Williamson -v- Khan, Birmingham County Court 29th April 2015.
In a case which could not be brought today as a result of the restrictions to the scope of Legal Aid in April 2013, a vulnerable tenant has been awarded over £48,000 in damages and interest against her former landlord.
The judge decided that the landlord blatantly failed to carry out his obligation to repair her home. The judge found that she lived in “appalling conditions” for 10 ½ years, including:
- No hot water for periods totalling almost 6 years
- Inadequate and defective heating throughout the 10 ½ year tenancy
- Rising and penetrating damp
- Leaks from internal pipes
- Rat infestation as a result of defects in the structure of the property
- Defective plasterwork
- Holes in the floorboards
- Foul odours due to drainage problems.
His honour Judge Lopez, who heard the case at Birmingham County Court, found that the Claimant, Paula Williamson, despite her poor start in life and her many problems, was persuasive, plausible and truthful. He found that the landlord, Adalat Khan, gave a false account of events with the clear intention of deceiving the Court, and in so doing subjected the character of Ms Williamson to a vicious and sustained attack.
Under cross examination by Zia Nabi, of Doughty Street Chambers, instructed by Mike McIlvaney of CLP, Adalat Khan was forced to accept that:
- Rather than the 25 properties he had alleged he owned, the number was closer to 71 -81
- He was expelled from the Midland Landlord Accreditation Scheme in April 2014 as a result his inaction over an improvement notice [served by the Local Authority]
- He had twice been prosecuted, once for failing to provide adequate fire safety precautions for the tenants of one of his properties for which he was fined £1700
- In December 2010 he was issued with a Notice by the Health and Safety Executive in respect of another of his properties over gas safety issues
- One of his tenants had died only three months earlier as a result of fire related causes
The Judge observed that obtaining a straight and honest answer from Adalat Khan was as difficult as pulling teeth.
Ms Williamson was first referred to CLP by her support worker shortly before she was due to be evicted following s21 proceedings, seeking advice in relation to homelessness. As time was short, an expert report was urgently commissioned and Mike McIlvaney visited Ms Williamson in her home to take photographs of the conditions. The judge said that these photographs illustrated the appalling conditions “far more graphically than the descriptions of the Claimant or Mr Wheeler” (the expert).
Following service of a letter before claim, Legal Aid was granted and proceedings were issued against Mr Khan for damages pursuant to s11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. As Ms Williamson had been evicted, the claim was for damages only. Had Ms Williamson consulted us just a few months later, her claim could not have proceeded as “damages only” disrepair claims were removed from the scope of Legal Aid in April 2013 by the government’s savage legal aid cuts. Today vulnerable tenants will go uncompensated, and landlords who show such callous disregard for their obligations to their tenants, such as Mr Khan, will get off scot free. As costs have been awarded against Mr Khan the case will ultimately cost the taxpayer nothing, but it could not have been brought without the underwriting provided by a Legal Aid Certificate.
Compensation was awarded for the full 10 ½ years of the tenancy. The Defence and Counterclaim did not plead limitation as at the date of the trial, and an application to amend to plead limitation made without notice on the morning of the trial was dismissed.
HHJ Lopez refused Mr Khan’s application for permission to appeal.
Congratulations to all those involved, to the lawyers Mike McIlvaney and Zia Nabi, and especially to Ms Williamson for her bravery in the face of vicious calumny.
Mr Khan owns, rents, and/or manages properties in Birmingham, especially in the Moseley area, both in his individual capacity and through companies such as Maplewood Residential. http://www.maplewoodresidential.co.uk/