Wandsworth seeking possession under Ground 1 in riot case

On Friday 12 August 2011 Wandsorth Council issued a press release that sparked a public debate.  Wandsworth Council stated that they had issued a tenant with an eviction notice.  The notice was issued relating to the conduct of an occupant of the council property after the occupant had appeared in court charged in connection with the riots that had taken place in London last week.

Commentators have been focusing on Ground 2 for possession which can be found within Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1985.  The following questions were posed to Wandsworth Council:

(1) Did Wandsworth Council issue a notice to the tenants referred to in the press release of 12 August 2011 indicating that the council would be “seeking possession of the property and that an application will be made to the courts seeking the tenant’s eviction”?
(2) If the answer to question 1 is in the positive, upon what grounds was the notice issued?  In particular was Ground 2 of Schedule 2 of Housing Act 1985 mentioned?
(3) If the answer to question 2 above is in the positive, was ground 2(a) or 2(b) mentioned?
(4) If the answer to question 1 is in the negative why did Wandsworth Council issue a press release that suggested that they had in fact issued such a notice?

In response to those questions the Council had the following to say:

The tenant has been given a Notice of Seeking Possession under Ground 1 of Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1985, as amended by Housing Act 1996 – namely a breach of their tenancy agreement.

Ground 1 reads as follows:

Rent lawfully due from the tenant has not been paid or an obligation of the tenancy has been broken or not performed.

In their original press release Wandsworth Council said the following:

Under the terms of the agreement, which applies to all the council’s rented accommodation, all tenants, their household members and visitors are forbidden from a range of criminal and anti-social activities. Breaches of the agreement render them liable to eviction.

Ground 2 of the Housing Act 1985 does not appear to be engaged in this case.

Questions still arise around the fairness and proportionality of these steps taken by Wandsworth Council and there is little doubt that other council’s will be watching the outcome of this move by Wandsworth carefully, especially those who have been affected by the riots that spread across England last week.