Russell James

Russell James

Called 2001

The Legal 500 - The Clients Guide to Law FirmsRecognised in the Legal 500
The Legal 500 2017 - “He has a niche practice in homelessness law.”

Russell is a civil practitioner who specialises in Housing and Homelessness Law, Property and Chancery Litigation, and Personal Injury. Russell has consistently been recognised in the Legal 500 in the field of property law with testimonials including: “He has excellent technical skills and is knowledgeable about housing law.”

Russell has appeared in a wide range of courts and tribunals throughout the South and South West of England from the First Tier Tribunal to the Supreme Court, and regularly appears in the County Court and High Court in applications, trials and appeals.

Russell’s approach to litigation is pragmatic and robust – he is approachable and focused on achieving the best outcome for his client by the most appropriate and cost effective route of dispute resolution possible.

In appropriate cases Russell takes public access instructions.

Property & Chancery

Housing and Homelessness (including judicial review)

Russell has a real passion for Housing and Homelessness and has extensive experience in these disciplines, being recognised by the Legal 500 for his work and niche expertise in this area. In 2016 the Legal 500 described how “he specialises in housing and homelessness law”.

Russell frequently represents tenants, homeless applicants, local authorities, social landlords and private landlords and covers the full spectrum of work in this area including possession claims, disputes over the status of the occupier, demotion proceedings, public law defences, human rights defences, Equality Act 2010 challenges, anti social behaviour injunction cases, tenancy deposit disputes, disrepair actions, unlawful eviction claims, homelessness appeals, judicial review claims, litigation involving housing related sections of the Children Acts, right to buy applications, and allocations disputes. Russell is aware of the often urgent and sensitive nature of this type of work and accommodates this to ensure the most efficient and comprehensive service is provided to those he works with.

Within this field, Russell has particular experience in dealing with individuals that are under a disability and he represented the tenant in the leading authority on discrimination defences in possession proceedings (Aster v Akerman-Livingstone [2015] UKSC 15). Russell often represents clients with mental health conditions and is regularly instructed where an individual lacks capacity. He is therefore well versed in the relevant provisions of community care and mental health legislation that impact upon his housing work and represents clients where there is an overlap between these areas in order to facilitate the most suitable outcome.

Russell has been involved in a number of reported and notable cases, which are detailed below, and has co-authored an article for the Landlord and Tenant Review entitled: Landlords – Discriminate at Your Peril. Russell also regularly writes newsletters and updates for practitioners in this field as well as providing training and updating seminars in Housing and Homelessness Law.

Commercial Landlord and Tenant

Russell is instructed in all areas of commercial landlord and tenant law including lease renewals, disputes under Part II of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, forfeiture claims and applications for relief, actions for breach of lease including claims concerning the covenant of quiet enjoyment, litigation arising from break clauses and dilapidations claims. Some of the more unusual cases that Russell has been involved in, in this area of property litigation include a rare successful claim for frustration of a commercial lease, a possession claim of licensed commercial premises involving issues of insolvency and vesting orders, and representing a Michelin starred chef in his multi-faceted commercial landlord and tenant dispute that involved forfeiture, waiver, breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, a committal application and a substantial claim for damages for loss of profit.

Russell is acutely aware of the different demands and interests of the commercial organisations that he represents and accommodates these in his work.

Leasehold Disputes

Russell represents tenants and leaseholders in the full range of disputes that can arise out of long leasehold interests including lease renewals, service charge disputes, breach of lease claims, right to manage applications and forfeiture claims. Russell has experience of appearing in both the First Tier Tribunal and the courts, as appropriate, to deal with these cases and accepts public access instructions in this area of law.

Boundaries and Easements 

Russell is regularly instructed in the often highly charged disputes concerning boundaries and easements. Often such cases will involve rights of way and their extent or interference as well as claims to a right to park vehicles. In boundary disputes Russell is used to critically analyzing the various forms of evidence and can assist with adverse possession claims where appropriate. Some of the recent work that Russell has been involved in this area has included a 7 day trial concerned with rights of way, water nuisance, land registration and injunctive relief, advising in connection with rights of support of a retail complex, and a neighbour dispute that included multiple boundary disputes, an application for injunctive relief and rectification, nuisance behaviour and costs issues.

