The Court of Appeal has awarded a Greater Manchester businesswoman, who was unlawfully evicted from her sandwich shop, damages of £9,079 after a four-year legal battle.
The award on Wednesday 20 January compensated Sheila Grange for losses she suffered due to the action of her landlords Anthony and Kay Quinn.
The Court of Appeal judgment reversed the first instance decision of Recorder McDonald at Manchester County Court in February 2012.
In June 2008, Grange purchased a sandwich bar from Mr and Mrs Quinn for £9,950. The purchase price included a lease of the property at 44 Osborne Street, Bredbury, Stockport.
Shortly after Grange began trading, her relations with the Quinns began to deteriorate and Grange was repeatedly accused of having breached the terms of her lease. These allegations were always denied.
However, six months later, without warning, Mr and Mrs Quinn changed the locks and re-possessed the property. Mrs Grange then commenced proceedings, claiming damages for unlawful eviction.
At first instance, Recorder McDonald held that the Quinns had acted unlawfully in evicting Grange, but only awarded her nominal damages of £300 because he was not persuaded that she had suffered any financial loss as a result.
Grange appealed to the Court of Appeal on the issue of the amount damages awarded. Her appeal was heard on 31 October 2012 at the High Court before Lord Justice Jackson, Lady Justice Arden and Justice Gloster.
The Court of Appeal overturned the decision of Recorder McDonald and found that Grange was to be compensated for the wasted expenditure she had incurred as a result of the actions of Mr and Mrs Quinn.
Lancashire-based commercial law firm Harrison Drury acted for Grange.
Colin Fenny, associate solicitor at Harrison Drury, said: "This case has important implications for both landlords and tenants. It is significant because even if Mrs Grange had been in breach of the lease, the eviction would still have been unlawful. Initially Mr and Mrs Quinn did not follow the correct procedure for establishing breach of the lease in the first place. They then compounded this by accepting rent, which meant that any right to forfeit had been waived before the locks were changed.
"If commercial landlords wish to enforce their rights under the lease, it is vital they take professional legal advice before taking any pre-emptive steps because – as this case shows – the financial consequences can be enormous. From a commercial tenant's perspective, it is equally important to contact a solicitor without delay if your landlord takes, or threatens to take, enforcement action against you because time is very much of the essence in these cases."