Gibson v Douglas [2016]:

Whether a tenant was unlawfully evicted by his landlord

Gibson v Douglas [2016]:

 

The background

The appellant occupied part of a property owned by the respondent landlord, and he paid rent to the landlord for his use of this part. After a number of years, the landlord requested that the appellant vacated the property; the police became involved and removed the appellant from the premises.

The appellant brought a claim against his landlord, arguing that he had been unlawfully evicted. He claimed:

·         damages from the landlord for ‘playing an instrumental role in evicting him’; and

·         damages for possessions which he claimed had been ‘appropriated or destroyed or in some other way disposed of by [the landlord’s son]’.

It was agreed between the parties during proceedings that the landlord was suffering from dementia and therefore relied on her son for assistance.

The law

The court agreed with the landlord’s son that he had no case to answer. The eviction had been carried out by the police, with the landlord and her son present.

S.5 of the Protection From Eviction Act 1977 states that:

“no notice by a landlord or a tenant to quit any premises let (whether before or after the commencement of this Act) as a dwelling shall be valid unless—

(a)it is in writing and contains such information as may be prescribed, and
 

(b)it is given not less than 4 weeks before the date on which it is to take effect.”

The court held that the appellant had not in fact held a lease but was a licensee of the premises and he therefore did not enjoy rights to a statutory notice period under the Act. However, it was noted on the appellant’s request to appeal that, even as a licensee, the appellant would be entitled to some reasonable notice before physical removal from the property.

 

The decision

On appeal, the landlord’s son argued that the eviction had been effected by the police. The landlord’s son, although present and with his mother at the time of the eviction, had not played sufficient role in the eviction for the appellant to be entitled to claim any damages from him, and he had not taken any action during the eviction that could cause a claim against him to arise.

The appeal was dismissed on the basis that the landlord and her son had not taken any active role in the eviction; the landlord’s son was ‘a conduit for his mother’s wishes’.  

JB Leitch’s Phil Parkinson comments on the decision:

“This is an interesting principle for landlords; where police or another third party handles the physical
eviction of a tenant, the landlord is not held liable for any damages caused even though they were present at the time. Also worthy of reminder in the decision is the rights of tenants and, arguably, bare licensees, to reasonable notice of eviction prior to physical removal. Under statute, tenants are entitled to at least 4 weeks’ notice in writing.” 

The appeal was dismissed on the basis that the landlord and her son had not taken any active role in the eviction; the landlord’s son was ‘a conduit for his mother’s wishes’.  

Author

Philip Parkinson
Philip Parkinson
Legal Director

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