The trials of the occupants of Hanbury Buildings who had, in 1939, withheld payment of rent continued at Bow County Court. Twenty-six of the tenants appeared as defendants at Bow County Court, where the landlord, Alexander Maclow, was seeking to have the tenants evicted for failure to pay rent. Some of the cases had been heard during late November, for which a transcript appears here: East End News, Tuesday 21 November 1939 and further cases were held at the beginning of December 1939, for which a transcript appears below. The proceedings for the final cases are reported here: East End News, Friday 22 December 1939.
The East End News and London Shipping Chronicle
Tuesday 12 December 1939
Poplar Tenants at County Court
JUDGE'S DECISIONS IN RENT DISPUTES
Satisfied that Some Charges Were Wrong
The hearing of cases in connection with the rent strike at Hanbury Buildings, Poplar, was continued at Bow County Court last week before Judge Moelwyn Hughes.
The Court was again crowded with interested parties, Father Shaw, Chairman of the Poplar Tenant's Defense League, was present, accompanied by the Rev. H. E. Farrington.
The first case was that of Mr. Lovering of 14 Hanbury Buildings. Possession was asked for on the grounds of unpaid rent.
A defense had been put in that the rent had been overcharged and that the defendant did not owe any rent. He also complained about the state of repair of the flat.
Mr. Kenneth Duthie for the plaintiff (Mr. Alexander Maclow, of 8, Queen Street, E.C.) said that defendant claimed that the standard rent was 4s. a week but having talked it over was now willing to agree to 4s. 6d. The recoverable rent would be 6s. 6¼d., an overcharge of 5¾d. a week. It would be a matter for calculation as to whether the defendant was in arrear or not.
A long legal argument followed and upon the decision rested the result of a number of other cases.
Mr. Sedley, who appeared for all the defendants, contended that he was entitled to recover everything above the standard rent, from November 1937—seventy-two weeks. The notices of increase were bad as they were not based on the standard rent of 4s. 6d. a week. If they were bad, then the plaintiff had to bear the brunt of it. If an honest mistake had been made the plaintiff could make an application to the court asking to set the matter right. No such application had been made.
Mr. Duthie: I ask for leave to call the plaintiff as he can give evidence of what he took over from the last landlord.
Judge Hughes: I am not going to allow him to be called. You have been sufficiently warned and must take the consequences.
Mr. Duthie: Well, even at its worst there is rent owing to-day, 6s. 8¼d. to be precise, I think, and I ask for an order of possession, and for an order for a small sum to be paid off the old amount due. The landlord has been kept out of his money all this time owing to the rent strike.
Mr. Sedley: My friends calls it a rent strike, but in the cases that have been heard by this court there has been a bona fide dispute and a withholding of the rent on the grounds of overcharge. Gross overcharge in many cases, and so I do not see that my friend can say that it is due to a so-called rent strike.
Judge Hughes: We will call it a lock-out. I am satisfied that the rent charged was wrong and that the notices of increase were wrong. The increases by virtue of the bad notices were, therefore, improperly charged. Under the circumstances, the defendant is entitled to recover all that has been charged over and above the standard rent of 4s. 6d. a week. I find this sum to be £8 18s. 5d., out of which the rent to date has to be deducted £7 11s. 7d., so that the tenant will be in credit to the amount of £1 5s. 5d. This sum can be set off the rent as it becomes due. Plaintiff seems to have lost pretty well all along the line-height and the defendant seems to have succeeded and is, therefore entitled to his costs, which I will fix, following the rule in the other cases that have been heard, on Scale 'A'.
The next case, which was governed by the decision in the last case, as were a good many others, was that of Mr. Pennington, at No. 15. In this case the plaintiff agreed to the case being dismissed.
Judge Hughes accordingly dismissed the action with costs and was about to say on Scale 'A' when Mr. Duthie asked that they should not be do heavy under the circumstances. Judge Hughes asked Mr. Sedley what he thought about the matter and, after a long discussion, it was decided that the costs in each of the agreed cases should be £3, and if dispute arose afterwards as to the sum, either party was at liberty to bring the matter before the Court.
The next case was also that of Mr. Pennington, at No. 16, and in this case, as in the cases of Mr. Curle, at No. 17, Mr. Lovering, at No. 20, and Mr. Ashmore at No. 25, was dismissed with £3 costs.
The case of Mr. Lowe, at No. 33, was then taken and it became a question as to whether the place was controlled or de-controlled. After hearing evidence, Judge Hughes decided that the place was controlled and dismissed the action with costs on Scale 'A'.
Mr. Mix at No. 32 was taken but it was agreed and the action was dismissed with £3 costs.
The case against Mr. Izatt, at No. 1, was adjourned until the 14th.
The case against Mr. Dixon, at No. 6, was dismissed with costs on Scale 'A'.
The next four cases, those of Mr. Roach, at No. 7; Mr. Toohey, at 8 and 9; Mr. Stimpson at No. 13; and Mr. Hatton at No. 18; were all dismissed with £3 costs each.
The case of Mullins, at 21 was fought, it being contended by the plaintiff that the place was de-controlled. Mullins admitted that the premises were empty when they were taken over.
To Stay On Premises
On the evidence, Judge Hughes decided that the place was de-controlled and gave judgment to the plaintiff, but made an order that the defendant could stay on the premises so long as current rent was paid and 6d. a week off the back rent owing.
There are still five more cases to be heard and they were all adjourned until the 14th December.
Upon inquiry, a reporter was informed that in the cases that had been settled the tenants are paying their rent, where there is any rent to pay. In the cases still to be heard, the rent is withheld.