Falkirk Council v Donald Gillies, 9 December 2016 -status of occupancy agreement

Inner House case concerning an occupancy agreement between Falkirk Council and Mr Gillies. Mr Gillies failed to pay rent and the Council gave notice bringing the occupancy to an end.

The notice given by the Council did not comply with the statutory provisions relating to the termination of Scottish secure tenancies. However, the Council argued that the provisions did not apply as the agreement was governed by separate provisions relating to temporary agreements in terms of paragraph 5 of Schedule 1 of the Housing (Scotland) 2001 Act:

“A tenancy is not a Scottish secure tenancy if the house is being let to the tenant expressly on a temporary basis, for a term of less than 6 months, in fulfilment of a duty imposed on a local authority by Part II (homeless persons) of the [Housing (Scotland) Act 1987]“.

The agreement in question provided:

 “1.4     The Occupancy Agreement will take effect from 9 December 2009 and will continue on a fortnightly basis until the Council has carried out a full investigation of your housing circumstances and, depending on the outcome of that investigation has provided you with an offer of secure permanent accommodation or given you a reasonable opportunity to secure alternative accommodation. You will be given 28 days notice when the Occupancy Agreement is being terminated as set out in part 5 of this agreement.”

The Council contended that this clause made express provision that the agreement was for a term of less than 6 months. In particular, they argued that that the phrase “on a fortnightly basis” was equivalent to an express reference to the agreement being for a term of two weeks.  They also referred a clause which provided: “The total charge for this accommodation is £304.12 per fortnight, payable in arrears, on the last day of each rental period” and argued that the words “rental period” were synonymous with “term” or “duration” and that specifying that the rent was “£304.12 per fortnight”, payable on the last day of “each rental period”, indicated that the rental period or term was a fortnight.

The court rejected the Council’s arguments and allowed an appeal. The most obvious meaning of the expression “on a fortnightly basis” was not that the agreement had a term of a single fortnight but that the right to occupancy would continue indefinitely from fortnight to fortnight. As to the words “rental period” the court took the view that, in their everyday use and in the context in which they had been used in the agreement, the words related to the period in respect of which instalments of rent were due and were not synonymous with “term” or “duration”.

The full judgement is available from Scottish Courts here.


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Phoebe Russel-Smith, Stephanie Dion-Jones and Alexis Herskowit v Ijeoma Uchegbu, 30 September 2016 – level of sanction payable by landlord for failing to comply with tenancy deposit regulations

Sheriff court case in which 3 students from the University of Edinburgh, who held a short assured tenancy over a flat on Drummond Street in Edinburgh, sought sanction from their landlady after the landlady failed to pay a tenancy deposit (of £1,550) into an approved tenancy deposit scheme in terms of the Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011.

The landlady paid the deposit into an approved scheme 240 days late and only after the students raised the action against her. She also failed to provide the tenants with information (relating to the deposit and landlord registration) in terms of regulations 3 and 42 of the regulations. The tenants sought the maximum sum available of £4,650 (3 times value of the deposit.)

There was a fourth tenant who was not party to the action. Because of this, the landlady argued that the sanction granted should be reduced by 25% on the basis that the fourth tenant could make an additional application for sanction. However, the sheriff rejected that argument as he found that it was not open to the court to sanction the landlady twice. Serial sanctions against landlords by a number of co-tenants are not competent. Instead the fourth tenant had a right of relief which he could exercise against his co-tenants to receive a share of the sanction.

The sheriff took  the following into account when assessing the level of the sanction:

  • for 270 days of a 334 day lease the deposit was unprotected (as a result, the sheriff multiplied the deposit by 270/334 to give a figure of £1,253);
  • the landlady had admitted her breach of the regulations (and not wasted the courts time disputing it);
  • the deposit was ultimately returned to the tenants in full and without dispute (meaning that, although the tenants had been deprived of their rights to protection, they had not actually been prejudiced); and
  • the landlady had been specifically informed of her obligations under the regulations (twice) by the City of Edinburgh Council and so had to be taken to have known of her obligations (although the sheriff found that she had been slow in complying rather than wilfully defiant).

Taking into account the latter 3 points, the sheriff granted a further sum of £600 and awarded a total sanction of £1853.

The full judgement is available from Scottish Courts here.

