Systemic features as well as maladministration in the operation of the Universal Credit system expose tenants claiming support with their housing costs to an increased risk of serious rental arrears through no fault of their own. However, following Matthews v North British Housing , tenants who are in receipt of support with their housing costs, and who face problems with decisions on entitlement or payment through no fault of their own, currently have no defence to claims for possession based on mandatory Ground 8. This steers mandatory possession claims towards summary possession hearings and outright (immediate) possession orders, and so operates to preclude the protections that would otherwise act as a safety net against this outcome. This discussion proposes that the combined effects of these measures justifies a reconsideration of Matthews. Underlying this proposal, it is argued that there are insufficient grounds for excluding administrative discretion to adjourn mandatory possession claims where arrears are attributable to public benefit maladministration, or other substantive wrongs, and that this blanket restriction goes beyond what is necessary to safeguard the rights of landlords. Following on from this, it identifies a broader range of substantive and procedural grounds for granting adjournments where serious rental arrears are attributable to maladministration, or other public law wrongs in the determination or payment of Universal Credit (housing element) awards. More broadly, rather than requiring amendments to the Housing Act 1988 or the Civil Procedure Rules, it is proposed that due process and procedural fairness may be bolstered by amending the Pre-Action Protocol and Practice Directions relating to possession claims.
School of Law
Year of publication: Not yet published.Date of RADAR deposit: 2022-05-19
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