Kent Law Clinic helps couple win case against landlord

The University’s Kent Law Clinic (KLC), which provides pro-bono representation for people unable to afford legal costs, has helped a couple win damages after their landlord neglected to repair their faulty water heater.

KLC solicitor Vivien Gambling represented the couple, Mr Mark Manser and Mrs Sarah Manser, in a civil case at Canterbury County Court.

Landlord Mrs Judith Wilson had issued a claim in the court alleging damage to the property including ‘water damage’. Mr and Mrs Manser, represented by Vivien Gambling, counterclaimed against Mrs Wilson alleging breach of repairing obligations.

The central issue for the judge to decide was whether the water damage was caused by ‘tampering’ by Mr and Mrs Manser, as alleged by Mrs Wilson, or by a lack of proper repair.

The judge found no evidence that Mr and Mrs Manser were responsible for the leaks and concluded that Mrs Wilson should have had the water damage – which caused a ceiling to collapse – repaired as soon as reasonably practical. Damages were awarded for the conditions that the family had endured. The judge took into account that the lack of hot water and heating was particularly difficult for Mr Manser, who is disabled.

In another parallel action, brought by Ashford Borough Council, Mrs Wilson was prosecuted as the Council sought to recover its costs for repairs and enforcement. Mr and Mrs Manser gave evidence in this case.

On 7 November Mrs Wilson was found guilty of the offence of failing to comply with a statutory notice. In delivering his judgment, the judge said that Mr Fergus Wilson and Mrs Wilson had every opportunity to resolve the issues but Mr Wilson ‘stubbornly refused’ to make a commitment to carry out repairs. The failure was ‘deliberate rather than reckless’.

On 11 December at Folkestone Magistrates Court Mrs Wilson was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay Ashford Borough Council’s costs of £14,890.94.

Mr Manser said: ‘We are happy with the verdict in the County Court case in which Kent Law Clinic helped us a lot. We also thank Ashford Borough Council for its action and are happy that the Wilsons did not get away with their negligence as landlords.’

Vivien Gambling said: ‘Kent Law Clinic exists to help people like the Mansers, who cannot afford to pay for legal representation, obtain justice and I’m delighted that we were able to help them do that in this case.’