The High Court has decided that our client Amanda Lees is entitled to return to her home after being evicted in January 2022 in breach of a mental health breathing space.

Ms Lees had lived in her home in West London since 2001. In 2018 Ivan Kaye (Ms Lees’ former neighbour) issued a claim against her and obtained a judgment for damages in January 2019. Subsequently, he obtained a Charging Order against Ms Lees’ home and then an Order for Sale of the property to enforce the judgment debt.

An eviction date was set for 13 January 2022. The day before the eviction Ms Lees was entered into a Mental Health Crisis Moratorium (also known as a mental health breathing space). The purpose of the Moratorium is to give people a “breathing space” from the pressures of their debts. During the period of a Moratorium, creditors are prohibited from taking steps to recover any eligible debt.

In Ms Lees’ case, she notified Mr Kaye’s representatives and the High Court Enforcement Officers who had attended to carry out the eviction on 13 January that she had been placed in a breathing space. Despite informing them of the Moratorium, the eviction was carried out and Ms Lees was excluded from her home.

Ms Lees issued an application at the High Court (as the case had been transferred there for enforcement) for re-entry to her home. After the application was issued but before it had been decided, Mr Kaye purported to sell Ms Lees’ home to Chelsea Dixon (the partner of the owner of the flat above Ms Lees’ home). Ms Lees therefore had to ask the court for a declaration that not only was her eviction “null and void” but that the sale of her home was “null and void” as well.

At a hearing at the High Court on 30 March, Mr Kaye’s representatives argued that the debt they had been trying to enforce was not an eligible debt, because the damages had been awarded for personal injury (which fall outside the protection of breathing spaces). They also argued that debt secured by charging orders also fell outside the protection of breathing spaces. Another argument used was that the breathing space had not been properly registered by the Secretary of State.

On Friday 13 May, HHJ Dight CBE (sitting as a Judge of the High Court) granted Ms Lees’ application and refused all of Mr Kaye’s arguments. He decided that all the enforcement actions taken during the period of Ms Lees’ breathing space were “null and void” – this included her eviction and the sale of her home to Ms Dixon. Ms Lees is now entitled to return to her home, after being excluded for more than four months and having to stay with friends pending the outcome of her application.

This is only the second time that the Court has considered the debt respite scheme which brought in breathing spaces. We understand that a number of creditors have argued and/or are trying to argue that charging orders are exempt from protection under breathing spaces. We hope that this judgment will help clarify the situation and avoid debtors being unnecessarily evicted and/or pursued for such debts when within a breathing space.

Ms Lees was represented by Katie Brown of TV Edwards LLP and Daniel Clarke of Doughty Street Chambers.

The full judgment in the case of Lees v Kaye & Dixon [2022] EWHC 1151 (QB), can be accessed here: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2022/1151.html

If you are facing eviction from your home and would like legal advice, please contact us on 020 3440 8000 or enquiries@tvedwards.com to see if we can assist.

For more information about Mental Health Breathing Spaces please see the Rethink website: https://www.rethink.org/aboutus/what-we-do/mental-health-breathing-space/

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