Damages for unlawful eviction by social landlord

In the case of London Borough of Lambeth v Loveridge, Mr Loveridge had been granted a secure tenancy by the council of a one-bedroom flat. The tenancy agreement required him to notify Lambeth of any absence from the property for more than eight weeks. On 9 July 2009 Loveridge left the property for a lengthy visit to Ghana from which he did not return until 5 December 2009. He continued to pay his rent by standing order but failed to notify the council.

A concern that he might have died in the property led Lambeth to effect forcible entry in September 2009. The council cleared out Loveridge's possessions, prepared the property for re-letting, and found a replacement occupant.

Loveridge returned from Ghana and brought proceedings against Lambeth for unlawful eviction and for damages for the wrongful disposal of his possessions. By the time of the trial damages for the loss of his possessions had been agreed at £9,000 and, subject to liability, common law damages for unlawful eviction were agreed in the sum of £16,400 including the £9,000, as the appropriate measure of his actual loss. It was common ground during the trial that, if liability for statutory damages was established under ss. 27 and 28 of the Housing Act 1988, then the appropriate amount for statutory damages should be either £90,500 (as Loveridge argued) or nil (as the council contended).

The Court of Appeal overturned the judge at first instance’s award of £90,000 in statutory damages, allowing Lambeth’s appeal on the construction of s. 28 of the 1988 Act.