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Definitions of reasonable and suitable alternative accommodation

This content applies to England

Definitions of 'reasonable' and 'suitable alternative accommodation' when considering whether a possession order can be made against a secure tenant.

Definition of reasonable

'Reasonable' means having regard to both the interests of the parties concerned and the public's interests. A number of factors can be taken into account, such as the reason for and the seriousness of the breach, whether the tenant has had an opportunity to remedy the breach, whether it has, in fact, been remedied, the effect of the tenant's conduct on others, the consequence of eviction for this particular tenant and her/his family, and whether any further breaches have occurred in the run up to the trial.

Local authority and other social landlords should follow the steps outlined in the Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords before pursuing possession proceedings for rent arrears or on a mandatory ground.

Where a tenant suffers from a disability and that disability is related to the grounds for possession (eg a tenant whose mental health problems mean they fail to claim housing benefit promptly or at all) then the taking of possession proceedings and any eviction which potentially results may amount to discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. That may form part of a defence or a counterclaim in possession proceedings.[1] For more information see Disability discrimination defences.

Furthermore, the Department for Communities and Local Government makes it clear in its guidance that an application for possession should be a last resort for a social landlord.[2] The court can consider issues such as homelessness and mental health but, where the outcome of a homelessness application is not clear-cut, it is wrong for the court to try to pre-empt the council's decision when considering whether it is reasonable to grant possession.[3]

Definition of suitable alternative accommodation

'Suitable alternative accommodation' must give comparable security of tenure as that already enjoyed, such as a secure, protected or assured tenancy. In allocating a property, the landlord must have regard to the household's needs, this could include location of workplace and support networks. Some needs are more important than others.

In one case, a tenant refused an offer of alternative accommodation as the property did not have a garden. A possession order was made. The judge felt that the alternative property was suitable because the use of a garden was only one of the tenant's needs and was not as important as others. His appeal to the Court of Appeal failed. The court confirmed that the garden was a relevant matter but would not interfere with the way the judge had exercised his discretion.[4]

There is no requirement that an offer of suitable alternative accommodation has to made before the date of the possession hearing, nor that suitability has to be determined by reference to a particular property.[5]

Wales

The information on this page applies only to England. Go to Shelter Cymru for information relating to Wales.

[1] Manchester CC v Romano [2004] EWCA Civ 834; Liverpool CC v Slavin [2005] Legal Action, July.

[2] ODPM, Improving the effectiveness of rent arrears management, June 2005.

[3] Lewisham LBC v Adeyimi (2000) 32 HLR 414, CA.

[4] Enfield LBC v French (1985) 17 HLR 211, CA.

[5] Holt v Reading BC [2013] EWCA Civ 641.

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