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Sarah Steinhardt specialises in housing & social welfare, community care, discrimination, and in related public law. She has particular expertise in cases involving mental health and learning disabilities, and she is frequently instructed on behalf of the Official Solicitor.

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 vulnerable clients. She is astute to public funding issues and costs and always happy to discuss possible strategies at an early stage.

Sarah is ranked in Chambers and Partners 2018 in Social Housing: …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 in relation to the 'bedroom tax' as part of her diverse practice. "A very impressive advocate, who is sensitive, eloquent and capable." "She is so clever and is a go to on the Equality Act.”’

Sarah is ranked in Legal 500 2018 as a Leading Junior in Social Housing: “Particularly knowledgeable on discrimination in the housing arena” and “Good at turning around documents in short order and to a high standard”. 

Sarah was ranked in Chambers and Partners 2017 and described as “A very impressive advocate, who is sensitive, eloquent and capable." "She is so clever and is a go to on the Equality Act."  

Sarah was also ranked as a leading junior in Chambers & Partners 2016: "effective, up-and-coming advocate with pronounced expertise in mental capacity and Equality Act issues in the context of social housing. She regularly handles disability discrimination matters in relation to the 'bedroom tax' as part of her diverse practice."; "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."

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 unlawful evictions. She has experience of sale and rent back issues, the right to buy and service charge disputes, and she frequently acts in cases involving public law defences and Article 8. She represents clients from first hearing, through to trial and appeal, and in enforcement and committal proceedings.

Sarah is particularly well placed to deal with discrimination in housing and is often instructed in cases involving reasonable adjustments, victimisation, Article 14, or the public law equality duties. She is passionate about representing vulnerable people, and committed to building a good rapport with clients and enabling positive decision making. She is instructed in anti-social behaviour cases involving those with learning disabilities and mental health conditions, in possession cases brought in the context of cross-allegations of racial abuse and victimisation, and in cases involving young people. Sarah has particular expertise in disability issues and enjoys acting in cases involving concurrent social services assessments, community care duties, and those raising capacity issues. She often acts on behalf of the Official Solicitor and has a particular interest in the overlap between the Court of Protection and housing issues, principally in relation to residence and hoarding issues.

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

Some recent examples include:

  • 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.
  • Uddin v Tower Hamlets: Successful Housing Act appeal in relation to suitability of accommodation, where HHJ Luba QC found a breach of the PSED in relation to race and religion
  • Lewisham v LZ: Successful defence to possession claim on the basis of the Claimant’s failure to make reasonable adjustments for disabled tenant who did not understand his obligation to pay rent. Damages for injury to feelings.
  • Khan v Newham: Successful Housing Act appeal in relation to suitability of temporary accommodation, where HHJ Lamb QC found that the authority had misdirected itself as to s. 206(2)(a) Housing Act and had failed to consider whether it should be charging a reduced or peppercorn rent.
  • 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 practises across the full range of discrimination law, in particular in housing, education and employment. 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 and has acted in several complex cases involving compliance with the Equal Treatment Directive and direct effect.

Examples of recent cases include:

  • 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.
  • Carenza v University of Leicester: Exclusion from University for reasons alleged to be related to a disability
  • 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 mortgage possession claims, orders for sale, proprietary estoppel matters, leaseholder enfranchisement, 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, statementing / EHC Plans, and discrimination.

Examples of recent cases include:

  • R (RR) v Greenwich: Judicial review of failure to provide education specified in the EHC Plan
  • Saffron v Redbridge: Successful appeal to the Upper Tribunal on the issue of the cogency of comparative costs for parental preference
  • CA v Sedghill / CP v Elfrida / LW v Kelvin Grove: Alleged disability discrimination of school pupils
  • Smith v University of Westminster: Successful claim for failure to make reasonable adjustments for partially sighted university student
  • 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
  • Shalom v Newham College: Alleged failure to prevent racial harassment at college, and victimisation
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