Has anyone ever successfully sued a District Council?

by Readers Question

9:19 AM, 28th April 2020
About 2 months ago

Has anyone ever successfully sued a District Council?

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Has anyone ever successfully sued a District Council?

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?

Bridget



Comments

Mobmadmum

14:02 PM, 29th April 2020
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by caroled61 at 29/04/2020 - 12:09
Thanks Carole, I will.

Robert Mellors

14:09 PM, 29th April 2020
About 2 months ago

It sounds as though you have created a tenancy (even if you were not aware of doing this), so now you have to abide by normal landlord and tenant rules in relation to park homes. This is not an area that most solicitors deal with, so you would need specialist legal advice. The Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to give you some advice, and direct you to more specialist advice.

I'm not sure what you think the Council has done wrong that would then give you a right to sue them?, from what I can tell you have (albeit with good intentions) blindly got yourself into a situation where you are now the landlord to your SIL and you are suffering the consequences of this error and your SIL's abuse of the situation.

Sorry that does not help resolve your issues, but hopefully it prevents you compounding the problems by trying to sue a council (which would cost you a huge amount of time, effort, and money).

Mobmadmum

14:15 PM, 29th April 2020
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by amarni at 28/04/2020 - 21:11
Thanks for your reply. I'm afraid it's not possible for my daughter to move back - too many painful memories and just before lockdown she managed to arrange a flat share with a friend who is child friendly. However we have thought about all going over after lockdown and camping in the home which may do the trick. Yes indeed we warned her about getting involved with him in the first place and I'm sure we're not the first parents to be tempted to say "we told you so" when it all goes wrong. But as they say, love is blind! The dog had to go to a new home I'm afraid as their long working hours made it impossible to keep him and they no longer had any willing dog-sitters living nearby.

Possession Friend

23:23 PM, 29th April 2020
About 2 months ago

I can't see ( from what I'm reading ) what the Council have done wrong, let along sufficient to be sued - much as I like the idea 😉
Hope you saw our offer on here about Free Advice during Covid period ?
But I do agree with others that from what I've read, you have a Tenancy.

Mobmadmum

14:45 PM, 30th April 2020
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Possession Friend at 29/04/2020 - 23:23
Thanks for your reply. Can you point me in the right direction to see your free advice offer please? I looked around the website but can't seem to find it.

Mobmadmum

10:26 AM, 1st May 2020
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Possession Friend at 30/04/2020 - 16:00
Thanks for the link. Do I need to join before I can request your free advice Please?

Possession Friend

10:35 AM, 1st May 2020
About 2 months ago

There is nothing to join, its not a catch, just an offer of Free advice for landlords during this troubled time.

Mobmadmum

19:12 PM, 1st May 2020
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Possession Friend at 01/05/2020 - 10:35
Thanks for your help.

Lindsay Keith

20:15 PM, 1st May 2020
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mobmadmum at 28/04/2020 - 17:04
I fear you have misread my note. I don't see your daughter as the claimant as she has no title, you have the ownership of this caravan, she was just a tenant along with SIL? Her entitlement to legal aid if available doesn't help you, she can sue for her own domestic/marital problems but cannot sue to get him out of your property. I'm afraid that's down to you.

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