Suing your landlord is like buying a lottery ticket – but with better odds
Where there’s blame, there’s a claim, and all misfortunes, from a stubbed toe to accidental autoerotic asphyxiation are probably someone else’s fault.
Was it the poorly written instructions on your Swedish flat-pack furniture which caused you to bang your smallest extremity, or was it the bartender at the Royal Oak who continued to serve pint after pint, even when it was obvious you could barely stand? Do you blame the rope manufacturer for the death of your significant other inside a wardrobe in Thailand, or is it the fault of the citrus grower, who failed to ensure that the orange, stuffed erotically into your best beloved’s mouth, had air holes?
The ability to successfully sue a person or company for minor injuries and slights is a wonderful one. The person we judge responsible is appropriately punished by the courts, and the injured party gets a two week holiday in Benidorm, or the deposit for a nice house.
But what’s even better, is the ability to successfully sue someone who has done you no harm. Someone who has never injured you, and someone who is so financially broken by the experience, that they will need to pay your ‘damages’ in installments.
It’s a dream come true. And for young five renters, it’s a fantasy transformed into reality.
Ben Leonard, Sophie Flinders, Charlie Hind, Isaac Parker, and Paige Murphy had no problems with the large house they rented in Leeds. They had no problems with the landlord, and by their own admission, the five bedroom property was a lot better than many of the places they had lived.
But the landlord had failed to register the property as an HMO. The local authority was not happy, and went out of their way to make the landlord unhappy too. In addition to their own Draconian punishments, council officers, thought it appropriate to inform the tenants that because the tenancy was illegal, they could sue the landlord to recover their rent.
“I’d be lying if I said the money wasn’t a motivating factor but we all share similar political beliefs and don’t think housing should be commodified,” Ben Leonard told the BBC. “If private individuals are going to profit off property, we’ve at least got to hold them accountable when they do bad things. It wasn’t a personal vendetta against the landlord – he just broke the rules.”
Ignore the socialist bullshit and pseudo-political posturing. What Mr Leonard is saying is that he saw an opportunity to make money by hurting somebody who had done him no harm, and he took it.
The five renters were initially awarded a total of £15,000, although this was reduce by £6,000 as the landlord is in dire financial straits already. He (or she) will be paying off the bill for years.
In an interview with Vice magazine, Leonard was asked directly, “What were the problems you had with your landlord and the accommodation they were renting to you?” Somewhat predictably, Leonard was unable to give any actual grievances about either the landlord or the property, instead, spouting forth the tired legalese about licensing, and how it’s “representative of the broken market of private rented accommodation.”
Thanks to the publicity generated by the Leeds case, we don’t doubt that tenants across the country will be checking up on their landlord’s credentials, gas certificates, and HMO status, in the hope that they can have their rent refunded by the court.
For many, finding a paperwork error will be an experience akin to winning the lottery. So remember, whether you’re a renter or a landlord, It could be you…