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Sarah is the joint head of the Housing and Social Welfare Team.

Sarah Steinhardt specialises in housing and community care, education and discrimination law, and in related public law.

Sarah is particularly noted for her expertise in discrimination in housing and other discrimination outside of the employment field, and she enjoys working proactively and imaginatively to achieve positive outcomes for clients. She is astute to public funding issues and costs and always happy to discuss possible strategies at an early stage.

Sarah has been ranked in Chambers and Partners for Social Housing since 2016. The current edition (2022) ranks her in Band 1 and says:

“Sarah Steinhardt is an effective, accomplished advocate with pronounced expertise in mental capacity and Equality Act issues in the context of social housing. Her impressive practice takes in homelessness cases and challenges to allocation schemes. She regularly handles disability discrimination matters as part of her diverse practice. Sarah Steinhardt is also recognised for her strength in housing benefit disputes.” Her strengths are quoted as "Her knowledge is second to none. Clients are blown away by her and are comfortable and reassured having Sarah on their case." "Sarah is very knowledgeable, works at an impressive pace against deadlines and gives clear advice on legal and practical issues."

Previous editions of the Guide commented that Sarah was "one of the best Equality Act lawyers I have worked with." "She is extremely practical and straightforward and tries to achieve the best for her clients", "a very impressive advocate, who is sensitive, eloquent and capable;" "She is so clever and is a go to on the Equality Act”’ (2017-2021), while the 2016 edition reported that Sarah was “A rising star, able to think outside the box, who is quick on her feet, covers all bases and never loses sight of the prize."; and "Very knowledgeable. She will always look for an innovative argument and push the client's case."

Sarah has also been ranked as a Leading Junior in Legal 500 since 2016. The current edition (2022) reports that “Her vast knowledge and very sharp thinking gives her a facility with novel and complex arguments that is often staggering to see”, while previous editions noted that she was “knowledgeable about mental capacity and discrimination in housing”, “particularly knowledgeable on discrimination in the housing arena”, and “good at turning around documents in short order and to a high standard”.

Sarah is also a Deputy District Judge.

Housing and Social Welfare

Sarah practises in the full range of housing matters from possession proceedings and disrepair, to anti-social behaviour injunctions, homelessness and allocations, and unlawful evictions.

Sarah is particularly experienced at dealing with discrimination in housing and has had considerable success in claims concerning discrimination arising from disability, reasonable adjustments, Article 14, and the public law equality duty. She is passionate about representing vulnerable people, and committed to building a good rapport with clients and enabling positive and engaged decision making.

Sarah frequently delivers seminars and training on housing. She is the co-author of the Housing title of Atkins Court Forms and of the Ninth edition of Defending Possession Proceedings. She takes a keen interest in the developing law and welcomes the opportunity to explore novel approaches.

Some recent examples include:

  • R (Imam) v London Borough of Croydon [2022] EWCA Civ 601. Successful appeal against the refusal to enforce the main housing duty where the local authority in breach of duty for over 5 years. Led in the appeal by Martin Westgate QC

  • Rosebery Housing Association v Cara Williams [2021] EW Misc 22 (CC). Claim for an ASBI dismissed, and counterclaim for discrimination succeeded with £27,500 awarded in damages for injury to feelings. 

  • Yianni v London Borough of Southwark: Claim in disrepair and negligence concerning the authority’s failure to carry out repairs following a flood, and failure to make reasonable adjustments in finding suitable alternative accommodation for wheelchair using mum. Settled for £22,500.

  • Constandas v Lysdandrou [2018] EWCA Civ 613 [2018] 2 F.L.R. 983: Unlawful eviction claim and claim for share of the beneficial interest in Hamstead home. Concerned purchase of property and alleged resulting trust from 1953. See press coverage.

  • Mahindan v Newham: Successful long running judicial review, appeal, and related Housing Act appeal concerning the suitability of temporary accommodation for significantly disabled woman. (see press coverage here).

  • MP v Southwark [2016] EWCA Civ 991: Successful appeal under section 204 Housing Act 1996, and appeals 204A, and to the Court of Appeal in relation to intentional homelessness for applicant with severe learning disabilities and Autism ([2016] November Legal Action 42).

  • Stylianou v Alleyne: Successful counterclaim to possession claim for racial harassment and discrimination. Damages for injury to feelings awarded at the top of the upper Vento band in sum of £27,500.

  • Elmer v Wandsworth [2016] EWCA Civ 1278: Housing Act appeal in relation to intentional homelessness from grossly and statutorily overcrowded premises.

  • Medway v Swain: Successful public law defence to possession claim on the grounds that the Claimant had failed to comply with the PSED for a disabled tenant.

 

Equality and Discrimination

Sarah’s practice encompasses discrimination law in housing, education and goods and services. It is the common thread running through her practice and as such she is able to employ innovative arguments by reading across practice areas. She is astute to European law arguments (for as long as they last) and has acted in several complex cases involving compliance with the Equal Treatment Directive and direct effect.

Sarah updated the chapter on discrimination in the third edition of Disabled Children (Broach and Clements, 2020).

Examples of recent cases include:

  • Rosebery Housing Association v Cara Williams [2021] EW Misc 22 (CC). Counterclaim for discrimination where a housing association had brought unjustified application for an anti-social behaviour injunction. £27,500 awarded in damages for injury to feelings.

  • Abrahart v University of Bristol: Successful discrimination claim representing the father of Natasha Abrahart, a university student with Social Anxiety Disorder, who took her own life in April 2017. The first case in which suicide was found to have been caused by discrimination. With Jamie Burton QC (see examples of press coverage here, hereherehere and here).

