London Borough Haringey v Simawi (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government as an interested party)
In a judgment handed down today the Court of Appeal dismissed Mr Simawi’s appeal.
The case concerned the rules limiting succession to secure council tenancies (governed by the Housing Act 1985) to one succession per tenancy. Mr Simawi’s case was that the single succession rule discriminated against him as the ‘family member’ of a widow when compared with the position of a family member of a divorcee who had had a joint tenancy transferred to her by an order made pursuant to the Matrimonial Cause Act 1973 s, 24. The difference in treatment arises because under the HA 85, s. 89 Mr Simawi’s mother was deemed to have been a successor on the death of her husband who prior to his death had been her joint tenant of the premises whereas a person who becomes the tenant of a flat pursuant to a property transfer order is not deemed to be a successor; thereby preserving the single right of succession in respect of their tenancy.
Mr Simawi’s relied on Art. 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, religious belief etc. or other ‘status’.
The Court’s reasons for rejecting the appeal are set out in a Judgment of Lord Justice Lewison, which Lord Justice Bean and Lord Justice Baker agreed, in summary the Court found that:
- The judge’s conclusion that the child of a widowed parent rather than a divorced parent is capable of amounting to an ‘other status’ for the purposes of Art. 14 was a ‘tenable conclusion’ ;
- However there was no direct discrimination against Mr Simawi because on an analysis of the rules relating to succession the difference in treatment between the child of a widowed parent and the child of divorced parent did not arise as a result of that ‘status’  – ;
- The succession rules did not cause indirect discrimination against women; indeed women are more likely to be the beneficiaries of those rules than men  – ;
- In any event, any difference in treatment was justified as being not ‘manifestly without reasonable foundation’ .
Nicholas Grundy QC and Sam Phillips, instructed by John Egboche of London Borough of Haringey, acted for the successful Respondent. Sam Phillips acted as sole counsel in the High Court proceedings.
A copy of the judgment can be found here.