Landlord and letting agent wins key legal eviction ruling in Court of Appeal

The industry will be relieved that tenants seeking to challenge their eviction on technical grounds have lost in UK's highest court.

The Court of Appeal has delivered its decision on the controversial Northwood Solihull vs Cooke/Fearn eviction case after more than two years of legal wrangling.

Its judges had been asked to give a final verdict on the long running case, which kicked off in 2019 when the Solihull branch of estate agency chain Northwood tried to evict a couple who had stopped paying their rent and served a Section 8 eviction notice.

But tenants Mr Fearn and Ms Cooke argued during an initial County Court hearing that under section 44 of the Companies Act 2006 their eviction notice had not been signed by two authorised signatories or by a company director in the presence of a witness, and that also the section 44 requirements also applied to the confirmatory certificate for their original deposit.

On this basis, they argued that the attempted eviction was invalid. But the case was then elevated to the High Court at a hearing held on December 21st 2019, and later to the Supreme Court.

Agents will be relieved to know that the tenants lost on both elements of the case.

This means an authorised employee of a landlord or letting agent can sign a section 8 notice or section 21 notice or a tenancy deposit certificate without fear of legal repercussions.

“This case continues the clear line from the Court of Appeal that technical defences to section 8 and 21 notices are not likely to work,” says David Smith of JMW Solicitors, whose represented the landlord in the case along with colleague Neli Borisova and barristers Justin Bates and Tom Morris.

Read the judgement in full.

Industry reaction

tim from peasTim Frome, Legal Associate Director at Hamilton Fraser, parent company of Mydeposits, says: “This decision will come as a relief to millions of landlords and their letting agents and I am pleased that the Lord Justices have taken a common-sense approach to the signing of deposit protection prescribed information and possession notices.

“Having written the mydeposits scheme rules back in 2006 and studied the legislation in great detail it was never the intention of parliament for the deposit protection legislation to create technical reasons to penalise landlords.

“It is a practical impossibility for larger corporate landlords or agents to comply with Companies Act signing requirements on prescribed information.

“Having an authorised person doing it on their behalf means that deposit protection can be administered simply and quickly meaning that tenants can then benefit from the knowledge their deposit is protected and using the scheme’s alternative dispute resolution service if required at the end of the tenancy.

“Mydeposits has now dealt with over 100,000 tenancy deposit disputes since being set up meaning tenants get their money back when they are entitled to it and keeping those disputes out of the courts.”

Read more about the case.

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