county court judge noted that the latitude that is given to residential tenants meant that it was not uncommon for such disputes to continue for years. The tenant had presented expert evidence that the condition of the property amounted to a statutory nuisance and the district judge’s approach could not be faulted in the circumstances.