What issues do our housing law experts typically address?
Our panel of experts are regularly instructed in cases of housing disputes, typically on behalf of a defendant who is alleged to have breached their tenancy agreement and is therefore facing possession proceedings. Expert evidence may also be helpful in a case involving housing disrepair claims and disputes and appeals to the Residential Property Tribunal.
What issues do our experts typically address?
Psychiatrists often provide an expert opinion on whether an individual has a recognised mental disorder which causes a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities and may therefore be considered a disability under section 6(1) of the Equality Act 2010. Such mental disorders can include serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder, severe depression and hoarding disorder.
Breaches of tenancy typically include allegations of a defendant causing excess noise and disturbance to neighbours. In this context, experts may be asked to comment on the presence or absence of serious mental disorders and alcohol and substance misuse disorders and the impact this has on the alleged behaviour. Because keeping a property in good condition and maintaining clear access is a common clause in a tenancy agreement, people with hoarding problems often face eviction from their homes. Hoarding refers to the accumulation of a large number of possessions and severe distress when trying to discard items. Hoarding disorder often causes significant distress to the individual suffering from the condition and to those around them. It is often associated with a lack of insight into the condition. However, under section 35 (1) of the Equality Act 2010, a person with a disability cannot be discriminated against via eviction because of their disability. It is also incumbent upon the landlord or housing association to consider reasonable adjustments in the context of a tenant having a disability, and a psychiatrist may be asked to comment on this in their evidence.
Although most frequently psychiatrists are instructed on behalf of the defendant, our experts are equally comfortable giving evidence on behalf of the defendant or claimant in housing disputes.
Social work experts are often able to give opinions on what reasonable adjustments would be feasible to enable a defendant with a disability to continue living in the home. They may also be able to advise the court on what alternate living arrangements may be safer or more appropriate for an individual with a disability. Social workers have experience in assessing appropriate and safe accommodation, and may therefore have relevant expertise in housing disrepair claims. A social work expert may be instructed when cases have been referred to the Residential Property Tribunal. The Residential Property Tribunal is one of the seven chambers in the First-tier Tribunal: it has been set up to resolve disputes relating to private and leasehold property. It deals with matters such as lease extensions, property disputes, boundary disputes and land registration matters.
Other experts may be instructed to inform a court’s decision on whether a physical health condition is impacting a defendant’s ability to maintain tenancy conditions, and whether it has reached the threshold to be considered a disability. The most appropriate expert to be instructed in these cases depends on the supposed physical health condition. GPs are often instructed in these matters, as they can often give an overview of how long a condition may have affected an individual, and how it has progressed over time. This may include mobility issues, chronic pain and respiratory disorders which may make it more challenging for someone to keep a property in the required condition. Our panel of neurology experts may be instructed to ascertain whether an individual has a neurological condition which would make it more difficult for them to maintain their tenancy, such as an acquired brain injury or stroke.