Law Clinic wins damages for tenants sued by landlord

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Uzochi Ejimofor and Vivien Gambling by University of Kent

Tenants evicted after complaining about a leak were sued – but they were given compensation after their case was taken up by the Kent Law Clinic.

Kent Law Clinic is part of the Law School at Kent. Clinic solicitor, Vivien Gambling, was assisted by second year law student Uzochi Ejimofor at the hearing at Canterbury County Court on September 12, 2016.

Attila Lant and his partner Eva Nemeth were awarded £2,500 damages, having been sued for £4,000 damage to the property by the landlord and owner of the rented house, Judith Wilson. The tenants lived in the property for a period of over 8 weeks before they moved out, in conditions of extreme damp, sodden carpets, and a partial collapse of the kitchen ceiling.

Mr Lant and Ms Nemeth rented the house at 87 Wood Lane, Ashford, in April 2013.  In May 2015, they reported a minor leak from a hot water cylinder and Mrs Wilson’s husband Fergus attended to inspect the problem.  However, Mr Wilson alleged the tenants had deliberately caused the damage, and ended their tenancy agreement.  The couple were then surprised to find they were being sued for failing to carry out repairs at the property.

Kent Law Clinic offers legal advice to people in the community who could not otherwise afford it and as a result of consulting the Clinic, the couple counter-claimed for

  • The misery suffered living with the disrepair
  • The breach of the landlord’s repairing obligations
  • Interfering with the tenants’ peaceful enjoyment of their former home

After hearing from the parties and a number of witnesses, Deputy District Judge Adams said that he could not understand why the leak was not fixed. He concluded that the matter was the landlord’s responsibility to repair. Furthermore, the tenancy agreement precluded the tenants from attempting any repair without the landlord’s permission.

The tenants contacted Ashford Borough Council’s environmental health officer who inspected the flat and also urged the Wilsons to carry out the repair.

Some new protection for tenants has been afforded by section 33 of the Deregulation Act 2015, which applies to new tenancies starting on or after 1st October 2015 and which is intended to prevent retaliatory eviction by landlords when their tenants complain of disrepair.