While the Magistrates Courts continue to hand out paltry fines to landlords on conviction for illegal eviction, despite the removal of the upper £5000 limit, it is good to see that the civil courts are capable of taking a more reasonable approach to quantum.
The Housing:Recent Developments in the July/August 2016 Legal Action contains a trio of unlawful eviction and harassment cases in the County Court, all worth noting.
Tyto v Narang. 12 May 2016, County Court at Brentford
Ms T had been granted a six month assured shorthold tenancy for £850 pm by Mr N, through a letting agent. Ms T moved in with her husband and 3 daughters. Ms T had previously paid the agent £750 deposit and £750 first month’s rent in respect of another tenancy with a different landlord, which had fallen through. These sums were carried over by the agent to this tenancy (though the agreement said nothing about a deposit. The deposit was not protected,
The tenancy agreement did not limit occupation to Ms T alone. However, the landlord asserted that Ms T was in breach by moving her family in. He asked Ms T to leave. The landlord then changed the lock.
Ms T and her family were given temporary accommodation by the Council, but only one room, with shared bathroom and kitchen. Ms T then obtained an injunction for re-entry and for the landlord to cease interfering with quiet enjoyment.
Mr N refused to re-admit the other members of Ms T’s family, on the basis that they weren’t named on the order. Mr N’s agent and family were verbally abusive. Ms T and family returned to the Council temporary accommodation.
Ms T brought the present claim for trespass to land, breach of quiet enjoyment, unlawful eviction, trespass to goods and failure to protect the deposit. Mr N failed to show up or be represented for trial. His defence was struck out.
£22,540 for trespass to land/breach of quiet enjoyment, being £140 per night in the LA temp accommodation until one month after the expiry of the fixed term – this being the earliest date Mr N could notionally legally obtain possession.
£1095 in special damages for lost belongings
£650 for return of the deposit (being the sum held by the agent after the payment of £850 for the first month’s rent).
£1625 under Housing Act 2004 s.214 as penalty for non protection. 2.5 times the deposit as there was a professional agent and denial that a deposit had been taken.
£3000 aggravated and exemplary damages – £1500 for each. These were ‘low end’ as ‘circumstances were relatively low key’ and Mr N was labouring under a mistake on the breach of tenancy.
Total: £29,394.15. And, presumably, costs.
Sypnliewski v Wakelin. 21 December 2015, County Court at Bournemouth
Mr S had an AST from Mr W. A deposit of £400 was paid.
After the tenancy had become a statutory periodic, Mr W engaged in a ‘sustained campaign’ to drive out Mr S.
The utilities were disconnected between 13/9/2015 and 14/10/2015
The locks were changed on 10/10/2015, and Mr W only readmitted on an injunction order on 14/10.215
Mr W installed CCTV and motion activated lights to spy on Mr S
The windscreens of 3 cars, including Mr S’s, were smashed.
Utilities disconnected on 19/11/2015 and not reconnected.
Wrongfully evicting Mr S on 19/12/2015 by giving the police false information.
The deposit as not protected.
Mr S claimed. Mr W’s defence was struck out for failure to comply with directions (a common theme).
The Court found this was one of the worst cases it had seen, and awarded:
General damages £17,720 (not clear on what basis)
Aggravated damages £2,000
Exemplary damages £5,750
Deposit of £400 and penalty of £2,400 (Presumably on two breaches – initial tenancy and stat periodic)
Special damages £3,000
Total: £31,514.90 (and presumably costs)
A further payment of £8,000 was suspended on condition that the landlord return Mr S’s belongings.
The figures for aggravated and exemplary damages frankly look the wrong way round. There is no information as to how these figures were arrived at, but £5,750 for, in effect, the costs of a lawful eviction looks very high.
Begache v Noreen. 29 March 2016, County Court at Nottingham.
Mr B was the tenant of Ms N. While Mr B was on holiday, Ms N evicted him and began to use the property as her family home. When Mr B returned from holiday, he obtained an interim injunction for re-entry, but Ms N initially failed to comply. Mr B stayed with friends. There was an incident involving pushing and shoving when Mr B tried to get access. When Mr B was readmitted, he found the property was dirty and some of his belongings were missing.
After trial, the court made an injunction protecting Mr B’s quiet enjoyment and awarded damages as follows:
£200 per night for the 16 nights that Mr B was excluded from the property.
£300 for the week when Mr B was on holiday and unaware that the landlord had dispossessed him of the property.
£250 for the poor state of the property on readmission.
£425 special damages for missing belongings
£1500 in aggravated damages
£1000 in exemplary damages
On costs, the trial had been split over two days, in November 2015 and March 2016. In between, the Claimant had made a Pat 36 offer, which had been bettered at trial. As the offer was not made at least 21 days before trial, but rather during trial, the automatic costs consequences did not apply, but beating the offer merited indemnity costs from the expiry of the period for acceptance, effectively the costs of the second day of trial.