Inverclyde landlord ordered to pay £1,500 for unlawful eviction of tenant using unfounded eviction ground

A former tenant of a property in Gourock, Inverclyde, has been awarded £1,500 by the First-tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber after it found she had been unlawfully evicted by her landlord, who claimed that his sister intended to live in the property.

Charlotte Mills sought a wrongful termination order under section 59 of the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 in respect of her landlord, Simon Boparai, in the sum of £3,000, that being six times the monthly rent under the tenancy. The rented property was readvertised for rent online shortly after she vacated it.

The application was heard by legal member Ms H Forbes and ordinary member Mr G Laurie. The applicant was represented by solicitor Ben Christman from the Legal Services Agency, and the respondent by James Lamb, solicitor.

Motivated by rent arrears

The parties entered into a private residential tenancy for a property on Kempock Street, Gourock, on 16 September 2019, at a rent of £500 per month. During the tenancy, the applicant fell into rent arrears, and continued to be in arrears for the remainder of the tenancy.

On 1 July 2020, the landlord served notice to leave on the applicant on the ground that his sister, Ms Kaur, required to live in the property. The applicant vacated the property on 3 October 2020 in accordance with the notice, however the landlord’s sister never moved into the property, and it was readvertised for rent on Gumtree later that month.

The applicant gave evidence that she had been shocked when she received the notice to leave, as she had told the respondent that she was getting a loan to pay off her rent arrears. She stated that as a result of her eviction she had been forced to move into ‘emergency’ accommodation in Greenock where she did not feel safe.

The respondent claimed that his sister was unable to move into the property due to the state that the applicant had left it in. In a separate application made by the respondent, the Tribunal found that the applicant was liable for damages to the property in the sum of £893. It was submitted on his behalf that the tenant had left the property because she could not afford the rent after losing her job.

It was submitted for the applicant that the respondent had never truly intended to let the property to a family member and was motivated to evict the applicant because of her rent arrears. The reason the alternative ground had been used was because the required notice period for eviction was three months shorter. This version of events was supported by a WhatsApp conversation between the parties in June 2020, in which the landlord indicated he would start proceedings for rent arrears but did not mention a family member wanting to live in the property.

Fundamental defect

In the Tribunal’s decision, it assessed the evidence led by the respondent as follows: “The Tribunal was not persuaded that it was Ms Kaur’s settled intention to live in the Property at the time of serving the Notice to Leave in July 2020. It would appear that discussions were had at some time in the summer of 2020 and that Ms Kaur then decided she might like to live in the Property. She had not viewed the Property since the Applicant’s tenancy commenced, and had no idea of its condition.”

It continued: “In stating the particulars as to how the ground had arisen, the Respondent stated ‘A family member in a larger property will move into the smaller property as the property they occupy has to be sold.’ This was not borne out by the evidence. At no time before the Tribunal questioned the Respondent in this regard was a requirement to sell Ms Kaur’s abode mentioned. It was not mentioned by Ms Kaur as a reason to have to leave her abode. There was no evidence put before the Tribunal that the property had to be sold. When questioned, the Respondent said he hoped to sell Ms Kaur’s home. The Tribunal considered this to be a fundamental defect that undermined the Respondent’s case and his credibility.”

Turning to the evidence of the applicant, it said: “When asked directly by the Tribunal, and by her representative, for the reason that she left the Property, the Applicant confirmed that she left because of the Notice to Leave. The Tribunal accepted that evidence, notwithstanding the considerable evidence to suggest that she could no longer afford to stay in the Property.”

However, addressing the submission that she had ended up in undesirable accommodation as a result of her eviction, it went on to say: “the reason the Applicant has ended up in unsatisfactory accommodation is a direct result of her own financial situation, which deteriorated before the Notice to Leave was served. It is difficult to see how she could have afforded a better property at the time of moving. The Tribunal was not persuaded that the Applicant’s current property was the only property available. It would appear to have been the only property that suited the Applicant’s particular circumstances at that time.”

For these reasons, the Tribunal granted the applicant a wrongful termination order in the sum of £1500, three times the sum of the monthly rent.

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