Holden & Co has recently acted successfully for a number of tenants who have taken claims against their landlords for unlawful eviction. Unlawful eviction can be defined as being evicted or excluded from a tenancy without the landlord having obtained a court order.Within the jurisdiction of the Hastings County Court, such cases are usually referred to the court at Eastbourne for trial.
The award of damages ranges between £100-£300 per day, at least for a single individual. The awards vary with the nature of alternative accommodation which the evicted person has had to resort to and having regard to the length of time involved.
The nature of alternative accommodation can be put into three broad categories, namely street homelessness, sofa surfing and hostel accommodation (whether provided by the local housing authority or otherwise). The length of time involved usually ends with the date when the evicted person secures new permanent accommodation. However, this can be a substantial period of time. Another cut-off point has been applied in cases where it would have taken the landlord time to get possession if the landlord had proceeded by way of service of a Section 21 notice and then used the accelerated possession procedure. In general terms, this is about 95 days.
There may also be a claim for aggravated damages and/or exemplary damages. Aggravated damages are compensatory and they are a normal head of damages in unlawful eviction cases. A typical award would be between £1,000-£2,000 except where the suffering inflicted on the tenant has been exceptional. Exemplary damages are not compensatory because they are punitive. They are to punish the landlord for obtaining possession earlier than they would otherwise have obtained it if they had acted legitimately. Again, the range tends to be between £1,000-£2,000.
Each case has to be considered on its own facts by the court, but in general terms, a case of unlawful eviction where the court is satisfied that the landlord has chosen to unlawfully evict a tenant in order to be spared the trouble and inconvenience of obtaining a court order is likely to result in damages (excluding damages for specific items which belong to the tenant and have been lost or ruined in the eviction process) in the region of £15,000-£20,000, excluding costs.
If you are a landlord and are on the receiving end of an award of damages for unlawful eviction, the costs involved can be considerable. In addition, you may have the added difficulty in seeking to persuade a local housing authority that you should be granted a selective licence to enable you to rent property in the Borough of Hastings as there is a danger that you may not be considered a fit and proper person to hold such a license by reason of your previous history.
If you are a tenant who has been unlawfully evicted, the award of such damages will go some way towards compensating you for the indignity, humiliation and distress inevitably caused by being turned out of your home without prior warning and invariably involving the loss of your personal possessions.
Legal Aid may be available for cases of unlawful eviction.