By Mark Aspin, Director and Head of Dispute Resolution
A tenant has been awarded a refund of more than £18,000 after a wall collapsed at the property he was renting.
The court heard that the tenant had signed a two-year lease on a house with no break clause. He paid all the £34,000 rent in advance. After moving in, the tenant contacted the letting agent to draw attention to the fact that a front wall at the property was bulging.
No action was taken. Subsequently, the front part of the wall collapsed causing damage to the property. The tenant said that material from the wall continued to fall, cracks grew in the house and the kitchen bulged.
He appointed a structural engineer who concluded that there was a serious problem and that the back wall could also collapse.
The engineer said that the risk of damage was very high due to a sloping embankment, that there was a risk of further landslip and that therefore the building was not safe to live in.
The tenant’s claim was based on cl.14 of the lease, which stated under the heading “premises uninhabitable” that rent, or a fair proportionate of rent, should be suspended if the property was destroyed or damaged making it unfit for occupation.
The district judge heard evidence from the parties, the engineer and the landlord’s expert. He rejected the landlord’s case that the tenant had an alternative motive, to terminate the tenancy.
He criticised the evidence of the landlord’s expert, finding that it was overly partisan.
He found that it was not clear where debris would next fall, and that there was a risk that the entire wall would collapse. He therefore found that cl.14 had been activated. The landlord was ordered to pay the tenant £18,059 including interest, release his £2,000 deposit and pay his costs.