We very rarely get asked questions about the possible consequences of an unlawful eviction where there has been violence. This is possibly a good thing or possibly a situation that agents stay clear of.
However, some recent cases have prompted this article only to provide some guidance to those that face such a situation.
In Boyle v Musso, Mr Boyle, began withholding rent due to some disrepair at the property. Rather than carrying out the repairs pursuant to the landlords section 11 repairing obligations, the landlord attended the property with another man and assaulted Mr Boyle.
The landlord was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and upon failing to reply to Mr Boyle’s civil claim for unlawful eviction also had a default judgement entered against him.
The judge noted that Mr Boyle had healed relatively quickly but he was left suffering from depression and panic attacks. The judge therefore found that Mr Boyle was left with serious and debilitating continuing anxiety as a result of the attack and awarded:
£15,000 for trespass to the person, to include injury to feelings;
£2,000 damages for finding that the dispute was for withholding rent;
£4,000 for breach of the quite enjoyment covenant;
£750 for loss of belongings;
and then finally the return of the deposit and three times the amount of the deposit for failing to register it with a tenancy deposit scheme.
In Strydom v Fowler, Mr Fowler fell into rent arrears. His landlord issued possession proceedings but while Mr Fowler was on holiday he changed the locks. When Mr Fowler forced his way into the house he found his landlord standing there with an iron bar. Mr Fowler ran away, but broke his heal when climbing over a gate. Mr Fowler therefore counterclaimed for breach of the quite enjoyment covenant and trespass.
The court awarded the landlord rent arrears and damages for dilapidations totalling £2,600. The court then went to assess Mr Fowler’s claim and stated that when making an assessment the court considers the difference of the value of the property occupied and unoccupied and reached a figure of £12,500. However the court then considered Mr Fowler’s actions and held that he had been unreasonable when failing to respond to the landlord for 5 weeks and failing to respond to the text messages the landlord had sent him in an attempt to resolve the situation.
The court therefore awarded Mr Fowler:
A reduction of the £12,500 to £2,500;
£3,000 for breach of the quite enjoyment covenant; and
£1,250 for trespass.
Whilst each case is decided on it’s own merits the courts are taking quite a hard line with landlords that decide to take matters into their own hands without consideration for the tenants rights. Whilst the landlord will often feel aggrieved about the length of the legal process when attempting to obtain possession they are reminded that the figures displayed above are a possible consequence of a heat of the moment decision.