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

Jessie Jones

21:27 PM, 1st May 2020
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mobmadmum at 29/04/2020 - 14:15
Hi, it sounds like you are in quite a difficult position here. You have created a tenancy and the Council were doing what they always do in these circumstances; advise the tenant to remain until forced out by bailiffs.
You would be unwise to "all going over after lockdown and camping in the home which may do the trick" as he could easily sue you for harassment and plenty of solicitors would take that one up on a 'no win no fee' basis.
The sure way to evict him is unfortunately the legal route, which will probably take you at least a year, a couple of thousand or more in legal fees, plus your monthly losses until the bailiffs do their bit. The other way, which I hate to suggest, is to offer him a 'bung' to leave. Say 3 months rent in a new place. But use a solicitor or face the consequences of that going wrong as well.

Mark Crooks

7:49 AM, 2nd May 2020
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Jessie Jones at 01/05/2020 - 21:27
Jessie Jones's suggestion is unpalatable but probably your best option if SIL will not leave. Sueing will most probably cost you heavily in money, time and stress.
Consider SILs position. You need to create a way out for him if he cannot create one himself.

It's very easy to let emotion and pride dictate your actions in situations like these but do you really want to spend the next year or two stressing about legal issues and upcoming court appearances when you already know your chances of renumeration are so low?

Glenn Ackroyd

19:25 PM, 2nd May 2020
About 2 months ago

Having received payment, as the District Council state, an implied Assured Tenancy is likely to be in place. It will now be a periodic tenancy. The parties will be your daughter and SIL.

Because it is periodic, your daughter can unilaterally serve 4 weeks notice to quit.

After this time, your SIL will then be a trespasser and can be asked to leave.

See this case summary; https://medium.com/adviser/joint-tenancies-and-fixed-terms-notice-to-quit-eca2b993eab9

I'd ask her to serve the notice, turn up and take possession, change the locks and let him argue his case with the District Council

Jessie Jones

21:41 PM, 2nd May 2020
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Glenn Ackroyd at 02/05/2020 - 19:25
Glenn, I have to disagree with you here. Whether or not one of the tenants can unilaterally terminate a tenancy depends on whether they were joint tenants or tenants in common. As there is no paperwork in this case, so it would be a matter for a Court to decide. And it really isn't going to be in the Landlord interests to argue such points in Court.

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