Bits from August LAG 2: Unlawful Eviction damages

The August edition LAG housing updates also contain a couple of County Court unlawful eviction and harassment cases that are well worth noting, particularly on quantum.

Abbas v Iqbal, Bow County Court 4 June 2009. Mr Abbas, who was elderly and in poor health, was granted a weekly periodic AST of a single room with shared kitchen and bathroom. The rent was £60 pw. In November 2007, the landlord – Mr Iqbal – told Mr Abbas he would have to leave as the property was to be converted into flats. In April 2008 a written notice was served, to leave within two weeks. The notice was defective and invalid. Mr A remained in occupation. In late May 2008, Mr I instructed contractors to begin work. On 30 May, the gas supply to the building was disconnected. On 31 May the water was disconnected. No warning was given in either instance. On 9 June, Mr A obtained an injunction ordering reinstatement of gas and water. Mr I failed to comply and works continued. The building was shortly made uninhabitable. Mr A had to spend some nights sleeping in friends’ business premises before the local authority provided temporary accommodation. He returned to the property in mid June 2008 to find all his furniture and belongings had been removed and disposed of.

Mr A claimed for unlawful eviction, harassment and, apparently, nuisance and disrepair (not mentioned in the LAG report, but apparent from the damages).

At trial damages of £39,194 were awarded:
£150 per day for the 13 days of building works and lack of utilities
£250 per day for 3 days sleeping in business premises
£1,000 for having to vacate before the tenancy had been terminated
£10,000 aggravated damages
£7,500 exemplary damages
£2,000 per year for 6 years cockroach and rodent infestation
£500 for a toilet defective for 6 months
£5,494 special damages (described by the court as almost certainly an undervalue).

If anyone from Mr Abbas’ team is reading , I would be interested to hear how the exemplary damages were arrived at. Oh and what was wrong with the toilet?

The second case is Jarvis v Sherif, Central London Civil Justice Centre, 28 May 2009. Mr and Mrs Jarvis had a 12 month AST. Disrepair made conditions ‘extremely uncomfortable’. In August 2008, with no repairs done despite many requests, they withheld rent until repairs were done. [Note to any tenants reading – do NOT do this]. The landlord decided repairs would be too expensive and sent a letter threatening to change the locks. Two days later, on 17 October 2008, the Jarvises were unlawfully evicted. Mr J suffered great distress. he had a mental illness and was deprived of medication. They managed to retrieve only some of their belongings in December 2008. The flat had been re-let in the interim. They had to stay with a parent, in difficult conditions, until January 2009 when they secured alternative accommodation.

At trial:
General damages (including aggravated damages) of £2,500 to Mr J and £2,000 to Mrs J.
Exemplary damages of £3,000
Special damages of £2,200.

Again, if any of the Jarvis’ team are reading this, how were the exemplary damages arrived at?

(Let’s just say calculation of exemplary damages is a current obsession of mine – please gratify it)

About Giles Peaker

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, and still is Nearly Legal on Google +.
Posted in Assured Shorthold tenancy, Housing law - All, Unlawful eviction and harassment and tagged , , , , .

6 Comments

  1. I wish landlords would realise that when they harrass tenants, they will be fined HUGE amounts of money. I also wish that more tenants would take legal action, rather than moving on quietly, as so many do. I know it’s scary, and that they might not wish to expend the energy, especially if they are ill or distressed. But it’s worth it. Stories with a happy ending!

  2. Well there isn’t a happy ending yet. Getting judgment is only half the battle; enforcing the judgment is another kettle of fish entirely.

    Its far from guaranteed that the tenants above will ever receive the damages they are owed.

    Litigation is not something to embark upon lightly.

    • The good thing about landlords is that they tend to own property. A charging order can be a wonderful thing, and so potentially is an order for sale. After all, it will not only be damages but also payment of a costs award at stake ;-)

  3. That is true, but the bad thing about nasty landlords is that they often find ways of hiding/divesting the properties they own.

    The landlords who really need to be taken to task (ie those that do this systematically) generally cover their backs.

    • True enough for some, and as you say, these will often be the large scale dodgy landlords. But it is also often the smaller scale and rather dim ones who prefer threats and changing the locks to court orders.

    • As Tenancy Relations officers for a London Authority we gave up prosecuting as a waste of everyone’s time, except in cases of violent eviction and unrepentant landlords. My last case involved a landlord threatening a woman and her children with a gun who took 2 years for me to track down and get into court only to be fined £400 and have our costs of £6,500 (mainly in search time) refused by the judge.

      Assisting tenants through civil action with a decent solicitor is quicker and usually has more of a financial sting in the tail – That and the threat of action on no gas safety registration or no tax paid on the rental income usually stops harassment surprisingly quickly I find. Failure to register an HMO or get planning permission for conversions can also bear fruit in moderating a landlords behaviour

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