Hunt v Hussain, Epsom County Court 31 July 2009 (LAG housing law updates October 2009)
As ever, the Legal Action housing law updates have some useful cases, this from the October 2009 issue. This is another of the reports on County Court judgments on unlawful eviction and harassment cases that are very useful in assessment of quantum.
Mr & Mrs Hussain were freehold owners of a house. Mrs Hussain granted Mr Hunt an assured shorthold tenancy of a room in May 2003 at £90 pw.
Mr Hunt lost his job and applied for housing benefit. Mrs Hussain told him he would have to leave. Despite a warning from the LA’s Environmental Health Department (?) that a court order would be needed, the Hussains changed the lock and refused to re-admit.
Mr Hunt was street homeless for 3 months, occasionally with friends but mostly sleeping rough. He suffered from asthma, which was exacerbated, and he developed depression and feelings of self-harm. Four years later he was diagnosed as suffering from severe depression, agoraphobia and paranoid ideation. He was unable to work. The psychiatrist found the eviction had generated the detoriation in Mr Hunt’s mental health.
The LA brought a criminal prosecution against Mrs Hussain under S.1 Protection from Eviction Act 1977 (and congratulations to Epsom and Ewell for doing so), resulting in a fine of £300 and costs of £250.
In a civil claim for unlawful eviction and personal injury, judgment in default was entered.
HHJ Reid QC assessed damages as follows:
Unlawful eviction: £125 per day for 65 days. (Somewhat oddly, the Court refused to assess damages over 76 days, apparently on the basis that the tenancy could have lawfully been determined by serving a s.21 notice. Could either Counsel, Robert Latham, or Dambudzo Matiti of Surrey Law Centre, who acted for Mr Hunt, elucidate?).
Personal Injury: £45,000. Awarded in view of the JSB guidelines on damages for psychiatric injury. Also exacerbated asthma. The case fell into the most severe category for psychiatric damage – £35,000 to £74,000. The damages were not at the top end as Mr Hunt had a predisposition to mental health problems and the Court did not accepted the eggshell principle wholly applied.
Special damages: £100 (of £730 claimed)
Interest of £3,453.
Also granted was a freezing injunction restraining Mr Hussain from dealing with two properties in which he still retained a beneficial interest.
An interesting case and a useful reminder to Claimant advisors to fully consider consequential damages, including Personal Injury. There are some odd features, not least the 65 not 76 day decision. It would also be good to know whether the freezing injunction was in terms of Mr Hussain disposing of an interest before a charging order could be obtained on the properties, or in terms of managing let properties.