Has anyone ever successfully sued a District Council?

Has anyone ever successfully sued a District Council?

9:19 AM, 28th April 2020, About 4 years ago 24

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Has anyone successfully sued a District Council? Like all stories this one begins with a fairy tale and ends as a nightmare. The only trouble is this is no story, it’s all true.

Two years ago my husband and I wished to help our daughter and her husband of five months as they found themselves in financial difficulties. Our new son-in-law, (S.I.L.), had just changed jobs to less well paid employment and they had moved to a dog friendly rented house when the previous landlord had asked them to vacate as dogs were not welcome.

As he hadn’t been employed for the required length of time, my husband agreed to be their guarantor, but S.I.L assured us that once HMRC got his tax adjusted he would have no problems paying the rent. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the first missed rental payment was notified to us and we had to pay £1,200. (That was the first of three missed payments).

At first, life resumed to normal and the couple duly got back on their feet, but they were worried that this could occur again and so hit upon the idea of getting a mobile home on a holiday park. Neither of them have a good credit rating and our daughter only worked part-time as she was a single mum to our only granddaughter. S.I.L has three children from previous relationships so they needed a 3 bed roomed home for three girls under 10 and a teenage boy staying every weekend.

Again they assured us that the £650 mortgage payments plus £650 site fees which included all utilities, was manageable as their current outgoings were at least £2000 – £2500 per month. We reluctantly agreed to remortgage our property to let them proceed.

The Park Home was very impressive, in a beautiful location surrounded by 11 lakes in the heart of Sussex. The Park had a pool and clubhouse, shop, launderette etc. and the children loved it. For two summers we all enjoyed the facilities and daughter and S.I.L. had the place to themselves all week being joined by some or all of the children at weekends. The Park is open for 50 weeks of the year and we agreed they could stay with us for the two weeks in January when the Park has to close.

Most of the time they managed to pay us back the monthly outgoings, but unfortunately cracks began to show and just after the two week break this January our daughter returned home to us as the marriage broke down. Initially we agreed to S.I.L’s request to stay in the home and he promised to pay us between £250 and £350 per week to cover his share of the outgoing plus arrears of various other payments received from us during the last 4 years.

However, our daughter decided she wished to go back so we gave him one week’s notice. If he had agreed to go he would have left on March 6th, but he decided to contact Mid Sussex District Council to request help with housing. They didn’t attempt to contact us, but informed him that as he had a “tenancy”, we as “Landlord” were obliged to issue a section 21 notice and give him at least one month’s notice.

Even though in our opinion no tenancy was ever created, the home is in my husband’s sole name, and the mortgage is in our joint names, the site fees are paid by direct debit from our joint bank account and there was only a verbal family agreement as we trusted that our daughter and son-in-law would honour their promise to pay us back in full as soon as they could, however to be fair we agreed to extend the notice period to March 27th.

In the meanwhile our daughter decided she could not return to the home so we advertised the home for sale and had several interested parties, including S.I.L. who said he had a friend who would be willing to lend him the money, (though no actual friend has actually come forward yet), – then lockdown closed the Park on March 23rd and S.I.L. refused to budge. He hasn’t paid a penny since. His registered address is of course our home as you have to have a home in the UK and pay Council Tax before you can purchase a mobile home. So naturally it would have been a bit awkward with our daughter having moved back.

We had interest from a secondhand caravan dealer who said he would remove the home and take it to a new site but of course no one is allowed onto the Park, not even us, the rightful owners.

The final sting in the tale is that we weren’t even offered the book price because S.I.L had, without our permission, taken it upon himself to “decorate” the home thereby robbing it of its original features and instantly reducing its value! We are pensioners and although our daughter, currently furloughed from her pub job, will willingly pay back as much as she can she returns to work, we are locked into another 5 years of a 7 year mortgage as if we can’t pay we could lose our home. We are also still paying the site fees and insurance, though the Park has offered a reduction for this month at least while lockdown continues.

As our S.I.L. is up to his eyes in debt and has no possessions other than a second hand car, we know it is pointless taking him to court. What I would like to know is this, has anyone successfully sued a District Council for giving inaccurate advice thereby causing financial hardship to a third party?

I doubt it, as a retired Civil servant I know only too well how easy it is for officials to wriggle out of their responsibilities when they make a mistake. How can it be right or fair for a Council to give advice when they haven’t even bothered to speak to all concerned parties and have sight of written evidence of the truth?

Has anyone else experienced something like this and have any advice for us please?


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The Forever Tenant

9:40 AM, 28th April 2020, About 4 years ago

Its a shame that you had to find out that the SIL was a waste in such a way but at this point be thankful that he is out of your daughters life.

As for your claim against the District Council, I think you have very thin grounds to sue.

