Unlawfully evicted tenant not liable to sub-tenant

The High Court has allowed the appeal of a tenant who was ordered to pay his sub-tenant more than £20,000 in damages, plus costs, for failing to prevent her unlawful eviction by the head landlord (Brem v Murray & Marchant [2022] EWHC 1479 (QB)).

Mr Marchant granted Mr Brem a tenancy of a flat, and Mr Brem subsequently granted a subtenancy of one bedroom to Ms Murray. When Ms Murray gave notice of a potential claim about the condition of the property, Mr Marchant “went ballistic”, had the locks changed and had three “heavies” remove Ms Murray’s possessions from the flat, many of which were lost or damaged. Ms Murray brought a claim against both Mr Marchant and Mr Brem for damages for unlawful eviction and the loss of her possessions.

A Circuit Judge found that Mr Brem “probably protested” to Mr Marchant, to try to prevent the eviction, “but was bullied into submission”. Nonetheless, the judge held that Mr Brem was jointly liable with Mr Marchant for the majority of the damages, on the basis that he had breached Ms Murray’s right to quiet enjoyment of her tenancy.

Allowing Mr Brem’s appeal, Mrs Justice Collins Rice held that, on the judge’s own findings of fact, Mr Brem could not be liable. His contractual obligation to allow Ms Murray quiet enjoyment only applied to his own actions or the actions of those acting under him: he had no duty to prevent trespasses by third parties, and he would not have been able to stop Mr Marchant and his associates in any event. Nor was Mr Brem liable in trespass himself.

Accordingly, the Court ordered that Mr Marchant alone should bear liability to Ms Murray for the eviction.

Daniel Clarke was instructed by Chipatiso Associates LLP for the Appellant, Mr Brem.