With grateful thanks to Jan Luba QC and HHJ Madge’s housing update in the December 2014/January 2015 Legal Action, here are a few recent County Court cases on unlawful eviction and harassment.
Alabbas v Uppelle. Leicester County Court, 8 October 2014
Mr Alabbas was Ms Uppelle’s assured shorthold tenant from April 2008. In April 2009, Mr A complained to Ms U that water was leaking through to the kitchen from the bathroom. The ceiling partially collapsed as a result. Ms U did nothing.
Mr A complained to the local council’s environmental health department. When the EHO contacted Ms U about the issue, Ms U served a purported notice on Mr A. He had this checked and found it was not valid notice. Ms U than rang Mr A several times telling him to leave, including two calls in which she swore at him and made threats down the phone that his legs would be broken if he did not go. Mr A stayed put.
In September 2009, Mr A was thrown out of the property by four men, found to be acting at the instigation of Ms U. They let themselves in using a key. One man had a knife. They shouted racist abuse, punched and beat Mr Alabbas and threatened to kill him. They told Mr A that the reason he was being evicted was that he owed rent.
Mr A went to hospital, where he then stayed overnight. He sustained soft tissue injuries to his nose with a lasting small scar. He was treated for PTSD over the next two months.
He spent the next 16 days street homeless, sleeping in the doorway of a local mosque, before then moving into unsuitable hostel accommodation (his own room but shared facilities with at least 10 others) for a further 160 days.
At trial, Miss Recorder McNeil QC awarded damages in the total sum of £34,209, made up of:
£1,000 for the pre-eviction harassment;
£4,950 for the first 16 days post-eviction, during which time he was street homeless, calculated at £330 per night (being at the top end of the usual scale and with the addition of a further ten per cent – Simmons v Castle;
£17,600 for the 160 days during which he was in a hostel, calculated on the basis of £110 per night for the whole of that period (for the whole period as Mr A had attempted to mitigate his losses by searching for alternative accommodation).
The Recorder was also satisfied that it would have taken Ms U a significant period of time to evict Mr A lawfully given that no valid s.21 notice had been served as at the date of the unlawful eviction;
£300 for the disrepair;
£3,000 for the personal injuries;
£3,000 aggravated damages;
£2,500 exemplary damages [The basis for this presumably being the cost of a lawful eviction – NL];
£230 special damages; and
Bitan v Holme, Stockport County Court, 14 April 2014
Ms Holme was Mr Bitan’s assured shorthold tenant. In about 2012, Ms H complained of disrepair. There was water leaking from the bathroom into the property’s dining room, and draughts through a hole in an exterior wall and a defective window. The ceiling in the dining room began to perish, and Ms H became anxious about her family’s safety. A later surveyor’s report identified many other items of minor disrepair.
Mr B did nothing and Ms H threatened to withhold rent. Mr B then became difficult and abusive, regularly telephoning and knocking on the door of the property. On several occasions, two large men attended the property and told Ms H she would be evicted and made homeless with her children.
Mr B claimed possession against Ms Holme. Ms H counterclaimed for breach of covenant for quiet enjoyment, harassment, housing disrepair and breach of statutory tenancy deposit provisions. The possession claim was struck out [Possibly because of the failure to serve the deposit prescribed information – NL] and the counterclaim proceeded to trial.
Deputy District Judge Buckley awarded damages of:
£2,592.94 for a course of conduct of harassment in breach of Protection from Harassment Act 1997 s1. (Updating the figure recorded in Fakhari v Newman June 2010 Legal Action 35 and a ten per cent uplift (Simmons v Castle));
£1,525.38 exemplary damages, including interest [It is not at all clear on what basis exemplary damages were awarded. See below – NL];
£5,783.22 were awarded for the disrepair, based on a diminution of the monthly rent of £550 by 40 per cent over a period of 23.5 months, plus an uplift of ten per cent (Simmons v Castle), and an award of interest. An order for specific performance was also made.
£1,000 for breach of HA 2004 s213(6) (failure to provide information about the tenancy deposit).
It is good to see the Simmons v Castle uplift being applied to unlawful eviction and harassment damages, as well as disrepair. Also good to see the top end daily rate of £300 (plus 10%) being applied for unlawful eviction.
The basis for exemplary damages in Bitan v Holme is not clear. If it is on the harassment claim, it is hard to see how this could be considered ‘profit-seeking’ conduct, unless there was unlawful eviction or threatened unlawful eviction included. Given the absence of aggravated damages, maybe this is another case of confusion between aggravated and exemplary damages? If anyone involved can shed some light, I’d be grateful.