I think there will be enough there for the council to prove that there is a tenancy to a court. You own the mobile home, you were not living there. Your daughter and SIL were and they were paying you money on a regular basis.
Even though there is nothing in writing, this may be enough to show a valid tenancy.

The thing I don't know is whether you are actually allowed to be a tenant in Mobile home on a 50 week a year holiday camp. Even if you cannot and a valid tenancy could not be generated, you may still not have a claim against the council.

You are going to need some legal advice on this one just to get the guy out in the first place. And sue him anyway, he may have more possessions than just his car. Dont let him get away with it.


11:22 AM, 28th April 2020, About 4 years ago

A verbal agreement is as good as a written contract. A tenancy did exist. Just serve him the proper notice and post-lock-down dispose of the holiday home and the count your blessings.

As for suing the council, they did not prohibit you from serving proper notices on your SIL-tenant. You did that. And then the Lockdown occurred.

You could sue the SIL for dilapidation and all your losses, but that would be about it. Unless you also fancy suing your own daughter for the mess she has landed you in.


12:07 PM, 28th April 2020, About 4 years ago

Hi, the first thing you need to do is read information about your rights and responsibilities.
Approach to the council in friendly manners and ask for help and information, they can be helpful if you know how to deal with it.
To suit the council is not a good idea as they have a legal team that would cost you lots of many to fight and normally they will win as they know every loop in the system.
If nothing works in a friendly way, you have to follow the system, which is
1) complaint against the department doing all the legal against you, you do it following the complaint system of the council.
2) if this does not work, you send your complaint to the ombudsman to deal with it.
I was in a situation that cost me to sell my property at a lost because of the council and at the moment the ombudsman is dealing with it and is making the council to re check my complaint against it.
I did tried at first what you want to do as asking lawyers to do my fight, when they heard was against the council many of them just did not call me back as they knew it is very difficult, others were very clear how lengthen and expensive would be to take the council to court.
I think that you personal situation as parents is very fragile as you needed a document and please get any document that you have before or during the period, this include pictures, texts, notes, emails, all this is evidence that you can use to proof your rights.
Good luck.


16:30 PM, 28th April 2020, About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by The Forever Tenant at 28/04/2020 - 09:40
Thank you for your reply. Although it is a holiday park, the majority of residents are permanent except for the 2 weeks it is closed. There is no age restriction so there are a number of families with children living there though I don't know how they get around school catchment area etc. I know S.I.L has no other assets and I don't want to throw any more money away by taking him to court. Child Maintenance have already done that and even they got nowhere!


16:32 PM, 28th April 2020, About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Smartermind at 28/04/2020 - 11:22
Thanks for your reply. I think you're probably right and we are just going to have to suck it up and learn from our mistake. Re taking S.I.L. to court please see my reply to the Forever Tenant.


16:37 PM, 28th April 2020, About 4 years ago

I regret I cannot see any competent lawyer advising you to sue MSDC on the facts you have set out above.
It also seems suing the SIL with a view of getting any financial recovery is illusory. You want him out, caravan vacant, sold, your obligations closed! I suggest you approach Property 118 for a recommendation to a suitable solicitor to act for you. Unfortunately, the facts suggest you not your daughter must be the claimant so any legal aid that may be available to her is not so for you. You must fund the enterprise from your own pocket. If, in the meantime, SIL does 'a flit', then be thankful.


16:38 PM, 28th April 2020, About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by LILIA FOUNTAIN at 28/04/2020 - 12:07
Thanks for your reply and sorry for your experience with the council. I have looked at the council's complaint procedure so I might give that a go though looking at their statistics for previous years' complaints it seems like it's a foregone conclusion that the council is almost always going to win. We are David to their Goliath and even though we pay council tax have very little comeback. Good luck with your complaint and hopefully you will be one of the successful ones.


17:04 PM, 28th April 2020, About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Lindsay Keith at 28/04/2020 - 16:37
Thanks for your reply. I think you're right. Our daughter has a part-time job on minimum wage so she might be able to claim legal aid though she can't get blood out of a stone. Hopefully he WILL do a "flit" as the bank of mum and dad-in-law has firmly closed it's doors.


21:11 PM, 28th April 2020, About 4 years ago

Once the lockdown is over could not your daughter move back in, leaving her child with you for a while or indeed allow your husband with her permission to live there and renovate the property - that would inconvenience the SIL.
Maybe plan a big family visit. Soon.

What is your daughters action here, if she is viewed as tenant too, then she could/should return to live there. Not visit her problems on you at a whim?
She is not a child and the fact he had/has 3 children to support at the outset was a red flag.

As far as I know, caravan park sites require a main address elsewhere which is why SIL and DD got you involved in this mess.

Where is the dog?


12:09 PM, 29th April 2020, About 4 years ago

Hi Bridget - sorry to hear this, but it's a story I hear many, many times 🙁
Please come and join my Facebook page for help x
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