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Can I sue a co-tenant for the costs of evicton?

paymentHere is a question to the blog clinic from Julie who is a landlord:

After a lengthy process to evict a tenant along with a co tenant was finally successful, I have still not yet obtained the judgement debt or the accruing costs despite bailiffs being involved. It has taken time and expense to track both to their new address.

My question is simply “Can I sue the co named tenant for the balance of costs after eviction” since these have escalated as a course of further action.

Although I always asked for costs orders when doing eviction work, I have to say that in the majority of cases it was never paid.

Costs are awarded by the court to the person who wins the case, but this is always in the discretion of the court – they don’t always award costs.

In eviction proceedings, the Judge normally awards ‘fixed costs’.  If you have been a litigant in person this will normally just be the court fee.

If you  have used solicitors they will also award an additional miserly sum, I think it is £69.50, plus (if you are lucky) your costs of attending the court hearing (if there is one).

You don’t normally get anything else.

The costs are awarded against the losing party in the proceedings.  You talk about a co-tenant – if this person was a joint defendant, then they will automatically be liable for whatever costs were awarded in your case.

However they will only be liable for whatever the Judge awarded at the hearing, plus – if you used any of the court enforcement procedures – the court fees for those procedures.  So if you used the court bailiffs, they you should be able to recover the £110 bailiffs fee.

However you won’t be able to claim anything else, unless it was specifically awarded to you by the Judge.

So you won’t be able to claim, for example, for your time in tracing them to their new address or for the tracing agents fee.

As a general rule it is rare for a winning legal party to be fully compensated for the costs and time incurred by them in their claim. The ‘fixed costs’ awarded for standard eviction procedures are far less than would be charged by even the cheapest firm of solicitors.

In more complex cases there is a complicated procedure for claiming costs where solicitors will often employ the services of a ‘costs draftsman’ to help them, and where the other party can challenge the costs claimed.

Unfortunately also the enforcement procedures available through the courts are still very old fashioned, time consuming and inefficient.

The way to look at it is that renting property is a business activity and dealing with bad tenants and tracing debtors is an expense of the business. You cannot expect to be repaid everything.

How have readers got on when enforcing costs in eviction claims?  Have you made any recovery?


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4 Responses to Can I sue a co-tenant for the costs of evicton?

  1. Your point re seeing this as a business is very valid – I always advise landlords to assess the time it might take, the added costs and most importantly, the chances if ever getting anything from the ex tenant before chasing a judgment debt.
    If the debt is substantial, the defendant has a job/business/assets it might be worthwhile chasing.

    To avoid MORE legal costs, consider seeking an attachment of earnings if they are employed or appointing the court bailiffs/Sherriff to attempt to recover for you. Both relatively easy actions to bring.

  2. Only worthwhile avenue I ever found useful Tessa was an Attachment of Earnings Order if it was going to be embarrassing to the tenant/employee and especially if they were in an occupation where debt might almost be regarded as an ‘offence’ and in some cases a punishable offence, such as HM Forces etc.

    Otherwise someone once told me years ago about how he got money out of a company after getting a Court Order by threatening something along the lines of a winding up order against them. They soon coughed up

  3. Hello Tessa, and others,

    Thank you for your comments and help. At this point after not receieving a penny, I pursued the matter with The Sherriffs Office who visited the ex tenants at their new address. The co defendent informed them the first defendent had moved away which was simply untrue as I saw her near the property shortly after. The Sherriffs office are now seeking payment from me for their abortive costs for a wholly unsuccesful attempt to serve a writ or seize any chattels. I am in the process of complaining to an ombudsmen if they exist?

  4. Yes, people often do not realise that if you use the Sherrifs or the bailiffs and they do not recover, you can end up paying quite a lot of money for their costs.

    As I said in the post, the enforcement proceedures in this country are inefficient, old fashoned, time consuming and frankly not up to the job. They need a radical overhaul.



About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.

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