Secure tenant awarded £99,500 over unlawful eviction - Palmers Solicitors

Secure tenant awarded £99,500 over unlawful eviction

The Supreme Court has ruled that a tenant unlawfully evicted from his home while he was out of the UK is entitled to almost £100,000 in damages.

The case involved a Mr Loveridge, who lived in a flat on the ground floor of a two-storey property owned by the London Borough of Lambeth. Both his home and the upstairs flat were let on secure tenancies under the Housing Act 1988.

The Act gives tenants certain protections, including the right to claim damages for unlawful evictions. It also sets out the way in which these should be calculated.

Mr Loveridge, who had lived in the flat since 2002, travelled to Ghana from July to December 2009. While he was away, Lambeth changed the locks on his flat and cleared out his possessions, in the mistaken belief that he had died. Two days after Mr Loveridge returned, his flat was let to another tenant.

He sued the council for damages and a judge at Lambeth County Court ruled that he had been unlawfully evicted, awarding him £9,000 for wrongful disposal of his possessions plus a further £90,500. The latter sum was based on the difference in two valuations – the first if Mr Loveridge’s flat was sold with the upstairs flat, both with secured tenancies; and secondly, if his flat was sold with vacant possession but with the upstairs flat subject to a secure tenancy.

The Court of Appeal overturned the ruling in 2013, instead ordering Lambeth to pay £7,400 for unlawful eviction plus the £9,000 for the wrongful disposal of his possessions.

But on 3 December, the Supreme Court agreed that the approach originally taken by the County Court was the correct one and the higher award of damages should be restored.

However, it added that Parliament might wish to “revisit” the relevant sections of the Housing Act 1988 in relation to unlawful evictions by local authorities, adding that as it stood, it seemed wrong that by a calculation of Lambeth’s notional gain “the law should require payment to Mr Loveridge out of public funds in an amount which is 12 times greater than that of his loss.”

The Supreme Court decision means that local authorities, like other landlords, could be subject to potentially serious financial consequences for non-compliance with the law in relation to tenant evictions.

Maisie Yau, a solicitor in Palmers’ commercial property team, said: “For commercial tenants, the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 is a key piece of legislation, giving business tenants the right to security of tenure and regulating the way in which commercial leases can be extended or brought to an end.

“While the legislation does give tenants security, there are circumstances in which a landlord may need to evict a tenant, such as rent arrears or where the tenant is in breach of their lease obligations. We can provide expert advice to ensure that the process is completed as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, freeing up the property for re-letting and reducing losses from dealing with a long-term problem tenant. For more information, please contact us.”