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Court of Appeal finds for council in dispute over false statement and social housing

A false statement given in support of an application for social housing can invalidate a tenancy even if it was not directly determinative of the decision to grant it, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

In Oshin v The Royal Borough of Greenwich [2020] EWCA Civ 388 Lord Justice Floyd, with whom Lord Justice Coulsona and Lord Justice McCombe agreed, dismissed both grounds of appeal in a case brought by tenant Blessing Oshin against the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Greenwich argued it had been induced to give Ms Ohsin a tenancy because of a false statement knowingly or recklessly made by her.

It made a claim for possession under Ground 5 of Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1985 and this was agreed to by Deputy District Judge John Calver in 2018 and a subsequent appeal by her to the county court had failed.

Lewison LJ granted permission for a second appeal on the grounds that the false statement induced the granting of an earlier tenancy but not the one for which Greenwich now sought possession and because the false statements were irrelevant to granting tenancies as Greenwich was unaware of Ms Ohsin’s immigration status.

Ms Ohsin in February 2001 completed Greenwich’s housing application form, which included the question: “Has anyone you have mentioned so far lived outside the United Kingdom in the last 5 years? Please [tick] the correct box.”

She ticked ‘no’ but this was untrue as she had arrived from Nigeria in 1998. She also ticked a box to indicate she was not required to ask for an asylum/immigration form.

An answer to another question said she had lived from 1990-99 at an address in Camberwell, but this predated her arrival in the UK.

When her sons joined her in 2004 from Nigeria she completed an amendment form in 2005 where she denied that they had lived outside the UK in the previous five years.

Ms Ohsin was found to have had no valid right to remain in the United Kingdom until her grant of indefinite leave to remain on 26 September 2010 and so until that date she had not been eligible for social housing.

Floyd LJ said the application made in 2005 was an amendment to her 2001 application and “it makes no sense at all to look at the amendment in isolation from the form which it amends”.

He said Ms Ohsin sought to claim that a false statement in an application cannot, in law, be operative once a tenancy has been allocated on the basis of that application.

“There is, however, nothing in the scheme of allocation of social housing, or in authority, which leads to such a surprising result,” he noted.

Floyd LJ added: “I accept that, in order to be material, the false statement must be relevant to whether the applicant is eligible for social housing.

“That, however, is not the same thing as requiring that the statement be directly determinative of that question.

“The appellant's false statements did not mean that she was entitled to social housing, but they still had sufficient materiality to be capable of inducing the local authority to grant her a tenancy when she was not entitled to one.”

Mark Smulian

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