Residents Group Actions
If you are contemplating action against your landlord or freeholder, you may be interested in knowing what is entailed in getting together with other residents to bring a claim. There can be advantages to be gained in banding together, as opposed to bringing the claim alone.
Funding the claim
Approaches for legal advice are normally made after a group of residents have decided to share the costs of seeking preliminary advice from a solicitor. They will normally have already formed a resident’s association, or a group contemplating legal action. Nominating a lead person often helps to keep legal costs proportionate, but the group does not have to be formally constituted in any way.
Where there is sufficient merit in a case, our solicitors will always explore how a case may be funded to sustain it to the end. Especially, where a party is better resourced to defend a claim and will not therefore readily concede a case that has good merits. Not having sufficient money to fund litigation can impact on how well a case can proceed. Particularly, at key stages in litigation where essential work needs to be done and delivered within set deadlines.
Normally, where there is a breach of repairing covenants, the predominant objective of tenants is to compel a landlord to carry out effective repairs. We can explore whether an action can be brought by way of a conditional fee agreement, commonly known as “a no win, no fee” agreement.
What is a Group Action?
Where a claim gives rise to common or related issues of fact or law, it is encouraged to bring them as a group action. Judges have a wide discretion to manage litigations when there is a class action. Where there are several individual proceedings in one action, the court can consolidate the claims into one and can order that two or more claims be tried together. This is the more usual method when the court considers that the costs of pursuing an action grossly exceed the compensation being claimed.
The court may, however, make an order known as a Group Litigation Order (GLO), when it considers that several claims justify being managed together. A GLO is normally justified where there are at least five or more claims. It is however, usually reserved for very large claims with wide implications, such as in product liability cases. The court will consider the likely number of claimants who may come forward with the same issues, as well as the number of actions commenced. Whilst there is no cut-off point as to when you can join a group action, the better approach is to join early. This then prevents any possible complications.
There is nothing preventing a claim being pursued in isolation from one that has been started as a group action, even where there is a GLO. Although, what is most likely to happen is that a defendant to a group action will object, and/or seek a court order that your case is placed on hold to fall in line with cases that are proceeding in court, and/or to wait the outcome of key issues common to the group action. You may also have to seek permission to apply to join a group which has been recognised by the court as being part of a GLO.
On balance, a court must be satisfied before making a GLO that it is the most proportionate means of resolving a claim and that no other order is appropriate. Lloyd v Google LLC 2019 EWCA Civ1599 is a case where the Court of Appeal permitted the use of the procedure for a representative action to be brought under CPR 19. This meant that claims which would not necessarily be viable individually, could be brought collectively.
Lloyd v Google LLC 2019 EWCA Civ 1599 was an action for alleged data breaches by a group whose browser generated information had been taken by Google without their consent, in the same circumstances, and over the same period. The court found that the alleged conduct affected all the claimants in the same way such that it could not be said that the elements of a class action and the relief sought, would not equally benefit all the members of the class.
Advantages of a group action
The advantages of being part of a group action are:
- You will have a more viable claim for compensation if your claim is small.
- What you endured in terms of bad housing conditions will not continue to be readily ignored by the landlord. There is “strength in numbers”.
Whilst the management of the case is by way of a group action, claims that make up the group litigation remain individual ones which are managed collectively. What you have had to endure will therefore be considered and not subsumed in the general action.
The outcome of any one case (including any lead action or test case) does not automatically determine liability in the remaining claims in the cohort. Lead actions establish findings of fact and law. In practice, that allows the parties to compromise or simplify resolution of the remainder of the litigation by focusing any further proceedings on clarifying any remaining points of principle. That way, there is not only a saving in costs, but less stress in not having to prolong arguments.
In group litigation however, if a matter must proceed to a judgment of the court then that judgment will be binding on the parties to all of the other claims on the group register at the time the judgment was given, unless the court ordered otherwise.
Can claims about housing repairs be brought as a representative action?
It is rarely the case a group action relating to remedial works required to people’s homes can be brought by one representative on behalf of a class of individuals. This is because cases entailing disrepair or issues about the construction of a new build homes, do not normally arise out of one set of circumstances.
To undertake the cases properly is to understand the facts in any one individual’s case. So, whilst a claim can be equally beneficial to all members of a class action, where the individual aspects of a claim differ, the facts in each case must be considered in acting justly.
The law does therefore recognise that there are certain issues where a party’s conduct is so astoundingly bad that it demands a civil compensatory remedy, despite the likely costs and use of valuable court resources that such group cases entail.
Our experience of having acted for several group actions for various residents places us in the best position to handle group actions.
Debra Wilson and The Housing team at Anthony Gold are always open to discussions with any group of residents interested in taking action against their landlord.
Debra can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
* Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*