The aim of this project has been to discover how the mix of financial and non-financial factors is taken into account during the housing possession process for both mortgaged properties and rented homes.

The first two stages of the project were funded by the University of Oxford's John Fell Fund, the University of Oxford Law Faculty Research Support Fund and the University of Hull Law School.

Read the full report published in April 2014

Phase 1 of the project involved i) legal analysis; ii) interviewing 23 elite actors and decision-makers involved in housing possession cases; iii) observing court possession days and court duty advice schemes; and iv) analysis of pro-forma court forms and published statistics. The initial research aim was to evaluate the extent to which non-financial considerations (such as the welfare of children, exacerbation of health problems, loss of community networks, etc.) are taken into account in possession cases.

As the research progressed, it became apparent that a key question was to learn more about how these non-financial considerations become known to the key actors involved in the possession process, and in particular the judge. We therefore decided to conduct surveys to obtain detailed information about case management and the legal process of possession including the amount of advice and support available to defendants at court premises. Surveys of court delivery managers and of housing possession court duty schemes were conducted in late 2012-early 2013 (Phase 2).


  • L Whitehouse and S J Bright, 'The empirical approach to research in property law' (2014) 3 Property Law Review 176
    This article offers an account of the unique characteristics, challenges and benefits of empirical legal research. The authors explain that empirical legal research involves the collection and observation of data through a variety of research techniques, such as interviews, observation and surveys, and how it differs from some of its close neighbours, in particular socio-legal research. While the challenges posed by empirical legal research are acknowledged, this article argues that it enriches property law scholarship by enabling researchers to weave together the law learned in books with the law understood and applied in practice.
  • S J Bright, N Hopkins and N Macklam, 'Owning Part but Losing All: Using Human Rights to Protect Home Ownership' in N Hopkins (ed), Modern Studies in Property Law (Hart 2013)
    “Shared ownership” is used to provide an affordable route into home ownership. Yet there is a significant problem with the shared ownership scheme; as Richardson v Midland Heart [2008] L & TR 31 shows, in the event of the home “owner” falling into rent arrears, he or she may lose not simply his or her home, but also the equity in the property. This chapter examines whether there is some way of using existing legal principles to avoid this unjust outcome by either; first, protecting the use value of the home by relying on Convention rights under the Human Rights Act 1998 to prevent termination of the “shared ownership” lease; or, secondly, recouping the investment value of the home by using human rights law to enable the home “owner” to retain the equity even if the home is lost.
    ISBN: 1849463212
  • S J Bright and L Whitehouse, 'The Opportunities and Challenges of Empirical Work: Housing Possession in Theory and in Practice' in Bram Akkermans, Eveline Ramaekers and Ernst Marais (eds), Property Law Perspective II (Antwerp: Intersentia 2013) (forthcoming)
    This paper explains how empirical enquiry of the kind unburdened by the pursuit of a particular hypothesis or strict adherence to scientific methods, has much to offer in terms of developing our understanding of law and, in particular, the traditionally doctrinal field of property law, providing insights into the operation of law that cannot be learned from books alone. The argument is discussed in the context of an ongoing research project by the authors that investigates whether ‘non-financial’ considerations are taken into account during the process of housing possession, looking at both owner-occupied and rented housing. The project is a broad enquiry exploring the extent to which issues other than property rights and the ability to pay are considered when it comes to losing a home, that is, matters such as the welfare of children, health problems, community networks, attachment and so on. The study is not confined to the ultimate decision making stage, when the judge decides whether or not to order possession, but looks also at how non-financial factors inform decisions made earlier on, such as whether a mortgagee thinks that the time has come to issue possession proceedings. Although the study is of possession proceedings in England, and is based around the English legal system, the purpose of this paper is not to report on the research findings but to make a point of broader significance in relation to the role of empirical research within legal scholarship.
  • S J Bright and N Hopkins, 'Evaluating Legal Models of Affordable Home Ownership in England' in T. Turnipseed (ed), Community, Home and Identity (Ashgate 2012)
    This chapter explores the legal modesl used to provide for low cost home ownership and: a) Explains the legal frameworks used to deliver the main LCHO products available in England; b) Explores the potential benefits of home ownership to the individual in the form of wealth creation, “mainstreaming” and security of place; c) Sets out key additional policy objectives of LCHO, in particular introducing and supporting tenure mix (sustainable communities) and sustaining the opportunity for continued use of the subsidy to provide access to LCHO for intermediate income households; and d) Evaluates the extent to which the different products available deliver both the individual benefits of home ownership and support the wider policy objectives.
    ISBN: 9781409438540

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