Cardiff County Council v Lee (Flowers) – Court of Appeal Decision

Interim guidance has been provided following the Court of Appeal decision in Cardiff County Council v Lee (Flowers) in respect of issue of a warrant of possession following a suspended order of possession made on terms. In this case the Cardiff City Council had secured a suspended order of possession (SPO) against a tenant for persistent anti-social behaviour – essentially a last chance warning before eviction would be sought.

When the tenant was found to have breached the terms of the order, Cardiff issued the standard form (N325) to issue a warrant through the County Court. However, the tenant appealed, arguing that Cardiff should have sought a further permission from the courts before starting eviction proceedings.

Their argument was ultimately upheld by the Court of Appeal causing a major concern for social landlords as suspended possession orders are granted frequently.

Applying for permission would create an additional cost for landlords (for making an application), but in cases where failure to pay rent is the cause of the dispute, the likely lengthy delays caused risk greater rent arrears accumulating.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) have provided a new form. Therefore Social Housing Landlords should;

1. Use new form N325 where a possession order is made and suspended on payment of monies in respect of rent or mortgage, and the terms are breached, the landlord must make their request for issue of a warrant on new Form N325A.
2. Where the Court granted an immediate possession order landlords should continue to use Form N325.
3. For reissue of a warrant Form N445 (as amended) must be used.

In both instances a statement of the payments due showing what has been paid by the tenant (up-to-date rent account) must be attached to the warrant request as evidence.

This should save time and money in that Landlords will not have to submit a separate permission Application and fee. The Court will consider whether there is evidence of breach before the bailiff processes the request which may cause some delay.

If the case is proceeding using PCOL the warrant will be issued through that facility. The usual fees for issue or re-issue of the warrant are payable. This does mean that requests cannot be made through PCOL, but must be made on paper to the appropriate County Court hearing centre.

It is vital that Landlords update their procedures to follow the new guidance- further updates to follow.