Bishop Lloyd and Jackson Successfully Defend Possession Proceedings and Agree Significant Damages on a Counterclaim for Disrepair

Bishop Lloyd & Jackson acted for a vulnerable client who faced possession proceedings brought by a property development company in December 2016. The company had purchased our client’s ground floor flat together with 4 other properties in 2007 after the death of the original landlord. The company had previously brought possession proceedings against our client in 2014, using the accelerated possession procedure, claiming that the tenancy was an assured short-hold one. That claim was dismissed by the Court on the basis that there was no evidence that the tenancy was in fact an assured short-hold one, despite the Claim Form making reference to the existence of a written AST agreement.  The company brought subsequent proceedings, claiming that our client was in fact an assured tenant who had moved into the property on 15 September 1990. Our client’s case was that he had been a protected tenant since the 1980’s and owed a rent of £520 throughout his tenancy. Indeed, the pre-completion report obtained by the company’s previous solicitors before the building was purchased, set out that it was possible that our client was either a controlled/protected tenant or an assured one.

The company also argued that our client was in significant rent arrears because he had failed to pay the increased rent of £900 per month following service of a section 13 rental increase notice allegedly served in September 2014. Our client brought a counterclaim for disrepair and sought compensation for breach of repairing obligation under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

Judgment: In October 2017, the Claimant was unable to successfully determine at trial that our client was an assured tenant and as such could not claim that the rent had been lawfully increased. As a result, there could be no claim for rent arrears and the claim for possession could therefore not succeed. Our client was able to adduce sufficient evidence to show that the Claimant had bought the property in the full knowledge that his flat may be subject to a Rent Act protected tenancy. He was also able to adduce letters from his bank and GP Surgery to confirm that he had been resident at his address since the 1980’s.

The disrepair counterclaim brought by our client was due to be heard in February 2018. On the day of the trial, however, the parties reached settlement, with the landlord agreeing to pay damages of £15,000 for the distress and inconvenience caused to our client over several years when the property was in a state of disrepair. Most importantly, however, the landlord agreed to complete the works that the Environmental Health Surveyor had confirmed were necessary to rectify the defects in the property.

This represents a real victory for our client who not only safeguarded his right to remain in the property, but also achieved compensation for the loss of amenity experienced by his landlord’s breach of repairing obligation.