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Hodge Jones & Allen Wins Compensation For Tenants Subjected To Disrepair And Poor Housing Conditions

Hodge Jones & Allen intervenes in housing dispute in favour of tenants seeking compensation for disrepair and poor housing conditions

Court of Appeal finds the Simmons and Castle uplift not applicable to housing repair cases

Hodge Jones & Allen, has successfully intervened in the Court of Appeal, on behalf of Housing Law Practitioners’ Association (“HLPA”), to overturn a previous ruling, originating in the latter’s decision in Simmons v Castle, pertaining to the applicability of housing disrepair cases of the 10% uplift to general damages.

The case was between Zohra Khan (the claimant) and Tariq Mehmood (the defendant), with HLPA acting as the intervenor. The appeal concerned a challenge by the property owner, Ms Khan, to the amount of damages awarded to the tenant, Tariq Mehmood, for breach of an implied covenant to keep the property in repair.

Mr. Mehmood had moved into the property in about March 2005, contributing to the rent. At that time, he was not the tenant named in the tenancy agreement, although he delivered the rent to Ms Khan’s agent every month.

Mr Mehmood had argued that throughout his occupancy the property was in an extremely poor state of disrepair, particularly that the house was damp and the floors in the kitchen and on landing were unstable, with the carpets being filthy and infested. He had complained about the property’s state to Ms Khan’s agent when he visited the agent to pay the rent.

When the person named as the tenant on the tenancy agreement left the property in March 2011, Mr. Mehmood and Ms Khan signed a new tenancy agreement, through her managing agent, and two of his friends moved into the property to help with the rent.

From September 2011, the house deteriorated further, with the roof started leaking and living conditions becoming intolerable. A gas inspector declared the cooker was unsafe in January 2012. Ms Khan and her agent agreed to carry out the repairs in return for increased rent, which Mr. Mehmood agreed. However, it is alleged that no work was carried out on the property and that some work was done instead by Mr Mehmood and his friends. The property deteriorated even further, and because of the living conditions, Mr. Mehmood became ill, was unable to work and fell into arrears with the rent.

In July 2013, Ms. Khan filed a claim for possession and payment of rent arrears, claiming the premises were let to Mr. Mehmood “under an assured shorthold tenancy which began on 23 March 2007”. Rent arrears at the date of the pleading were said to be £4,200.

The preliminary hearing was listed for 12 August 2013 but adjourned to 2 September 2013. Mr. Mehmood did not attend the court and judgement was entered for possession of the property. However, he successfully applied to set aside the order, explaining that he had been misled by notices from the court into thinking the hearing had been adjourned. The statement also provided detailed evidence about the property’s state of disrepair.

Several counterclaims were filed in afterwards and the final hearing was listed on 14 August 2014. Ms. Khan did not attend the hearing, later maintaining that she had thought that would be adjourned because of an unresolved issue about an expert’s report. She had also failed to comply with a direction to file a trial bundle. At the hearing, the defendant’s counsel asked for the possession claim to be dismissed, and for judgment on the counterclaim with damages to be assessed at a later date.

The district judge dismissed the claim and gave judgement on the counterclaim by Mr. Mehmood. He found that the evidence showed that the property had been in a severe state of disrepair which deserved a considerable reduction in rent which he fixed at 50%. He also agreed that in the absence of documentary evidence, special damages should be included in the award of general damages, ordering the return of the deposit and Ms. Khan to carry out the works specified in the schedule appended to the pleading. He also agreed to award costs to Mr. Mehmood and interest on the period since the date in May 2007. On August 2019, there was an appeal against the order.

Daniel Fitzpatrick and Declan Storrar of Hodge Jones & Allen represented HLPA pro bono along with Liz Davies QC and former co-chair, Marina Sergides. They made the application to the Court of Appeal, submitting written and oral representation in the Court of Appeal.

A witness statement, on behalf of the HLPA, was provided also by HLPA executive member, Eleanor Solomon of Anthony Gold.

The judgement was handed down, with the Court of Appeal finding that the 10% uplift to general damages from Simmons v Castle did not apply to housing disrepair cases. This is a very important judgement for tenants seeking redress for disrepair and poor housing conditions because it ensure that there remains a mechanism in place to prevent historically low damages in these types of cases.

Daniel Fitzpatrick, Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, representing Housing Law Practitioners’ Association, added: “Mr Mehmood’s case is shocking, but equally increasingly common. Successfully intervening in this case is an incredibly important moment for tenants, who deserve the right compensation when seeking redress for disrepair and poor housing conditions that should not have existed in the first place.”