Yes, I know we still need to write up Rother District Council v Freeman-Roach (2018) EWCA Civ 368 on the approach to ‘significantly more vulnerable’ in homeless review decisions, and we will, we will. And there are other cases too.
I also want to write something on the ‘housing court’ idea that is floating around.
But time is not on our side right now and other demands are pressing. So in the meantime a couple of snippets.
The second annual Bryan McGuire QC Memorial Lecture on Homelessness is on 22 March 2018. The speaker is James Murray, the London Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development. The event is free, but donations for homeless charities are welcome. For details and to book, see here, I understand some places are still available.
Meanwhile, in Chouhan v Suliga & Anor (2017) EWFC B107, we encounter an ‘unconvincing’ landlord who attempted to take payment for rent arrears twice.
In the course of what was clearly a difficult relationship Mr Chouhan brought a possession claim against his tenants, who were withholding rent until Mr C gave them bank details to which to pay the rent, rather than demanding cash. That claim was thrown out for failure of notice. Mr C then brought a money claim for the arrears though CCMCC.
In the meantime, Mr C brought fresh possession proceedings and in that, a claim for arrears of rent. Mr & Mrs Suliga defended and counterclaimed for deposit protection failures and harassment. Mr & Mrs S agreed to pay arrears of £3,645 and did so by sending a banker’s draft to Mr C (they recorded every step of doing so). The claim and counterclaim were subsequently compromised, some 7 months later, the judgment recording:
“Upon hearing counsel for the claimant and the defendants in person and upon it being agreed, the following order acts as full and final settlement of all claims arising out of case number C2PP1091 and upon the claimant agreeing to withdraw his claim for possession of the property at Flat 2, 120 Alfred Road, Handsworth, and to withdraw his claim for rental arrears and damage to the property, and upon the defence agreeing to withdraw their counterclaim for all (inaudible) to their defence, each party had permission to withdraw their claims.”
That, you would have thought, would be that. Mr C had received the banker’s draft and the claim for rent arrears and damage was withdrawn. Further Mr & Mrs S had since moved out.
But no, a month later, Mr C applied for judgment in the CCMCC claim and got it. Two months after that, he applied for a Third Party Debt order on Mr & Mrs S’ bank account, giving as an address for service on them that of the tenanted property which Mr C well knew they had moved out of. An interim Third Part Debt Order was granted and then a final one. Mr C then completely emptied Mr and Mrs S bank account.
The Suligas applied in person to have the third party debt order set aside. And, having heard evidence, and on the basis of the history, it was.
Mr C gave evidence that the banker’s draft had somehow been stopped when he tried to present it. He produced no documentary evidence of this. (Just as an observation, you cannot stop or cancel a banker’s draft). Mr C’s evidence did not go down well with the court.
I find Mr Chouhan totally unconvincing in his description of the process by which he attempted to cash the banker’s draft. The following facts indicate to me that that was completely untrue.
Firstly, it does not reflect the operation of a banker’s draft in reality. Secondly, the absence of any correspondence when he suggests the bankers draft was not honoured appears to be ridiculous and thirdly, when he appeared at this Court on 6th January 2017, assisted by counsel, he accepted that no money was owed.
Mr C was ordered to repay £3,554.71 for the sum taken and costs. This exchange followed, with Mr Chouhan still determinedly digging the hole deeper:
Mr Chouhan, I require you to pay that back to this couple by Friday of this week, which is 23rd December. I am going to list the matter before me for the first open day after 1st January. If the money is paid and Mr and Mrs Suliga are satisfied that they do not wish to take any further action, I will conclude the matter.
MR CHOUHAN: I haven’t received the money, sir, so how can I make the payment?
JUDGE WEBB: You have received it from the bank.
MR CHOUHAN: No, I haven’t received anything.
JUDGE WEBB: RBS has paid you the money.
MR CHOUHAN: No, I have not received it, sir.
JUDGE WEBB: £3,554.71 by Friday.
MR CHOUHAN: How am I going to pay that if I haven’t received the money, sir?
JUDGE WEBB: It is not my problem, it really is not my problem.
And DJ Webb is quite right. It wasn’t.