Here is a case which just goes to illustrate how bonkers litigation can be, and which also casts a worrying light on the competence of local authority legal departments.
If at first you don’t suceed …
It is the case of Allen v. the London Borough of Southwark which was a claim by Mr Allen alleging harassment by Southwark Council contrary to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
Why were they harassing him? They had issued five separate sets of proceedings for possession against him, none of which had succeeded, and none of which had had any merit.
The nub of the problem was the Councils request that Mr Allen pay his rent at the post office and Mr Allens dogged determination to pay it at Leathermarket housing office. Even though they no longer had a cash office there.
However Mr Allen had right on his side, as his tenancy agreement had never been amended to require him to pay elsewhere. It seems unbelievable that the Council should issue four sets of possession proceedings for rent arrears only to have them all fail on the same point, and STILL not get their paperwork in order, but this it seems is what happened.
After the fifth case, Mr Allen decided that this was harassment and gamely issued proceedings. They were promptly struck out by the Judge as showing no cause of action, but Mr Allen, not a man to give up easily, appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal. They decided that the claim was an arguable one and that a trial must take place. However this was the end of Mr Allen’s run of luck. The Judge ruled against him at the trial, finding that the possession claims had each been brought in good faith by the council “however mistakenly or incompetently”
What are we paying Council tax for?
However what the good citizens of Southwark are going to want to know is, why is their council wasting money on mistaken and incompetent possession claims, leading to harassment claims by aggrieved tenants, when if only they had got their paperwork right in the first place, the whole thing would never have happened?
Surely it would have been cheaper to invest in a bit of staff training?