Landlord compensated for door damaged by police executing drugs warrant

Landlord compensated for door damaged by police executing drugs warrant

The appeal was heard by Sheriff Ian Cruickshank at the Upper Tribunal for Scotland

A corporate landlord that was refused an award of £950 for the repair of a door damaged by police officers executing a drugs search warrant has successfully had the decision re-made by the Upper Tribunal for Scotland.

Umali Ltd had been awarded £4,338.60 for rent arrears and other damage to the property caused by joint tenants Dylan Traynor and Abbey-Louise Sneddon. It argued that the First-tier Tribunal had erred in not attributing liability for the damage to the door to the tenants.

The appeal was heard by Sheriff Ian Cruickshank. The appellant was represented by a director of the company, while the respondents did not make an appearance.

Attributable to fault

The parties entered into a private residential tenancy of a property in Hamilton in January 2020. A third respondent, Caitlin Murphy, assumed obligations as guarantor. The tenants were evicted from the property on the ground of rent arrears on 16 July 2021 by order of the First-tier Tribunal. The appellants thereafter raised proceedings for payment of the remaining arrears as well as for various other sums.

At the Case Management Discussion, the Tribunal indicated that, considering the respondents had not appeared, it was satisfied in relation to parts of the appellant’s claim based on its written submissions. However, it refused to award the appellant the sum of £950 to repair the front door of the property, which on 20 July 2020 was damaged by police officers executing a drugs search warrant.

In its decision, the Tribunal stated that it could not identify any legal basis on which this sum could be recovered. While the lease provided for the tenants to be liable for any repairs attributable to their fault or negligence, the damage to the door had not been caused by them but by the police. Further, no evidence had been led before the Tribunal suggesting that the actions of the police were justified due to criminal behaviour on the part of the tenants.

It was noted that a director of the appellant, Mr Murray, had provided evidence to the Tribunal that he had spoken to a neighbour who witnessed bags being removed from the property and believed that one of the respondents had been charged with an offence. This evidence appeared to have been largely accepted by the Tribunal in making its decision.

It was argued in the appellant’s written submissions that the FtT had erred in law in refusing its claim for the door. It had been wrong to conclude that there was no legal basis upon which the tenants could be held liable for damage caused by Police Scotland while executing a lawfully obtained search warrant at the property.

Absence of contradictory evidence

Sheriff Cruickshank, in his decision, observed: “Damage may be caused as a result of the direct actings of a tenant or indirectly at the hands of another. Whether liability flows in the latter circumstance will be governed by the evidence and whether there is a causal link which brings into play the tenant’s responsibility for the damage either under a strict interpretation of the lease or as a result of a wider breach of the tenant’s general duty of care.”

On the causality of damage in this case, he said: “Based on the evidence provided by the appellant, and in the absence of any contrary evidence to explain why the police had obtained a search warrant for the property based on reasons which did not involve any actions, or suspected actions, on the respondents’ part, there was before the FtT sufficient evidence for appropriate inferences to be drawn.”

The sheriff concluded: “In the absence of contradictory evidence the appellants in my view established a causal link that, on the balance of probability, there had been fault on the part of the respondents which was sufficient to find them liable for the replacement costs of the door. Accordingly, I uphold this appeal.”

Sheriff Cruickshank therefore quashed the decision of the FtT and re-made it, granting an order for payment to the appellant in the sum of £5,288.60.

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