Landlords who want to evict tenants who have breached suspended possession orders are being warned they must go to court with evidence of the breach before they can act.
The warning comes following the case of Cardiff City Council vs Lee (Flowers) in which the Appeal Court ruled the council acted incorrectly by actioning the possession order after it was alleged the tenant had breached the terms.
The ruling will have significant implications for landlords applying for warrants of possession in the County Court – with the process set to become more expensive and time consuming as a result.
The case concerned a tenant who had a suspended possession order relating to antisocial behaviour, which they subsequently breached.
Cardiff Council – the landlord – argued that where a where an order for possession is suspended on terms it is automatically triggered if the tenant breaches these terms.
However, the tenant argued that an application for permission to action the order must be made to the court – and that any warrant issued without permission is voidable, although not automatically voided.
The Appeal Court upheld this, and while the outcome was the same – the warrant for possession was actioned – the implications of the decision could cause a headache for landlords as it ruled the council had acted incorrectly.
The ruling of the Appeal Court surprised many as it goes against common practice. For many years it has been accepted that the issue of a warrant of possession in the County Court can be made without notice and does not require permission in these circumstances.
For landlords, the consequence will be extra expense – to make the application – and delays as the application makes its way through the courts, which are already struggling to cope with the volume of cases they have to deal with.
It also opens the door to tenants challenging the validity of any warrant of possession issued without permission.
According to the Ministry of Justice 37% of landlord possession orders made in the second quarter of 2016 were suspended – a total of 10,406 – and there were 18,186 warrants of possession issued in that period.