Interesting cases on residential evictions

12 Sep 2018

There have been several interesting cases on residential evictions in the last year, here is a brief round up of four of them:

Unlawful Eviction: Smith v Khan (2018) EWCA Civ 1137  

This was an unlawful eviction case that reached the Court of Appeal. The case had some unusual facts: Mr S moved out and Mrs S continued to occupy the property. K served an invalid notice to quit, changed the locks (while Mrs S was at the housing benefit office), trashed Mrs S belongings by storing them in a damp basement in bin bags, and relet the property. The case came down to a dispute over damages. Eventually Mrs S was awarded damages at a daily rate of £130. The rent worked out at less than £10 a day.

These damages were in the normal ‘range’ of £100-£300, and are designed to take into account the aggravated nature of unlawful eviction. Damages were payable up to the end of the contractual term. However, there is some concern by commentators that the decision may allow landlords to avoid further damages by re-letting and thus frustrating a tenant’s ability to pursue an order for reinstatement (and further damages is not reinstated).

Unlawful Eviction: Lutman v Ashford Borough Council, (unreported) Canterbury CC, 05.10.2017

Mrs L, a secure tenant, was admitted to hospital in 2012 with dementia. Mr L was imprisoned in February 2013 for an unrelated offence.

Their landlord, the council, purported to obtain a surrender document from Mrs L (while she was in a care home!) and changed the locks. Mr L was released from prison in November 2013 and returned to find the locks changed and items of property missing. Throughout the entire period, the rent was fully paid to the council. Mr L was awarded £41k for unlawful eviction and lost property.

Both of these cases show how important it is for landlords to comply with all legislation in place to protect tenants. In terms of items belonging to occupiers, landlords should always comply with the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 – a procedure that can greatly help landlords protect themselves from liability.

Gas safety and section 21 Notices: Caridon Property Limited v Monty Shooltz (2 Feb 2018 HHJ Luba QC)

Failure to serve a copy of the current gas safety certificate before the tenant moved into the property prohibited the landlord from serving a Section 21 Notice at any future point – even if the gas certificate is subsequently served. See also the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015.

This is a very significant decision for residential landlords. It shows how important it is to comply with all of the relevant regulations currently in force for Assured Shorthold Tenancies. The Courts are, as one would expect, taking these requirements very seriously and enforcing them.

Writs of Possession: Partridge v Gupta [2017] EWHC 2110 (QB)

This case provides guidance on what notice is required to be given to occupiers in possession of land when the landowner is applying for a writ of possession. No particular form is required. The Court only needs to be satisfied the occupant knows enough about the possession proceedings to be able to apply for relief. Service on the land of notice of the application for permission for a writ of possession or a letter explaining when it will be heard are not strictly required, but they would be sufficient notice to occupiers. This would be our normal recommendation in such cases.

If you or your property have been affected by these issues, get in touch with one of our expert lawyers. Call us now on +44 (0)20 7354 3000 or email enquiries@colmancoyle.com.

This blog is an edited version taken from a training webinar given by Michael Large of Colman Coyle to LexisNexis (a leading supplier of training to lawyers) on 16 July 2018.

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