More often than not, our direct action casework is needed because the law is practically useless for tenants. Sometimes, however, we can take on the landlords and win.
HASL has been working closely with DC Resists – a group of residents (sadly, many are now former residents) at the beautiful Dorchester Court estate in Herne Hill. The estate had been taken over by a shady landlord company called Manaquel, who are in many ways the most extreme example of greedy, heartless profiteers of the housing crisis.
Since taking over Dorchester Court the company has raised the rents to eye-watering levels. They’ve allowed the buildings to fall into disrepair. They evicted families just because they could. In short: they destroyed a community because they could squeeze a greater profit out of their asset.
Dorchester Court didn’t roll over. They opposed Manaquel at every step, and HASL were proud to help.
When they came to evict Ravi he approached a tenant-friendly lawyer, who helped him to defeat Manaquel’s possession claim on a technicality. Manaquel tried again, and Ravi’s solicitor spotted an even more technical defence to the claim, which was rejected by Lambeth County Court on new year’s eve. Ravi appealed – and won.
Ravi argued that – because Manaquel is a company – it can’t sign documents like an ordinary person can. Instead, two authorised people have to sign all of its documents in order for the signature to comply with Section 44 of the Companies Act 2006. One of the documents (the certificate attached to the ‘prescribed information’ that landlords have to provide when they take a deposit) wasn’t properly signed, so the Section 21 notice wasn’t valid.
In the private sector these technical defences are the only way of beating private landlords. It’s always worth checking – and checking carefully – whether the landlord has complied with all the technicalities that the law requires in order to take away someone’s home. HASL recommends that you see a legal aid solicitor if your landlord tries to evict you – especially because the new Deregulation Act has introduced several new technical defences.
*UPDATE* Landlord tries again – and fails!
In May 2016 the landlord issued another ‘no-fault’ eviction claim to kick Ravi out. The landlord used the ‘accelerated procedure’, a super-quick process where the courts can take away someone’s home without a hearing.
The landlord’s solicitor had ticked a box saying that no deposit had been taken, and signed a statement saying that the contents of the form were true. In fact the first Section 21 claim had been dismissed because the landlord had taken a deposit but failed to protect it. The landlords were asking the court to evict Ravi on the basis of information that was plain wrong.
The court was unimpressed with Ravi’s landlord’s solicitors and struck their claim out, telling them to start again.