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It is very common for tenants who run up rent arrears to effectively be given a second chance by the courts when facing an application by the landlord to repossess the premises. Often, such applications are stayed subject to compliance with a revised payment regime designed to clear the arrears over time.
In a recent case, the question of how to deal with persistent non-payers of rent was considered. It dealt with a council tenant who had lived for many years in social housing and had a history of rent arrears. The court suspended a possession order obtained by the council on condition that he pay his future rent demands and contribute towards clearing the rent arrears according to a programme of payments. The arrears were never cleared.
The building he lived in and his tenancy were transferred to a social housing provider and possession proceedings were begun again. Once again, a suspension was given to the tenant on similar terms to the first. He failed to adhere to them until a warrant of possession was issued. The rent arrears were then cleared on the day he was due to be evicted.
The tenant brought a legal challenge to the second order, claiming that it was being argued on the same facts as the original order, which had already been subject to a court ruling. There is a principle of law that prohibits the same case being made on the same facts once it has been decided by the court. The Deputy District Judge agreed and ruled that he should be readmitted to the property.
The social housing provider appealed to the Court of Appeal and this time was successful. The facts underpinning that application were clearly different from the first one and an eviction order could be validly sought.