The Supreme Court handed down judgment yesterday in the two linked appeals of R (ZH and CN) v London Borough of Newham and London Borough of Lewisham  UKSC 62 and Sims v Dacorum Borough Council  UKSC 63. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government intervened in both appeals.
In CN, the Court was concerned with the question of whether the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 requires a local housing authority to obtain a court order before taking possession of interim accommodation provided to an apparently homeless person while that person’s status was investigated. The appellants contended that such a result was compelled both by a proper construction of the 1977 Act and in order to ensure that their Article 8 ECHR rights were not violated. The Court rejected these arguments and upheld the position of the local authorities and the Secretary of State that no such order was required. In doing so, the Court gave important guidance (particularly in the separate judgment of Lord Carnwath) on the so-called principle of “tacit legislation” and the circumstances in which the “settled practice” subsequent to a particular statute can be used as an aid to its interpretation.
In Sims, the appellant argued that the common law rule that one person may determine a joint tenancy against the wishes of the other tenant was contrary to the remaining tenant’s Article 8 ECHR or Article 1 Protocol 1 rights. Again, upholding the position of the local authority and the Secretary of State, the Court rejected these arguments. The appellant’s Article 1 Protocol 1 rights were not infringed because the possibility of termination in this way was an inherent part of the right he bargained for when he took the tenancy. There was also nothing unlawful from the perspective of Article 8, as the appellant had a proper opportunity to have the proportionality of his eviction determined by an independent tribunal.
Martin Chamberlain QC and Oliver Jones appeared for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, instructed by the Treasury Solicitor.