Ian Rees Phillips successfully represents landlords seeking committal of tenant breaching undertakings to pay arrears

September 30, 2020

Ian Rees Phillips has been successful in the Court of Appeal in Hussain v Vaswani & Ors [2020] EWCA Civ 1216 representing the landlords seeking the committal to prison of a tenant who breached undertakings to pay arrears.

has recently appeared for the landlords of a premium flat on the banks of the Thames in Battersea who had sought and secured a possession order against a formerly successful investment banker tenant. Possession was ordered in October 2019 and the tenant refused to vacate and appealed the order. As a condition of securing a stay in the enforcement of the possession order by warrant for eviction, the tenant undertook to the Central London County Court to pay Ian’s clients the arrears of rent and the ongoing use and occupation charges. He failed to do so and was later found to have deceived the Court as to his ability to pay, as he was an undischarged bankrupt at the time.

Ian then appeared for the landlords in an application to commit the tenant to prison for the contempt of court in failing to honour his undertakings, and was successful on a prolonged committal application delayed and disrupted by the effect of Covid-19. The tenant was committed to prison for 12 months for his contempt of court and was later arrested and sent to prison. He appealed against the committal on the novel argument that because his default was in the failure to pay a sum of money to landlords, he could not be imprisoned for contempt as it would contravene the Debtors Act 1869, which precludes imprisonment for non-payment of ordinary debts.

The Court of Appeal heard this legal argument at length and on 18 September 2020 handed down a judgment finding that Ian’s arguments of law were correct and that the committal was not a breach of the Debtor’s Act 1869. Ian had argued that the tenant was not committed to prison for his failure to pay the rent arrears and use & occupation charges, but for his failure to honour the undertakings to the Court, and the Court of Appeal found that by defaulting on his promise the tenant had failed to comply with an obligation he owed the Court which could be marked by committal for contempt.

The full judgment can be found here

The tenant has applied for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court on the point of law.

Ian is available to assist in a wide range of civil litigation matters, including complex landlord and tenant matters such as this.