Zeeshan v Mahmood, County Court at Manchester, 27 October 2017.
(Our grateful thanks to Amy Tagoe of Stephensons Solicitors for the following note of this unlawful eviction case)
The Claimants were the tenants of a property owned by the Defendant by way of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement dated 18th September 2012. A deposit was paid in the sum of £500 but not protected by the Defendant.
On the 8th April 2014 the Defendant obtained an order for possession in reliance on a S21 notice and in doing so falsely pleaded that no deposit was paid.
On 9th April the Defendant along with 5 other men attended the property and unlawfully evicted the Claimants and their 3 children agreed 8 years, 6 years and 3 months. Initially Mrs Zeeshan was home alone with her 3 month old child when the Defendant attended the property. He was threatening towards her demanding she leave the property. The Defendant and his associates then tried to gain access to the property by breaking the lock and banging on the doors with bricks. Mr Zeeshan returned to the property with the two older children and the incident continued. The Claimants gave evidence that the 3 children and Mrs Zeeshan were terrified and upset. Both parties contacted the police who attended the property to keep the peace but took no further involvement. After 3-4 hours of the threatening behaviour the Claimants felt they had no option but to leave the property having time to collect just a few belongings. They were assured by the Defendant that they would be able to return to the property to collect their belongings the following day.
The first night after the eviction the family were forced to sleep in their car and use the facilities of a nearby KFC. The next 15 nights were spent in overcrowded accommodation with a family member where the family of 5 were required to share one small bedroom. The Claimants made numerous attempts to try to recover their belongings from the property without success.
The Council prosecuted Mr Mahmood. Following a trial on 22nd December 2015 at Trafford Magistrates Court the Defendant was found guilty of unlawful eviction. The Claimants issued a claim for damages against the Defendant on 25th April 2016.
Following numerous failings by the Defendant within those proceedings, despite him having the benefit of legal assistance, judgment in default was entered against him for the second time on the 27th February 2017. The matter was set down for trial on quantum on 27th October 2017.
Recorder Allen QC in his judgment found the Claimants evidence to be very impressive and confirmed that he had no hesitation in accepting their evidence. He described the situation they went through as being a no doubt dreadful experience which was distressing and humiliating. He made the following awards in relation to the claim.
The Judge found that the Defendant had been paid a deposit and had failed to protect it as required. When determining the level of compensation to be awarded he considered the following to be relevant. Firstly that the Defendant failed throughout the tenancy to comply with the relevant legislation. Secondly that the Defendant described himself as having been a property developer who let a number of properties over the last 10-15 years. Thirdly that the Defendant had falsely told the court that no deposit had been paid in order to obtain a possession order. In the circumstances the judge awarded repayment of the deposit and the maximum level of compensation, a total of £2,000.
The Judge held that having regard to the circumstances described by the Claimants and the relevant authorities he would award £250 for the night spent in the car and £200 per night for the subsequent 15 nights spent in overcrowded accommodation. A total of £3250 for General Damages
The Judge then considered Aggravated Damages and held that as the Claimants suffered considerable humiliation and distress for a period of 3-4 hours which clearly continued to be a painful experience for them he would award £3,000
The Judge finally considered Exemplary Damages and held that the circumstances surrounding the eviction justified Exemplary Damages to be awarded by way of punishment and deterrent and so awarded £3,000.
There was a total award of £9250 for damages for unlawful eviction
Loss of possessions. (trespass to goods)
A schedule of special damages had been filed totalling £30,287 which on the face of it would seem excessive. In evidence the Claimant described that he had been purchasing electrical equipment from Ebay to set up his own business. Evidence could be provided to support those claims. The Judge was satisfied that the circumstances of the eviction meant that evidence of the belongings at the property was limited and on that basis that the court is required to resolve uncertainties in favour of the Claimant if the Defendants behaviour has led to the uncertainties. The Judge awarded £25,000.
Overall, judgment was entered into on behalf of the Claimant in the sum of £36,250.00. Interest was also awarded at a rate of 2% from the date of the eviction and ongoing. The Defendant was ordered to pay the Claimants costs on an indemnity basis.
The Claimant was represented by Mr Gary Lewis of Counsel who was instructed by Amy Tagoe of Stephensons Solicitors. The Defendant appeared in person.