A couple of brief notes.
In Opara v Olasemo (HOUSING – RENT REPAYMENT ORDER – unlawful eviction) (2020) UKUT 96 (LC), the Upper Tribunal corrected the First Tier Tribunal on its approach to the standard of proof on an illegal eviction and unlicensed HMO rent repayment order application. On both issues, the FTT had decided that it was not satisfied to the criminal standard that either offence had been committed, apparently because there was not absolute proof of the occupational status of two of the residents (whether as their main residence), nor was there absolute proof that the lock to the applicant’s room had been changed, and if so, by the landlord.
The Upper Tribunal reviews the evidence. On the issue of status of residence, it is pointed out that there is strong reason to believe the other tenants were occupying it as their home, and no reason to believe otherwise. On the illegal eviction, there was evidence of the lock change in the applicant’s statement, but no evidence for the competing explanations put forward by the landlord’s counsel. In both “It is unrealistic and unnecessary to require further evidence to meet the criminal standard of proof.”
The UT concludes
I add a final observation. The FTT in its decision in this case was, I think, over-cautious about making inferences from evidence. For a matter to be proved to the criminal standard it must be proved “beyond reasonable doubt”; it does not have to be proved “beyond any doubt at all”. At the start of a criminal trial the judge warns the jury not to speculate about evidence that they have not heard, but also tells them that it is permissible for them to draw inferences from the evidence that they accept. In this case there were obvious inferences to be drawn from the evidence, both about the eviction and about the circumstances of the other tenants. It may be that the FTT lost sight of those inferences and set the bar of proof too high. I say that in the hope that it is of assistance for the future.
On a different note, Tessa Shepperson of Landlord Law (an old friend of the blog and who very kindly provides this site’s hosting) has started a new series of webinars, the Landlord Law Legal Cases webinars. These will focus on one specific case relevant to the Private Rented Sector. Interestingly, Tessa aims to have the webinars presented by counsel involved in the cases.
The first webinar is on Friday 24 April 2020 and is on Pease v Carter, with Alice Richardson of Trinity Chambers (also a friend of this site). Details and sign up are here.
There is £12 fee, which goes to Women’s Aid charity – a vital charity at any time, but particularly so in the present conditions.
There may be more webinar news shortly. After all, who doesn’t need more screen time improving themselves these days…