05/06/2008

Illegal Eviction and Disrepair damages

There were a couple of cases mentioned in the June issue Legal Action that are worth a consideration when looking at quantum in illegal eviction cases, and also to some extent in disrepair cases. Legal Action has the full details, but in brief…

Addison v Croft Preston County Court April 2008
Assured Shorthold tenant. Landlady turned up with estate agent and buyer with no notice. A fortnight later, the tenant was physically ejected by four men, with some bruising. The tenant was out, sleeping at friends and in his van for 20 nights, before obtaining an injunction for re-entry, which was complied with.

  • General damages £3000 for fright and upset, and 20 days out of home without possessions.
  • Aggravated damages £1000 for manner of eviction
  • Exemplary damages £1000, following Law Commission guidance in Aggravated, exemplary and restitutionary damages (LC 247)

Rubio-Manzano v Ace Lettings and Pedonomou Clerkenwell and Shoreditch County Court April 2008
Assured Shorthold tenant who threatened to withhold rent due to disrepair (of which more below). Three men turned up and forced their way into the flat, threatened the tenant, pulled the telephone out of the socket. One caused injury to another tenant by kicking the door. Defendants then delivered a letter stating that the bearer was a certificated bailiff with powers to enter and seize goods. The tenant left to stay with a friend and put most of her belongings in storage. A couple of weeks later she returned to find locks changed and belongings interfered with. Police and tenancy relations advised the tenant to break in to remove her goods. The property was then left.

In criminal proceedings, the company pleaded guilty to two counts of harassment under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

  • Fines £2000 and £200 for the two incidents. (The Court said if the company directors had been individually charged, there would have been a likely custodial sentence).

In Civil proceedings

  • General damages £6000 for harassment and aggravated damages
  • Exemplary damages £2000
  • Special damages £840.40

There was also a disrepair claim. Disrepair ‘throughout the tenancy’ (May 2001 – Feb 2003).

  • radiator leak in hallway, causing staining and fungus growth
  • leak to bathroom ceiling
  • mice infestation
  • bannister loose and dangerous
  • windows in disrepair and draughty
  • poor decorative state
  • oven and grill did not work

Damages for disrepair were assessed at 30% of rent for a year (£3500) with a set off of one month’s rent owed (£840.40).

Comments

On the disrepair claim, this is another data point suggesting that the Courts are open to arguments for damages based on percentage of rent following English Churches v Shine and Earle v Charalambous, rather than the Wallace scale, as I have suggested before. That said, although the report doesn’t give detail on the disrepair, 30% on the headline items seems a little low. But there are so few disrepair claims getting to trial, it is hard to be sure. Counsel for the Claimant was Robert Latham, solicitors were Hopkin Murray Beskine – anyone care to comment further?

This case also appears to be support for the view that damages based on a percentage of rent is not based on the proportion of the property that was/is occupiable or useable – the percentage is not directly a question of useable floorspace, which is an argument I have heard advanced by some Counsel. Personally, I don’t think that Niazi, Shine or Charalambous entail that view, and that this is an unnecessarily mechanistic approach to a percentage calculation.

On the illegal eviction, clearly Rubio-Manzano is more generous than Addison, particularly given the actual physical eviction and period of homelessness in Addison. £6000 for harassment and aggravated damages on the facts given for Rubio-Manzano is a high award, particularly given the previous criminal fines for harassment, and useful to cite for that reason.

Addison appears to pretty much follow the ‘£1000 per week of being out of the property’ rubric, but the aggravated and exemplary damages are also useful to cite.

By the way, Legal Action also has a report by Shelter Gloucestershire on Stankova v Glassonbury, the rent deposit case discussed here, confirming the details of Housed and my earlier reports.

 

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

4 Comments

  1. Housinganger

    Interesting stuff. Never trust any company with the word ‘Ace’ in it I’ve always thought.

    Reply
  2. Nearly Legal

    Wily E Coyote always springs to mind – Acme/Ace – what difference does a consonant make?

    Reply
  3. Dot Ten

    protection from eviction act 1977: it’s clear who is responsible for bring a prosecution (local authority) but as this case was further complicated by harassment, the assault and the defective premises etc. who decides?

    Reply
    • Giles Peaker

      Who decides what? It is also open to the tenant to bring a civil claim for unlawful eviction, harassment etc. Things are not restricted to the Council deciding whether to bring a prosecution.

      Reply

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