Kazadi v Martin Brookes Lettings Estate Agents Limited & Faparusi, Edmonton County Court 14 May 2015
Thanks to Legal Action September 2015 Housing law updates for this one.
An assured shorthold tenancy deposit and unlawful eviction case in which everyone involved save the tenant – letting agent, landlord and police – did things about as wrongly as they could possibly have done.
Mr K had a one year AST from March 2006. A deposit of £1300 (2 months rent) was paid. The tenancy became a statutory periodic in March 2007. A further (new) tenancy of the same property was entered into in April 2008 and then a statutory periodic tenancy.
The deposit was not protected at any stage, nor was prescribed information served.
At no point was the identity of the landlord, Mr Faparusi, provided to Mr K.
From the start of the tenancy there were problems with the central heating, which was not fully functional, and the toilet did not flush properly. This was reported to the managing agents, Martin Brookes Lettings, but nothing was done.
On 8 January 2014, an employee of Martin Brookes Lettings came to the property. He tried to force his way inside and was abusive to Mr K. He said Mr K would be evicted. Mr K said he would rely on the legal process.
On 11 January 2014, Mr Faparusi came to the property with another 8 men. Mr K’s visitors were thrown out, and Mr K was held down by the group. A blade was held close to his eye and he was told that if he continued to struggle he would lose an eye. Mr K was held in the flat until the police arrived, some 20 minutes later.
The police, being as utterly clueless on illegal eviction as they so often are, escorted Mr K out of the property, after a few minutes to collect some belongings. The police refused to help Mr K regain entry. (At this point, we should all recall Naughton v Whittle and Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police. Manchester County Court 30/11/2009 ).
An agent of Mr F then contacted Mr K to collect his belongings, but when he arrived he found they had been thrown out of a window into the street and not all his belongings were returned.
After being thrown out, Mr K sofa surfed with friends for some 277 days, as his student status and relying on housing benefit made finding an equivalent tenancy very difficult.
Mr K found solicitors. Martin Brookes Lettings refused to answer to demands for the landlord’s name and address or for Mr K’s re-admission. An injunction and order under s.1 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 were sought. This did not result in re-admission (presumably due to re-letting) but Mr Faparusi was identified and joined to the claim.
Mr K’s claim was for return of deposit and s.214 HA 2004 penalty, damages for assault and false imprisonment, disrepair, unlawful eviction and special damages for unreturned belongings.
The managing agents failed to file a defence. Mr Faparusi’s defence was struck out for break of an unless order.
At final hearing the Court awarded:
Return of the deposit of £1300
£1,300 for the breach of deposit requirements in 2008 (on the basis that the requirements were relatively new!)
£2,600 for breach of deposit requirements for the subsequent statutory periodic tenancy (2 x deposit on basis that landlord ‘should then have been aware of the law’)
£1,000 for the assault on 11 January 2014
£300 for false imprisonment
£4,450.52 in special damages for belongings not returned.
£6,825 for disrepair based on 15% of rent for 70 months.
£31,850 for unlawful eviction based on a daily rate of £170 for 186 days (being the six months that the court found it would have taken the landlord to have gained possession lawfully).
£3,000 aggravated damages.
£2,000 exemplary damages (presumably based on the costs of lawful possession proceedings)
The managing agents were ordered to pay £400 for pre-eviction harassment and 5% of the costs of the case for the failure to comply with s.1 LTA 1985.
The agents (apparently ‘under new management’ from April 2015) were undoubtedly badly behaved and ignored their legal responsibilities. But they might fairly consider themselves hard done by for damages for harassment on the basis of what appears to have been one incident on their part (harassment requiring a course of conduct).
The problem with giving the courts discretion on the tenancy deposit penalty is clearly demonstrated here. A 1x penalty because ‘the law was relatively new’ (actually a year old) is dubious.
I am also not sure about the 6 month limit on the unlawful eviction damages as being the period it would have taken to get lawful possession. The principle is that damages run until the evicted tenant obtains (or reasonably should have obtained) equivalent accommodation. Setting a time limit of hypothetical lawful possession proceedings seems to me to be an unmerited limit on damages for a statutory tort. No notice or possession proceedings were brought, so why should the landlord escape the full consequences of their unlawful act?
The police actions were, of course, completely wrong. Indeed so wrong that I wonder if a Naughton style claim might be possible. For heavens sake, how long does this utter ignorance of the law on illegal eviction in police forces have to go on!