An unusual unlawful eviction

In Regency (UK) ltd v (1) Albu-Swalin and (2) Heartland Property Ltd, a Tenant that was unlawfully evicted was awarded damages of £19,000. The judge was entitled to decide how to calculate the damages which in some respects was in line with case law.

Regency let flats to Heartland, who then sublet them to individuals. Mr Albu-Swalin’s (the tenant) tenancy commenced in 2015.  Shortly after contacting Heartland to report some defects with the property the tenant received a ‘notice to quit’. The notice was defective for failing to provide the tenant with the required two months and so the tenant did not vacate the property. The locks to the flat were then changed and the tenant’s belongings destroyed.

The tenant brought a claim for unlawful eviction against both Regency and Heartlands. Regency’s director did not attend the first day of the trial, but it was represented by counsel. During the trial and on the advice of Counsel, Regency admitted that they had unlawfully evicted the tenant.

The tenant was awarded approximately £19,000 and Regency sought permission to appeal on the following grounds:

  1. Counsel had negligently advised them to admit to the unlawful eviction. They should therefore be allowed to withdraw this admission;
  2. The judge should have awarded statutory damages under S.27 and 28 of the Housing Act 1988 and not under the Common Law; and
  3. The damages awarded were too high.

The appeal court dismissed Regency’s appeal on all three grounds for the following reasons:

  1. It was not enough to blame previous counsel. Regency should have waived privilege so that previous counsel could have explained the advice in court. When Regency admitted to the unlawful eviction the judge did not make any findings of fact therefore the appeal court could not take a different approach when they saw nothing wrong with the advice initially given.
  2. S.27 and S.28 of the Housing Act 1988 provide a statutory remedy for unlawful eviction. However, they do not prevent a party from seeking damages in the event of an unlawful eviction on common law grounds. The tenant had not sought damages under the 1988 Act therefore he was perfectly entitled to seek damages on common law grounds as per his initial claim.
  3. The appeal court found that the judge was entitled to award the damages as stated and Regency had not put forward any arguable case for disputing them.

Comment

Landlords and agents that break the law by unlawfully evicting their tenants will often have to pay damages to their tenants. However, it is often quite difficult to advise on the level of damages because case law is not consistent on this issue. From a legal point of view it is hard to see why Regency was responsible for an unlawful eviction but there might be reasons which would have made them potentially liable, or they may have just been badly advised! However, this is one of the disadvantages of reading appeal cases as they only have a limited amount of detail as to what has gone before.

 

Disclaimer

The contents of this blog post is not legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only. If legal advice is needed readers should contact a solicitor. No responsibility for any information contained within this post is accepted and PainSmith solicitors accepts no liability in respect of the contents or for action taken based on this post.

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