 All of our property and conveyancing case summaries are contained in the LKS Property and Conveyancing Casebook here.


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The City of Edinburgh Council v Martin Smith, 19 April 2016 – Short Scottish Secure Tenancy -creation of unintentional further contractual tenancy prevents landlord recovering possession

Sheriff court case in which the City of Edinburgh Council sought decree for payment of arrears of rent and recovery of possession of a property at Springwell Place in Edinburgh.

The Council let the property to Mr Smith under a Short Scottish Secure Tenancy Agreement for an initial period of 6 months after which it was renewed on a month to month basis until one of the Council’s managing agents served a notice to quit on the tenant requiring him to remove from the property in February 2015. On the same date a notice of intention to raise proceedings for possession was served in terms of s36 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001.

In terms of s36(5), where the landlord has served the appropriate notices and raised the proceedings within the relevant timescale, the court must grant an order for recovery of possession if the tenancy has reached its end, tacit relocation is not operating and no further contractual tenancy is in place.

However, in this case, the sheriff was advised that an agreement had been reached with Mr Smith whereby he would remain in occupation of the property on payment of an agreed sum by way of rent (which also included the rent arrears). At a subsequent hearing before the sheriff the council also sought an adjournment rather than decree in order to give the tenant an opportunity to comply with his obligations before it obtained the decree.

Although Mr Smith did not appear in court and did not lodge any response to the council’s action, the sheriff found that the agreement between him and the council constituted a contractual tenancy:

“[t]hree of the essential clauses of a lease appear to have been agreed, namely, the parties, the subjects and the rent.  In those circumstances, at common law, the duration of the lease would be implied to be one year”.

As such, the sheriff found that the council was not entitled to recover possession in terms of s36(5) as a “further contractual tenancy” was in place and council’s action was dismissed.

The sheriff also noted that, according to the council’s pleadings, the notice to quit had been hand delivered by the council’s managing agent and, if so, it had not been validly served as only Sheriff’s Officers have the authority to serve such a notice personally meaning that, even if there had not been a further contractual tenancy in place, the requirements of s36(5) would still not have been met.

The full judgement is available from Scottish Courts here.


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Ross Cooper v Simon Marriott, 30 March 2016 – application of tenancy deposit scheme where property alleged not to be tenant’s main home and tenant accused of dishonesty

Sheriff court case concerning a short assured tenancy of a flat in Edinburgh in relation to which a deposit of £550 was paid to the landlord but not paid into an approved tenancy deposit scheme as required under the Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011. The tenant applied to the sheriff for an award of an amount of money as a sanction for the landlord’s failure to comply with his obligation under the regulations.

The landlord argued that:

  1. the tenancy was not protected by the 2011 regulations because the property was not ‘the principal home’ of the tenant during the duration of the lease (as the tenant had worked 3 and half days a week in Skye for a period of 6 months); and
  2. even if the tenancy was protected by the regulations, a new tenancy was created in June 2014 in respect of which no deposit was made (meaning any action under the original lease would have been time barred at the time of the court action);  and
  3. if the application was not time barred, the sanction provision was unenforceable, by the tenant, due to his dishonesty and illegality.

The sheriff rejected all of these arguments.

In the first place, the question of the tenant’s principal home did not have any bearing on the case. (The landlord had referred to the definition of an assured tenancy contained in s12 of the Housing Scotland Act 1988 which requires that the property is the tenant’s only or principal home. However, this was a short assured tenancy not an assured tenancy)

In the second place, although the tenancy agreement commenced on 15 June 2013 for a period of 12 months until 14 June 2014, it continued, with the consent of parties, until it terminated on 17 July 2015. Whilst the landlord had argued that a new lease was created in June 2014, the sheriff held that the tenancy was continued after 14 June 2014 on the principle of tacit relocation[1]. In coming to this conclusion, the sheriff noted that, after 14 June, the parties to the contract were the same, the property was the same and the only change was that the landlord had abated the rent by £50 because of a problem with the water supply. As such, the sheriff had no reason to think there was anything other than an extension to the original lease. (Meaning the action had been raised in sufficient time (i.e. within 3 months of 17 July 2015) in terms of reg. 9(1) of the 2011 Regulations).

