Accent Peerless Ltd (Formerly Surrey Heath Housing Association Ltd) v Kingsdon & Kingsdon [2007] EWCA Civ 1314

This was an appeal against an immediate possession order in favour of the landlord Accent Peerless Ltd by a mother and daughter both tenants inhabiting the same property.  Both had mental disabilities, symptoms of which were hypersensitivity to noise a propensity to exaggerate the effect of noise and chronic complaining.  The tenants had an assured short hold periodic tenancy.  A complaint in nuisance had been brought against them by their neighbours.  The court found that the tenant’s conduct included making an excessive number of complaints to the environmental health department and the police, procuring unwanted mail shots and making an anonymous phone call to the neighbour’s place of work.  The court found that the tenants’ actions constituted conduct causing a nuisance or annoyance to adjoining occupiers or others in the locality and made an immediate possession order.  The issue for this appeal was whether or not the trial judge was wrong in failing to take into account an alleged abatement in the behaviour of the tenants both in his decision to make the order and declining to make a suspended possession order.  The tenants argued that it was not reasonable to make a possession order since much of the behaviour complained of was not in the recent past and the judge had failed to take into account the improvement in the tenant’s behaviour preceding the trial.  In the alternative, the tenants argued that in light of that history and the evidence as to the likelihood of repetition a suspended order should have been made.

The Court of Appeal held that the judge had asked the correct question, namely whether it was reasonable to make a possession order.  He had considered the psychiatric evidence and noted that the tenants’ conduct was the result of their mental illness.  He also noted the effect on the neighbour.  Although he did not deal with what might be gleaned from the pattern of the disruptive behaviour and therefore what was described as the abatement he could not have been blind to the issue of abatement.   He noted the tenants’ submissions that the bulk of the complaints to the Environmental Health Department arose from a period of several years earlier.  The judge took the view that tenant’s mental condition was such that something else would be likely to happen even if there was no actual repetition of previous events.  It was clear that the judge had considered the pattern of behaviour and the alleged abatement when considering whether to make a possession order and his judgment should not be criticised on this basis.  It was obvious that the likelihood of a future recurrence was an important factor in deciding whether to make an interim or an outright order.  The improvement in the tenant’s behaviour was based on the expectation that treatment would enable them to live next to their neighbours without causing disturbance and nuisance.  However, the judge found that the tenants would not accept treatment nor would they engage in mediation with their neighbour.  He was not therefore satisfied that there would be no recurrence of the previous incidents or something similar.  He was entitled to reach this decision on the evidence.

Appeal dismissed.

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