This is the wording of the ground
The tenant or a person residing in or visiting the dwelling-house—
(a) has been guilty of conduct causing or likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance to a person residing, visiting or otherwise engaging in a lawful activity in the locality, or
(b) has been convicted of—
(i) using the dwelling-house or allowing it to be used for immoral or illegal purposes, or
(ii) an indictable offence committed in, or in the locality of, the dwelling-house.
Now lets pick it apart.
This is the ground that no sane private landlord would enter court with, ask any housing officer and they will show you their scars.
If you want a brief example of the court’s approach to these issues look no further than the case of Manchester City Council v. Higgins (2005).
Mrs Higgins was a council tenant, her son verbally abused a woman with three children with mental health problems over a period of time and committed criminal damage to her property.
The council gave them a warning about their behaviour but when it failed to have the desired effect they obtained an injunction and got an ASBO issued on the son, he was subsequently arrested for further breaches and put under two years supervision.
The council acted to protect the victim’s family but the judge merely granted possession suspended for 18 months. The notion at play here being the question of proportionality. Is the taking away of a person’s home a proportionate response to the reason possession is being sought?
The court of appeal overturned the county court decision but who wants to go that far?
This ground for eviction relates to the actions of not just the tenant but someone living with the tenant or even visiting them at the time the breach was committed and the ground makes no distinction between visitors you want and visitors you don’t, so technically an ex partner comes over for an unexpected visit and causing nuisance with neighbours could theoretically prove the ground – but remember the ground is discretionary and courts are unlikely to take a harsh line in such circumstances.
Often the cause of the breach is with neighbours who then mount their own counter-allegations and the whole thing can get very messy indeed. Hearings for possession cant last days, not just 10 minutes.
It is worth examining the phrase “guilty of conduct causing or likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance”. Emphasis on the word ‘Likely’ in there, meaning the landlord doesn’t have to prove that the act did case nuisance or annoyance, merely that it would be likely to.
Attention needs to also be paid to 14 (b) in criminal cases where the offender must have been convicted of the offences referred to in (i) and (ii) not just arrested or charged – which is particularly prescient given the significant increase in people growing their own cannabis for sale.
I say this as one who has been in more cannabis farms than Howard Marks and seen a huge increase in back bedrooms given over to cultivation in the past 5 years.
Defending this ground
Well how long have you got?
Attention needs to be paid to the nature of the breaches and what other remedies may be in place to successfully argue that possession would be disproportionate.
Courts take into account genuine remorse for the actions and previous good character. The court of Appeal in the Higgins case took into account that Mrs Higgins showed no remorse for her son’s actions at all.
Bear in mind as stated above if the grounds relates to the criminal activities part of the ground there must be a conviction first.
For anyone doing duty desk work this is not one you could defend with a 5 minute interview, case law and legal principles relating to this ground are very wide ranging.
Note from Tessa
If you are a landlord and find that you have rented to a criminal by mistake, or you need to evict an anti-social tenant in an HMO who is causing all your good tenants to give notice and leave, if at all possible use section 21 rather than this ground.
Ground 14 should only be used as a last resort – as in the case above, you will probably just get a suspended order. See the points made in the previous post in this series on discretionary grounds.