Finally, the principle of illegality referred to by the landlord had no application to this case. (Although the sheriff also found that the landlord’s allegations in this regard were unsubstantiated). The sheriff stated that, although in some cases of partial breach of the regulations where the deposit was ultimately paid into to the scheme, the conduct of the tenant could be relevant to the sanction, where the deposit is never lodged, he failed to see how the tenant’s character could ever mitigate the breach.

As such, a sanction of twice the value of the deposit[2] was awarded[3].

It is also of note that, with regard to arguments by the Landlord to the effect that he had not understood the regulations and was only an ‘amateur landlord’, the sheriff said the following:

 “the regulations do not recognise the status of ‘amateur landlord’.  Landlords who rent to the public are covered by the regulations whether they are large commercial concerns or single property, buy to let landlords.”

 The full judgement is available from Scottish Courts here.


[1] Where the term of a lease comes to an end and the tenancy then renews itself on the same terms and conditions.

[2] The maximum award is three times the value of the deposit.

[3] Less £50 for minor damage which had occurred to the property.

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Angela McManus and Robert McManus v (First) City Link Development Company Limited; (Second) Scott Wilson Scotland Limited; and (Third) Lanarkshire Housing Association Limited, 22 December 2015 – liability to occupants of houses built on contaminated land

Outer House case relating to a development at Watling Street in Motherwell which was alleged to have been built on contaminated land. The McManuses sought damages from City Link Development Company (the Developer), Scott Wilson Scotland (which the McManuses claimed had been environmental consultants on the development project) and Lanarkshire Housing Association (from whom the McManuses had leased properties on Watling Street) after suffering illness which they said had resulted from vapour given off by the contamination.

The McManuses sought damages from City Link and Scott Wilson on the basis:

  1. that their illness had been caused by the fault of City Link and Scott Wilson in terms of the common law; and
  2. that City Link and Scott Wilson had breached the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (s33(1)(a)).

The McManuses also argued that the Housing Association had breached an implied term of their tenancy agreement, and were later in breach of certain provisions of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001.

City Link
Common law fault
In terms of the common law, the McManuses argued that City Link knew or ought to have known that the property had not been properly investigated for contamination and had not ben remediated so as to be fit for residential development. However, the court found that reports produced by Scott Wilson were such that a layperson would have understood that the site was suitable for residential development. As such, City Link would only have been liable (1) if they had sufficient expertise to ascertain that Scott Wilson’s investigations had not been sufficient to determine that the site was fit for residential development or (2) if City Link owed a non-delegable duty of care (which can arise in respect of particularly hazardous operations) to the McManuses. The court found that, in the circumstances, neither applied in this case and City Link’s duty did not extend to checking Scott Wilson’s work meaning that City Link were not at fault.

Scott Wilson
Common law fault
Scott Wilson argued that it had not been employed as environmental consultants on the project and pointed to other contractors involved in the project who may have fulfilled that role. As such they argued that the McManuses’ case against them was irrelevant. However, Lord Jones found that the McManuses’ case against Scott Wilson was not bound to fail. It was noted that other contractors involved had been subordinate to Scott Wilson and that it would be possible for the McManuses to prove that it was Scott Wilson’s responsibility to investigate the contamination and to advise on the remediation necessary to make the site suitable for residential development. Further proceedings were allowed in that regard.

City Link and Scott Wilson
The 1990 Act
The MacManuses also argued that City Link and Scott Wilson had been responsible for depositing controlled waste on the site (contrary to s33(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990) when materials were redistributed around the site during remediation works. However, Lord Jones accepted arguments made by City Link and Scott Wilson to the effect that the works had taken place prior to the relevant provisions of the 1990 Act coming into force and could not give rise to liability under the act.

The Housing Association
The first property was held under an assured tenancy (in terms of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987)  until September 2002 and a secure tenancy (under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001) thereafter. The second property was also held by virtue of a secure tenancy. The court found that, in both situations, the Housing Associations obligations and duties related to the fabric of the let property itself and the McManus’s arguments which were based on the location and construction of the properties were irrelevant.

Time bar
The court also considered arguments to the effect that the McManuses case was time barred but the McManuses were given an opportunity to amend their pleadings and no decision was reached in that regard.

 The full judgement is available from Scottish Courts here.

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