In the case of Smith v Khan it was held that Mrs Smith had a right to occupy a property by being lawfully married to the tenant, Mr Smith, and that she had been unlawfully evicted when Mr Khan, the landlord, re-entered and changed the locks to the property, preventing her from gaining further access.
When determining the level of damages Mrs Smith should be awarded for trespass, the Court said that damages for trespass must compensate the tenant for the letting value of the property for which they have been deprived but also for the anxiety, inconvenience and mental stress involved in the loss of the tenant's home. Reviewing similar cases (and also noting that Mrs Smith was forced to sleep on a friend's floor for a number of months following her eviction), it determined that an appropriate daily rate for damages was £130 and that damages should be calculated from the date of the unlawful eviction until the expiry date of the fixed term as, on the facts of the case, the tenant would have been entitled to continue in occupation up until that date. Mrs Smith was awarded total damages of approximately £14,000.
This case is a reminder that residential property owners should be extremely careful when taking steps to evict their tenants or any other occupier who might be entitled to possession and to seek legal advice prior to doing so. Failing to follow the correct procedure could result in very serious consequences, including a claim for a rather hefty sum of damages!
But, in the case of unlawful eviction, damages for trespass must compensate the tenant not merely for the letting value of the property of which he has been deprived but also for the anxiety, inconvenience and mental stress involved in the loss of what was the tenant's home.