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When everyone has a home

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Successfully challenging decision on succession

Clare, an adviser at Housing Rights, recently assisted a young man who was at risk of being made homeless after his mother died. Paul had moved back into his family home with his mother six years ago, but when his mum died he was told by his mother’s housing association that he would have to leave the property as he had no legal right to remain there. Clare assisted Paul to challenge this decision, as she believed that Paul had a legal right to inherit or succeed to the tenancy.

Like his other siblings, Paul had been raised in his mum’s social tenancy. He had briefly lived with friends in his early 20s, but moved back into his mum’s house full time in 2011. Sadly, Paul’s mum’s health began to deteriorate in 2014 and she was diagnosed with a serious illness. She applied for a transfer to more suitable housing in 2015, but had not received any offer of another tenancy by the time she died in early 2017. Paul was devastated by her death, and was shocked when he received instructions from his mother’s landlord asking him to vacate the property within four weeks.

Housing association argued that client was not resident at address

The housing association said that it had no knowledge of Paul residing in the property, and that this was supported by the fact that Paul’s mum hadn’t declared him as part of her household when requesting a transfer back in 2015 and had not notified Housing Benefit of this new member of the household when Paul moved back in with her.  The housing association claimed that they had spoken with other family members in 2016, who had said that Paul was actually living with his partner and only stayed one or two nights a week at mother’s address in order to provide care. With increasing pressure on the waiting list, the housing association felt that it was only right for them to remove Paul from this property and offer it to another household on the waiting list.

Legal right to succession

Article 26 of the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1983, as amended, allows that a person can inherit or succeed to a secure social tenancy as long as the person is a member of the tenant’s family who has been living with the tenant for a period of at least 12 months up to the death of the tenant. Clare met with Paul to try to find out what evidence he could provide to the housing association to confirm his residency and to check why the housing association was so convinced that he had been living with a partner. Paul was able to give Clare utility bills in his name at his mother’s address, and statements from neighbours which supported his argument that he had been living in the property for some years. He explained that he had been staying at his partner’s home a couple of nights a week for a few months, but that the relationship had soured at the end of 2016 and that he’d never actually moved in with her. Rather, he’d stayed at hers some nights, while she’d stayed with him on other occasions.

Using formal complaints procedure

On investigating the issue further, Clare realised that the issue had never actually been dealt with by the housing association’s formal complaints procedure. Rather, the association had referred the matter directly to its solicitors once Paul had asked an MLA to intercede on his behalf. This MLA had, in turn, contacted Housing Rights for our assistance. I decided to issue a first stage formal complaint on Paul’s behalf to challenge the original decision to ask Paul to vacate the property and to query why the matter had been escalated to the association’s solicitors so quickly.

Decision not to award tenancy successfully challenged

After receipt of formal complaint and further consideration of the issue by the landlord’s solicitors, the landlord decided to overturn their decision and grant Paul succession of the social tenancy. The housing association made an offer to Paul to take up his tenancy at an alternative address on the same street as his mother’s home but in a smaller property. Although the client had a firm attachment to the family home, which he had lived in for the past six years and as a child, he could better afford the rent on the smaller home and so decided to accept the offer of a tenancy at a different address.  

Find out more about challenging homelessness decisions

We have a course on the 13 March, Challenging Homelessness Decisions, that will provide you with the knowledge and skills to challenge negative decisions.  It will cover the legislative framework as well as common problems and tactics. Costs from £48 per person (for members of Housing Rights) 

Tagged In

Social Tenancies, Welfare Reform, Adviser


Etain Ní Fhearghail

This article was written on 19 December 2017. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.