Sometimes, the fact that legal issues can take a long time to reach court means that the circumstances which gave rise to the proceedings have changed significantly by the time the dispute is heard.
That was the case when a city council sought repossession of a council flat, which it had let under an introductory tenancy to a tenant who then exhibited anti-social behaviour.
An introductory tenant has fewer legal rights than a secure tenant. This type of tenancy agreement is designed to give the tenant time to show that they are a suitable person to occupy the premises under a secure tenancy.
In the case in point, early in the tenancy the tenant had sworn at and threatened neighbours. The complaints about his behaviour led the council to seek repossession of the property. However, as soon as the tenant was served with the notice that the council intended to evict him, the anti-social behaviour stopped.
The tenant opposed the notice of eviction and it was nearly a year before the case came to court. The judge considered that the period of time that had elapsed showed that the tenant was capable of complying with the requirement not to be a nuisance to his neighbours and refused the council's application for possession of the flat. In the judge's view, whilst the council's action was a 'proportionate' action to take when the proceedings for repossession were started, it was no longer proportionate by the time the case was heard.
The matter then went to the Court of Appeal, which had to consider whether the decision made by the original judge was one that was 'open to her' in the circumstances. Even though the Court of Appeal judge may have taken a different view, the Court held that the decision made by the lower court was not unreasonable on the facts and the council's application for possession therefore failed.