In the case of Manson and Downie v. Turner and Turner, a dispute arose over the eviction of tenants in order to sell the property. The Upper Tribunal (UT) considered the decision of the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) to grant an eviction order. The UT overturned the FTT's decision, highlighting critical flaws in the FTT's decision-making process. This case provides valuable insights into tenant rights under Scottish housing law.

Case Background

Caroline Manson and David Downie, tenants of a property owned by Mr. and Mrs. Turner, contested the landlords' application for eviction under Ground 1 of the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016.Ground 1 allows eviction when the landlord intends to sell the property. The FTT granted the eviction order, prompting the tenants appeal to the UT. The tenants contested the adequacy of reasoning and consideration of relevant factors in the FTT's decision.

Upper Tribunal Decision

The UT's decision overturned the FTT's ruling based on several critical observations:

  • Inadequate Reasoning

The FTT failed to provide adequate and comprehensible reasons for its decision. It did not sufficiently evaluate the competing interests of the tenants and the landlords, leading to an error of law. The FTT mentioned various factors, such as the landlords desire to live closer to family in France and the tenants desire to not switch their child's school by moving, but FTT did not evaluate these factors or explain their relative weight.

  • Lack of Proper Findings in Fact

Although evidence was presented before the FTT, it failed to make adequate findings in fact. In particular, the FTT failed to address or provide reasons for dismissing the tenants personal circumstances, including their unemployment, housing search challenges, and the impact on the second tenant's mental health. Neglecting to address these circumstances and their relevance to the reasonableness of the eviction order contributed to an incomplete assessment.

Consideration of Irrelevant Factors

The FTT erred by considering irrelevant factors without proper assessment of these circumstances. This included the FTT considering how good references and increased deposits could offset the tenants potential difficulty in finding alternative accommodation without considering if the tenants could actually obtain good references or afford an increased deposit.

  • Assessment of Reasonableness

The UT found the FTT correctly directed itself on reasonableness. However, while the UT found that the FTT's general approach was not in error, its application and explanation for reasonableness were deficient as they stemmed from improper findings.

Legal Insights into the Case

The UT's decision sheds light and serves a reminder for crucial aspects of tenant rights and landlord obligations under the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016:

  • Holistic Consideration of Tenant Circumstances

The UT emphasised that the phrase "on account of those facts" in Ground 1 doesn't limit the inquiry to exclude tenants' personal circumstances. It stressed the need to consider all relevant factors, including the tenants' personal situations, like financial constraints and family considerations, alongside the landlord's intent to sell the property. This highlights the importance of a holistic assessment of circumstances in eviction proceedings.

  • Balancing Landlord and Tenant Interests

The case underscores the importance of tribunals balancing the interests of landlords and tenants in eviction evaluations. The UT clarified that there is no bias towards granting eviction orders under Ground 1. While landlords have valid reasons for seeking possession, tenants also deserve secure housing. The law requires a careful consideration and balancing of these interests for a fair outcome.

  • Clarity in Reasoning and Decision-Making

The UT reaffirmed the requirement for clear and transparent reasoning in tribunal decisions. Tribunals must provide comprehensive explanations for their rulings, outlining the factors considered and the rationale behind their decisions. This clarity not only promotes accountability but also facilitates effective judicial review processes.

If you have any queries about this case, or social housing support more generally, get in touch with Fiona McLeod or your usual Brodies contact.

Contributors

Fiona McLeod

Legal Director

Sarah Keir

Trainee Solicitor