  • McCosh v Asda: Disability discrimination of a supermarket customer.

  • Gomez Bonilla v Greenwich: Alleged sex / sexual orientation discrimination in homelessness services.

  • Yianni v Southwark: Disability discrimination in homelessness services, settled for £22,500.

  • AA v Stockport BC: Race discrimination claim in the provision/arrangement of education.

  • Smith v University of Westminster: Reasonable adjustments for partially sighted university student.

  • Stylianou v Alleyne: Successful counterclaim to possession claim for racial harassment and discrimination. Damages for injury to feelings awarded at the top of the upper Vento band in sum of £27,500.

  • Shalom v Newham College: Alleged failure to deal with racial harassment / victimisation in a college.

  • Carmichael v SoSWP: Discriminatory application of the ‘bedroom tax’ for seriously disabled woman (see press coverage hereherehere, and here).

 

Land and Property

Sarah acts in cases including orders for sale, proprietary estoppel matters, boundary disputes, trespass and adverse possession, and nuisance. She has acted for both leaseholders and residents’ management companies in service charge disputes in the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) and in the County Court.

Examples of recent cases include:

  • Constandas v Lysandrou [2018] EWCA Civ 613; [2018] W.T.L.R. 19: Claim to a beneficial interest in property purchased in 1953. (see press coverage herehere and here).

  • Sidwell v Clark: Dispute over rights over shared roof terrace in central London.

  • Sharif v Abergunde: Linked appeals against party wall awards, and injunction proceedings.

  • Peck v National Trust: Counterclaim for title by adverse possession.

  • Hertfordshire County Council v Harris: Trespass / boundary dispute claim involving a school.

Administrative and Public Law

Sarah is frequently instructed in judicial review matters in relation to housing, in particular homelessness and allocations, and under sections 17 and 20 of the Children Act 1989. She also acts in judicial reviews on education and community care matters.

She has a particular interest in the public sector equality duty and in the interrelationship between public sector duties, and private law discrimination claims. For example she acted for a police officer in a case concerning whether breach of public law obligations could raise an inference of discrimination in a private law claim, for a service user in a case concerning reasonable adjustments in the exercise of a public function.

Education Law

Sarah represents parents, students, schools and local authorities in public law education appeals to the First-Tier Tribunal, disability discrimination cases in the FTT and the County Court, and in related judicial review proceedings. She has appeared in cases involving maintained and independent schools, academies and colleges, and in matters involving school transport, EHC Plans, exclusions and admissions, and discrimination.

Examples of recent cases include:

  • Abrahart v University of Bristol: Successful discrimination claim representing the father of Natasha Abrahart, a university student with Social Anxiety Disorder, who took her own life in April 2017. The first case in which suicide was found to have been caused by discrimination. With Jamie Burton QC (see examples of press coverage here, hereherehere and here).
  • Cody and Vogel and Ors v Melissa Remus [2021] EWHC 1755 (QB) [2021] E.L.R. 621: Successful claim in deceit and (first reported successful) claim in educational negligence against the former headteacher of a private school. Substantial damages awarded. (see press coverage herehere,  and here).
  • R (JW) v Lambeth / R (RR) v Greenwich / R (KS) v Northamptonshire CC: Judicial reviews of failures to provide education specified in EHC Plans.

  • TN v First-tier Tribunal (HESC Chamber) [2021] UKUT 98 (AAC): Judicial review of the FTT’s decision not to review its decision following a change of circumstances.

  • Saffron v Redbridge: Successful appeal to the Upper Tribunal on the issue of the cogency of comparative costs for parental preference.

  • SA v West Rise Primary / RB v Aston Fields Middle School / CA v Sedghill School / CP v Elfrida Primary School / LW v Kelvin Grove Primary / CC v Prendergast Ladywell Fields: Alleged disability discrimination of school pupils.

  • Smith v University of Westminster: Successful claim concerning failure to make reasonable adjustments for partially sighted university student.

  • Chote v Derby / Mahmood v Buckingham: University Fitness to Practice proceedings for medical students.

  • AA v Stockport BC: Successful claim in race discrimination concerning the provision/arrangement of education.

  • R (AR) v Wokingham: Judicial review of failure to provide education under section 19 Education Act 1996.

  • R (DA) v Islington: Judicial review of school transport arrangements for child in temporary accommodation out of borough.

  • Carenza v University of Leicester: Exclusion from University for reasons alleged to be related to a disability.

Community Care and Health

Sarah frequently acts in cases involving sections 17 and 20 Children Act 1989 support and accommodation, provision to care leavers and looked after children, and in Care Act 2015 matters.

She has particular experience and expertise in discrimination law and public/private cross over cases including public law claims with associated damages claims. 

  • R (N) v Greenwich [2016] EWHC 2559: Successful judicial review of refusal to provide accommodation under section 17 Children Act 1989 where the mother did not have the right to rent (Legal Action 2016/17, Dec/Jan, 17-21; J.H.L. 2016, 19(5), D71-D72.

  • Saffron v Redbridge: Successful appeal to the Upper Tribunal on the issue of the cogency required of a care plan in order to be taken into account in making a comparative costs assessment for parental preference.

  • R (Asaolu) v Barking & Dagenham: Judicial review of the level of subsistence support provided to a family with no recourse to public funds.

  • R (Breeds) v Greenwich: Successful judicial review regarding retrospective identification of the claimant as a former relevant child who had been accommodated under s.20 Children Act 1989.