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Hertfordshire County Council v. Davies [2020] EWHC 838 (QB)

In Hertfordshire County Council v. Davies [2020] EWHC 838 (QB), the Court held that although the authority had not given proper notice of their application for permission for a writ of possession in the High Court under CPR 83.13(8)(a), that defect could be waived under CPR 3.10 on the facts of the case. 

Mr Toby Vanhegan appeared for the defendant, instructed by Lucy Fox of Arkrights Solicitors.

The authority employed the defendant as a resident caretaker at a school. He and his family lived in a bungalow at the school because of his employment. On 12 June 2015 his employment was terminated and he was given notice to quit the bungalow. In September 2015 the authority commenced possession proceedings. They were transferred to the High Court. On 21 June 2017 Lang J. made a possession order.

On 11 July 2017 the defendant applied for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal. On 14 July his solicitors asked the authority whether they would be enforcing. They replied on 18 July saying that they would not, because the 28 days for the possession order had not expired yet. On 16 August 2017 the Court of Appeal granted permission. On 18 August the defendant's solicitors again asked the authority about enforcement. They did not reply. Instead, on 29 September 2017, they applied for permission to enforce by way of writ in the High Court. They did not serve the application on the defendant, and did not inform the High Court about the extant appeal. Master Eastman granted permission that day, reciting that he was satisfied that notice had been given of the application. 

The appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal by an order made on 12 March 2018. The defendant applied for funding to appeal to the Supreme Court. The authority agreed not to enforce. In December 2018 the defendant applied for permission to appeal. On 27 June 2019 the Supreme Court refused permission.

By a letter dated 30 July 2019, the authority informed the defendant's solicitors that they were minded to initiate eviction proceedings without further notice. On 14 January 2020 the writ was issued. The defendant and his family were evicted by a High Court enforcement officer on 3 February 2020.

On 10 February 2020 the defendant applied to set aside the permission to enforce and the writ. The application was heard by Master Sullivan on 23 March 2020. She held that in breach of CPR 83.13(8)(a), the authority had not given adequate notice of the application for permission to enforce. However, she held that the authority's letter dated 1 July 2019 which stated that they wanted possession as soon as possible, was good notice. The defendant then had ample time prior to the issue of the writ to apply for a stay. The argument that the execution was in breach of the public sector equality duty because of the disabilities of the defendant, his wife and child, lacked credibility and therefore merit. Accordingly, the Master decided to exercise her discretion under CPR 3.10 to correct the authority's error of procedure. 

 

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