General damages for breaching a repairing covenant are subject to the Simmons v. Castle 10% uplift, the Court of Appeal has held in a judgment on a long-running housing dispute case.
The ruling concerns a rarely granted appeal by the owner of a property to the level of damages awarded to the tenant for breach of an implied covenant to keep the property in a good state of repair.
We represented the respondent, Mehmood, who was previously awarded damages equivalent to 50% of the rent to which the judge applied the Simmons v. Castle 10% uplift, which led to the challenge.
Mehmood moved into the property in March 2005, which he shared with others, although he was not granted a tenancy until March 2011.
The property was in a poor state of repair. In particular, the house was damp, the floors in the kitchen and on the landing were unstable, and the carpets were filthy and infested.
The appellant brought possession proceedings in 2013. The respondent counterclaimed for disrepair and averred that he was entitled to the benefit of the repairing covenant implied by s.11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 which the appellant breached by failing to keep the property in a reasonable state of repair.
The counterclaims included special damages for expenses incurred on takeaway meals as a result of the disconnection of the cooker, interest, specific performance of the repairing obligations, and return of the deposits paid.
The District Judge awarded damages at 50% of the rent, and applied the Simmons v. Castle 10% uplift.
The appellant appealed on numerous grounds including the duration of the damages award and the application of the 10% uplift.
The Circuit Judge dismissed the appeal which led to an application to the Court of Appeal. Permission to appeal was granted on the Simmons v. Castle point, and on the duration of the damages award.
The Housing Law Practitioners' Association intervened on the Simmons v. Castle issue. It argued that the uplift did apply and was necessary to pay for CFAs which were largely used to finance disrepair claims.
On ground 1, the court held that the respondent was entitled to general damages equivalent to 50% of the rent from 23 March 2011 when he became the tenant.
On ground 2, the court held that general damages for disrepair are to compensate for loss of amenity.
In the judgment, Lord Justice Baker noted that “CFAs play an important role in assisting tenants to bring claims for breach of repairing covenants.”
Accordingly, the Court unanimously held that the 10% Simmons v. Castle uplift applied to general damages for breach of a repairing.
The Judge said: “The decision to extend the 10% uplift to all civil claims was made after careful consideration. It is true that the court anticipated that there may be cases where it was not clear whether the 10% increase is to apply which would have to be dealt with on their merits if and when they arise. In granting permission to appeal in this case, Newey LJ identified this as one of those cases. Having considered the arguments, however, I have reached the clear conclusion that there is no good reason why general damages for breach of a repairing covenant should be excluded from the 10% uplift authorised in Simmons v Castle. On the contrary, for the reasons identified above, there are good reasons why such damages should attract the uplift.”
Representation: Housing director Manjinder Kaur Atwal and solicitor Daljit Singh Shina, for the respondent tenant, instructed Toby Vanhegan, of 4-5 Gray's Inn Square, and Matthew Lee, of Lamb Building.