Some county court cases reported in the indispensable ‘Housing: Recent Developments’ in Legal Action for May 2016. Cases involve introductory tenancies, deposits, harassment and illegal eviction.
Hammersmith & Fulham LBC v Patterson. County Court at Willesden 16 July 2015
Mr P was granted an introductory tenancy in July 2011. A notice extending the introductory tenancy was served in December 2011. By April 2012, there were rent arrears and the Council served a notice under s.128 Housing Act 1996 The cover letter stated that there was a right to request a review, but added that any request must be in writing.
Mr P defended the subsequent possession proceedings on the basis that the notice imposed extra statutory requirements and was therefore invalid. This was unsuccessful at first instance, but an appeal to a circuit judge was allowed:
As per R(Chelfat) v Tower Hamlets LBC  EWHC (Admin), s.128 did not require any particular form for a request for a review. As introductory tenants are often young and vulnerable, a requirement to request a review in writing may be a disincentive. The requirement for a request in writing was extra-statutory and made the notice invalid.
Jhawer v Vatts. County Court at Brentford, 18 February 2016
Mr V was the assured shorthold tenant of Mr J. The first tenancy began in 2006. Mr V paid a deposit to Mr J’s agents, who later went out of business. In 2009, Mr J granted Mr V a tenancy of a different property, with further tenancies of that property granted in 2012 and 2014. Each tenancy agreement stated that a deposit had been paid. (Mr J argued that this was an error through using a template).
In 2015, Mr J served a s.21 notice and brought possession proceedings. Then a possession order was made at a hearing Mr V did not attend. Mr V applied to set aside the order and strike out the claim.
Mr V argued that Superstrike v Rodriguez  EWCA Civ 669 applied and that the deposit paid for the first property should be deemed to have been received by Mr J in respect of the second property. The deposit had never been protected (or returned).
The District Judge held that Superstrike applied by analogy at least. Mr V had been entitled to the return of the deposit at the end of the tenancy of the first property. This was regardless of the fact that the agents had gone out of business. Any deposit requirement under the new tenancies was fulfilled by a right of set off of the right to claim repayment of that first deposit, and thus a deposit was ‘paid’ in Superstrike terms, regardless of whether the subsequent tenancy was of the same property or a new property. The lack of repayment of the deposit, together with the tenancy terms on the second property requiring a deposit, showed a deposit had been paid in respect of the second property, and not protected.
The s.21 notice was invalid and the claim for possession dismissed.
Akrigg v Pigeon. County Court at Chippenham and Trowbridge. 25 September 2015.
Mr A was a vulnerable 19 year old care leaver. In December 2013, he entered into an AST with Mr Pidgeon, with rent in advance and £425 deposit paid by Wiltshire Council. The deposit was not protected, nor prescribed information served.
In November 2014, despite there being no issues with the tenancy, Mr Pidgeon purportedly gave a month’s notice. The Council told him it was invalid ad that the deposit was unprotected. Mr Pidgeon was reportedly very rude and angry in response.
In January 2015, Mr P served a further notice. The Council again advised him it was invalid. In March 2015, Mr P went to the Council offices and told them that he was going to change the locks. He was told this would be an illegal eviction.
Mr Pidgeon twice sought to cancel Mr A’s housing benefit claim, saying that Mr A was moving out.
On 2 April 2016, Mr A went to stay for the weekend at his partner’s parents’ house, leaving all his belongings, as one would. On his return on 6 April he found the locks changed and could not get access.
Following injunction proceedings, in the course of which it transpired that Mr P had faked documents to try to show that Mr A had been out of the property for longer, Mr A was readmitted on 9 April by court order.
Mr A’s claim for unlawful eviction, harassment, breach of quiet enjoyment and tenancy deposit penalty came to hearing, with Mr P refused a defence for failure to comply with directions.
Damages for Mr A were assessed as:
£500 for general harassment – entering the property, serving spurious notices, lying about the condition of the property, and attempting to cancel housing benefit.
£170 per night for time excluded from the property
£1500 aggravated damages, as Mr P had been repeatedly advised as to his conduct and the correct legal steps by Wiltshire Council.
£1000 exemplary damages as Mr P sought to recover the property for his benefit without following due legal process.
£425 deposit to be returned
£1275 (3x) penalty for failure to protect deposit
£1275 (3x) penalty for second failure to protect deposit when tenancy became a statutory periodic tenancy.
Total £7165. And I presume costs. And perhaps a lesson for Mr P that petulance doesn’t pay.