Court considers use of non legally qualified residential tenant removal assistance firms to be illegal

Residential property

In Kassam v Gill (Lawtel ref AC5004080) an appeal of a residential possession order to the High Court, which was transferred to the County Court for hearing, considered whether the action of a firm called “Remove-a-Tenant” was contrary to the provisions of the Legal Services Act 2007, whereby the “conduct of litigation” is a reserved legal activity which can only be carried on by an authorised person. The tenant submitted that the bringing of proceedings tainted with illegality ought to cause them to be struck out, and the landlord’s actions in employing such a firm amounted to an abuse of process. The Court found the company provided a package of services, which included functions which were ancillary to the issuing of the proceedings and their prosecution. It was more than assisting with clerical or mechanical matters; it was closely involved in the issue and prosecution of the claim. Its role included providing advice, drafting the proceedings, paying the issue fee, preparing a witness statement and certificates of service, preparing a hearing bundle and serving it on the defendant and the court, making arrangements for an advocate to represent the claimants, paying for that service and corresponding with the other party. As such it was deemed Remove-a-Tenant had acted illegally. However, notwithstanding that illegality, the Claimants had a perfectly good claim for possession and the illegality fell at the feet of a third party. As such it would not be just or proportionate to strike the claim out as a result of that illegality. While only a county court decision, given the prevalence of companies providing the service Remove-a-Tenant offer to less experienced landlords, it gives welcome guidance on how Courts will respond to the use of such companies in the future, and a stark lesson for those assisting landlords for profit who are not legally qualified. Aaron Walder acted for the Landlord.

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