Law students, have you relied on your own knowledge to sue a landlord? Jack Simm certainly is not petrified by ‘a real situation with real consequences’, even to the extent that it wins him a lawsuit.
Occurrence of the Dispute
Events leading to commencing higher education tuition can be stressful, especially in terms of finding affordable and suitable accommodation during a pandemic. Once this is ticked off the pre-university checklist, there is nothing worse than discovering that your future accommodation is akin to a ‘building site’ with no heating and Wi-Fi, having just settled in. 19-year-old Jack Simm, originally from Newcastle upon Tyne, moved to the other end of the country to pursue a Law degree at the University of East Anglia (UEA) located in Norwich, Norfolk in September 2020.
With rough expectations of what ought to have been in place from previously seen images, Simm was astonished to encounter ‘skips everywhere, tradesmen everywhere, hammering the ceiling, hammering the walls […] dust from sanding’ – all this for £7,000 as outlined in his tenancy agreement. A signatory to a covenant with the Velocity Student accommodation developed by The Freedman Project LLP and managed by Estateducation, Simm had packed his bags only a week later, prepared to enter a lawsuit after recovery action warnings by debt collectors.
Jack Simm Takes the Issue in his Hands!
After a week-long inactivity by the landlord to resolve the issues, the student reverted to his contract law textbooks and notes to begin constructing what would eventually become a 10-page contractual breach claim. Simm and his relatives ‘sued for our money back, our deposit, our first month’s rent’ and were met with a counterclaim worth £7,160 (inclusive of interest rates) by the other party to the case.
Following the remote hearing on 2 November 2021, the claimant succeeded in being awarded just short of £1,000 – £859 for his first month’s rent and a further £140 in court fees, with the Newcastle County Court dismissing the counterclaim. Others in his situation are commonly prevented from seeking justice through the Courts System due to low-level inclination, scarcity of time and most obviously – financial inability – which has led landlords to become complacent about falling below standard. Some believe the outcome of this case is a signal for the student accommodation sector that is not to be easily dismissed, but Jack Simm reflects more humorously, labelling this endurance as the ‘perfect revision’ for his studies.
Although Jack was praised for the ‘great initiative’ by UEA’s Head of Law School, legal practitioners have been sceptical as to the precedential nature of the case. Nonetheless, a case exception or not, Jack Simm leaves us with the advice that ‘Young people need to back themselves’.