In memory of Tony Fearnley
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Marc Bloomfield
It is with profound sadness that we’ve learned of the recent passing of Tony Fearnley. He was 57.
Tony was well known among housing lawyers nationally, and in particular in the North West, where he had worked for a number of law firms and in the not-for-profit sector exclusively for tenants since the 1980s. He studied economic history at Liverpool University in the early 1980s before becoming a welfare rights and housing adviser at a Trade Union Centre for the Unemployed during the miners’ strike.
Tony was an important mentor and inspiration to countless advisers, solicitors, barristers and judges, many of whom were drawn into their profession by his influence and encouragement.
As an advocate, adviser and campaigner for the rights of tenants, the homeless and those burdened with social disadvantage, Tony’s legacy will leave an indelible footprint that established rights and safeguards for those whom he was passionate and proud to represent.
He did so with modesty and humility, and to his friends, peers and colleagues he will also be remembered for his larger-than-life character, warmth and sincerity. Among his many landmark cases and precedents, which housing lawyers will no doubt cite for generations, are the following:
House of Lords
Knowsley Housing Trust v White [2008] UKHL 70; February 2009 Legal Action 29: reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal and established that the concept of ‘tolerated trespassers’ does not apply to assured tenants.
Riverside Housing Association v White and White [2007] UKHL 20; June 2007 Legal Action 36: reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal and found that provisions for rent increases within a tenancy agreement are to be interpreted ‘purposively’.
Court of Appeal
Knowsley Housing Trust v White [2007] EWCA Civ 404; June 2007 Legal Action 36.
Manchester City Council v Muir and another [2006] EWCA Civ 423: established the need for consultation between a local authority and the police before the court had jurisdiction to grant an anti-social behaviour order.
Griffiths v St Helens Council [2006] EWCA Civ 160; April 2006 Legal Action 33: homelessness decision that provided important guidance on the discharge of the Housing Act 1996 s193 duty by way of an assured shorthold tenancy.
White and White v Riverside Housing Association [2005] EWCA Civ 1385; February 2006 Legal Action 30.
Lambeth LBC v O’Kane; Helena Housing Limited v Pinder, Corns and O’Donnell [2005] EWCA Civ 1010; September 2005 Legal Action 15: clarified the circumstances in which the imposition of a rent increase on a ‘tolerated trespasser’ served to create a new tenancy.
Knowsley Housing Trust v Revell; Helena Housing v Curtis [2003] EWCA Civ 496; June 2003 Legal Action 30: set out the procedures to be followed by an RSL when seeking to continue possession proceedings commenced by a local authority before stock transfer.
High Court (Chancery Division)
Rochdale Boroughwide Housing Ltd v Izevbigie and United Utilities Water Ltd (intervener) [2017] EWHC 790 (Ch); June 2017 Legal Action 31: case concerning whether RBH’s agreement with United Utilities amounted to an agreement for the sale and resale of water within the meaning of the Water Resale Order 2006.
A genuine champion, he will be missed by those who knew him and irreplaceable to those whose causes he represented.
Tony Fearnley: born 5 January 1962; died 19 May 2019.

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NWHLPA is an association of lawyers and advisers practising in housing law in the North West of England - providing training and responding to Gov...