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Supreme Court victory for unlawfully evicted tenant

Supreme Court victory for unlawfully evicted tenant

The Supreme Court today (3 December 2014) handed down judgment in the case of Loveridge v Lambeth [2014] UKSC 65, restoring the award of damages made by the County Court to a council tenant who was unlawfully evicted from his property. Hopkin Murray Beskine acted for the successful tenant in the Supreme Court.

Mr Loveridge was a secure tenant of a flat owned by the London Borough of Lambeth. In 2009 he was temporarily away but continued to pay his rent by standing order. While he was away, the council forced entry to the property and took possession. They should have obtained a court order, but they did not. Without a court order, the eviction was not lawful.

Mr Loveridge returned to his home to find that the locks had been changed and he could not get entry to his property. He also discovered that all his possessions had been removed and destroyed by the council.

Mr Loveridge then brought a claim in the County Court for compensation for his unlawful eviction and the loss of his belongings. His claim included a claim for statutory damages:  compensation calculated on the basis of expert valuation evidence under provisions in s27 and s28 Housing Act 1988.

The council defended the claim on a number of grounds. They claimed that Mr Loveridge no longer had a secure tenancy at the time he was evicted, that statutory damages should not be awarded as they had had reasonable cause to believe that Mr Loveridge had ceased to reside at the property, and that if statutory damages were awarded they should be assessed in a way which meant no damages were payable.

The trial took place in 2012 and the County Court rejected all the council’s defences. The judge found that after forcing entry, the council did not have reasonable cause to believe that Mr Loveridge had ceased to live at the property. He awarded Mr Loveridge the sum of £99,500, including statutory damages.

The council appealed that decision to the Court of Appeal.  By this time they had conceded that Mr Loveridge had been evicted unlawfully while a secure tenant, but their appeal concerned the way in which statutory damages should be calculated when a secure tenant is evicted. The Court of Appeal agreed with the council and held that statutory damages should not be awarded, meaning the compensation award was replaced with an award of £16,400.

Mr Loveridge appealed to the Supreme Court. In their unanimous judgment today, 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.

The decision has important implications for the rights of secure tenants. Had the Court of Appeal’s decision been allowed to stand, statutory damages would in practice have been unavailable in cases where secure tenants are evicted. Instead, the judgment means that local authorities, like any other landlord, will face financial consequences if they fail to comply with the law which protects their tenants from eviction.

Ann Bevington of Hopkin Murray Beskine, the solicitor who has acted for Mr Loveridge at all stages of the proceedings, said today:
“This lengthy litigation, which ended with victory for my client in the Supreme Court, was necessary because of Lambeth Council’s unlawful actions which deprived my client of his home and his possessions. It is to be hoped that this judgment will encourage local authorities to review their practices and procedures to ensure that in future, other tenants are not put through a similar experience”. 

The judgment can be found here

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