West Law Report

Social landlord is public body

Posted in Times Law Report by mrkooenglish on July 21, 2008

From Times OnlineJuly 8, 2008

Social landlord is public body
Regina (Weaver) v London and Quadrant Housing Trust in the Queen’s Bench Divisional Court
Queen’s Bench Divisional Court

Published July 8, 2008

Regina (Weaver) v London and Quadrant Housing Trust

Before Lord Justice Richards and Mrs Justice Swift

Judgment June 26, 2008

The management and allocation of housing stock by a registered social landlord was a function of a public nature, so that it was amenable to judicial review and regarded as a public authority for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998.

The Queen’s Bench Divisional Court so held in a reserved judgment dismissing in part the application by the claimant, Susan Weaver, for judicial review of the decision of the London and Quadrant Housing Trust, a registered social landlord under section 1 of the Housing Act 1996, of March 27, 2007, to seek an order for possession against her on the ground that she was at least eight weeks in arrears with her rent.

The claimant, an assured tenant, contended that the trust was in breach of a legitimate expectation in failing to pursue all reasonable alternatives before resorting to a mandatory ground for possession and that the decision was in breach of, inter alia, article 8 of the European Convention on of Human Rights, guaranteeing respect for home life.

Mr Richard Drabble QC and Mr Matthew Hutchings for Ms Weaver; Mr Andrew Arden QC and Mr Christopher Baker for the trust.

LORD JUSTICE RICHARDS said that the trust was regulated under the 1996 Act by the Housing Corporation, an executive non-departmental public body, responsible to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and having a range of functions designed principally to fund the development of affordable housing in England and to regulate the registered social landlord sector.

There were factors which pushed the case further towards the public function side of the line than in YL v Birmingham City Council (The Times June 21, 2007; [2008] AC 95).

The management and allocation of housing stock was not in itself an inherently governmental activity. Although the trust was constituted and governed by its own rules, owned and managed housing stock and entered into private law contracts with tenants, the nature of its activities and the context within which it operated was a very different situation from an ordinary commercial business.

The social rented housing sector was permeated by state control and influence and was one in which registered social landlords could be said to take the place of local authorities. Of particular importance was the nature and extent of public subsidy involved. That the trust’s business was heavily subsidised by the state was attributable to the role it played in the implementation of Government policy.

Another relevant feature was the voluntary transfer of housing stock to registered social landlords from the public sector. The duty of co-operation with local authorities under s 170 of the 1996 Act, as amended by paragraph 5 of Schedule 1 to the Homelessness Act 2002, was also of significance.

The trust was for relevant purposes a public authority within s 6(3)(b) of the 1998 Act. In so far as a function of the trust was a public function which made it a public authority for the purposes of the 1998 Act then it should be equally amenable to judicial review on conventional public law grounds in respect of its performance of that function.

On the facts of the case the claimed legitimate expectation was too tenuous and general in character to be enforceable in public law and there was in any event no breach of it. In view of the other conclusions reached, the Convention issues necessarily fell away.

Mrs Justice Swift agreed.

Solicitors: Brian McKenna & Co, Hounslow; Devonshires.

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