The wording of the Ground
“The dwelling-house is held for the purpose of being available for occupation by a minister of religion as a residence from which to perform the duties of his office and—
(a) not later than the beginning of the tenancy the landlord gave notice in writing to the tenant that possession might be recovered on this ground; and
(b) the court is satisfied that the dwelling-house is required for occupation by a minister of religion as such a residence.”
Now lets pick it apart.
This is an interesting one actually, simply because working TROs will often get involved in these, which are more common than you think, with much confusion attached. Prior notice must be served for the landlord to be able to use this ground.
The key phrase in there is “Dwelling house held for the purpose of being available for occupation by a minister of religion”. This means that the existence of the accommodation must primarily be for use by a minister of religion, NOT simply because the local parish owns the property and uses it for other reasons.
Possession will also need to be sought solely because the landlords wants it back for a minister of religion, to occupy in order to “Perform the duties of his office”.
Often the religious organisation has a small committee to run the affairs of a handful of properties owned by the religion or the diocese. Decisions are made by these committees who often know next to nothing of housing law, so you can get unlawful applications, even harassment, even though the landlord is a religious organisation.
I have on several occasions successfully defended these grounds, always for the twin elements that the property is normally held for a minister and/or they don’t actually intend for a minister to occupy post-eviction to perform their duties.
Defending this Ground
Well as is clear from the Ground itself, the advocate dealing with a case of this kind needs to ascertain what the normal use of the accommodation is, which will probably entail obtaining information about past residents. Council Tax and the electoral roll can help you there, as will direct questioning of the landlord organisation.
The landlord must produce sufficient proof to the court that the property is needed for a minister to perform their duties, not just for a minister to live in.