LAW: Landlord fails to win costs off solicitor and tenant after ‘hopeless’ RRO claim

The landlord of a charitable building has failed in its unusual attempt to win costs from both a tenant who tried to claim a rent repayment order (RRO) and his legal firm.

Governors of Sutton’s Hospital in The Charterhouse said tenant Merryck Lowe had acted unreasonably in making his application (he had claimed that the landlord operated an unlicensed HMO and had also harassed him) because it was “hopeless”.

The case is particularly unusual because The Charterhouse is a ‘rambling nest’ of medieval and Renaissance buildings with an educational, military and residential background near London’s shimmering skyscrapers. As well as being a tourist attraction and film location, its mission is to provide a home, a community and lifelong care for older people in need.

Its governors also sought to win a ‘wasted costs’ order against solicitors JMW which it said had acted negligently and/or unreasonably.

A tribunal dismissed Lowe’s original HMO claims in July 2021, finding that the building in London’s Charterhouse Square, in which his flat was situated, was not an HMO, and that his claim relating to harassment hadn’t been made in the correct timeframe.

£28,000 costs claim

In the most recent tribunal hearing, the governors of Sutton’s Hospital argued that this application should never have been brought and sought costs totalling £28,009.

While it acknowledged that his solicitor should not be held to have acted improperly, unreasonably or negligently “simply because he acts for a party who pursues a claim which is plainly doomed to fail,” it said JMW had conducted the case in an unreasonable manner.

Judge Robert Latham said: “There was an arguable case that the flat was an HMO. Even had we been satisfied that the case was hopeless, we would not have concluded that it had been an abuse of process for the applicant to bring [an] application.”

He dismissed the application for penal costs against the tenant and wasted costs against JMW, and added: “We are not satisfied that either the applicant has acted unreasonably in bringing this claim, or that either the applicant or JMW have acted unreasonably in the conduct of this application.”

Pic credit: Ingleby Trice.

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