Other Property & Chancery Litigation

In addition to the specific areas identified above Russell undertakes and has substantial experience in all areas of property litigation and land related chancery work including:

  • Land contracts disputes and claims for misrepresentation;
  • Covenant enforcement and applications to remove/amend covenants;
  • Mortgage litigation;
  • Claims for rectification;
  • Adverse possession claims;
  • Trusts of land actions;
  • Construction disputes;
  • Mobile Homes Act claims;
  • Contested probate disputes; and
  • Claims concerning allegations of fraud, mistake and undue influence.

Some illustrative examples of work that Russell has been involved in this area include:

  • A partnership dispute involving a development and ownership of 11 residential properties, which included allegations of fraud and claims for specific performance and damages.
  • A claim for specific performance of put options in respect of multiple leasehold properties.
  • A successful claim for the transfer of the freehold of a residential property under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975.
  • Adverse possession of land used as an alternative burial site.
  • A claim involving proprietary estoppel, constructive trust and undue influence.
  • A claim involving breaches of restrictive covenant and subsequent non-compliance with a court order.
  • A case involving a waiver of interest form, a mortgage and an assured tenancy.
  • Mortgage disputes concerned with fraud, misrepresentation, undue influence and sell to rent back agreements.

Personal Injury

Russell has practised in the area of personal injury for the past 15 years representing both Claimants and Defendants and acting under Conditional Fee Arrangements in appropriate cases. Russell has significant experience of and undertakes fast track and multi track trials and has also been involved in committal proceedings relating to allegations of fraud arising from personal injury claims, low velocity impact cases, infant approval hearings, costs and case management hearings, criminal injuries compensation cases and inquests.

An essential part of any claim in these fields is a proper understanding of the costs management issues and implications of any decision, and Russell has an acute awareness of such matters.

The work that Russell undertakes in this area covers the full spectrum of work and includes road traffic collisions, employers liability claims, Highways Act claims, negligence claims and he has a particular interest in cases involving defective premises whether involving liability under the Defective Premises Act, Landlord and Tenant Act or Occupiers Liability Acts.

Cases of Particular Interest

Mr B v M Ltd (2017) Unreported (Exeter CC)A successful appeal against a decision not to make a finding of fundamental dishonesty with the judge varying the order below to allow enforcement of a costs order on grounds of fundamental dishonesty.

C (a child) v GAP Stores [2008] CLY 2787 – A quantum case concerning an eye injury and the award of provisional damages.

Notable and reported cases

Livewest v Bamber [2018] EWHC 2454

A case concerned with the requirements of a section 21 notice during the starter period of a fixed term tenancy.

Curo Places v Walker [2018] EWHC 2462

An appeal by a social landlord against the dismissal of their claim for possession on grounds that it was not reasonable to make an order having regard in particular to the poor sound insulation in the property and the mental health of the tenant.

Teign Housing v Lane [2018] EWHC 40

An appeal considering the phrase “relevant breach” of tenancy and confirming that the court can consider disability discrimination when considering reasonableness.

Akerman-Livingstone v Aster Communities Limited [2015] UKSC 15

A case concerned with the correct approach to disability discrimination defences in a housing context.

R (SD) v Oxford CC [2015] EWHC 1871

An application for permission to proceed with a judicial review by a 17 year old homeless person who had included his family on his homelessness application.

Carthew v Exeter CC [2013] HLR 19; [2012] EWCA Civ 1913

A homelessness appeal that succeeded on the question of affordability.

Heron v Plymouth City Council [2009] EWHC 3562

Appeal by way of case stated against the terms of an ASBO in particular a general prohibition on acting in a way likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

North Devon Homes v Batchelor [2008] EWCA Civ 840

Russell successfully opposed an appeal against the refusal to make a possession order in a case involving a vulnerable elderly lady who had been convicted of possession of Class A Drugs with intent to supply.

Reported/Notable County Court Decisions

Camelot Property Management v Roynon (2017) LAG (Apr) 38.

The determination of a preliminary issue as to whether a property guardian was a tenant or a licensee. The court held that the guardian was a tenant.

Ralph & Irma Sperring Charity v Tanner (2013) LAG (Jan) 39.

A successful  Equality Act 2010 Defence to possession proceedings in respect of an assured shorthold tenancy.

Tallon v Director of Border Revenue (2013) UKFTT 606

An appeal relating to the seizure of a vehicle for non-payment of duty.

Plymouth Community Homes v Madden (2012) (Unreported) (Plymouth County Court)

A successful Equality Act 2010 Defence in a case of a starter tenancy originally granted on the basis of false information supplied.

Tor Homes v Gillard (2011) (Unreported) (Exeter County Court)

A successful  public law defence in a starter tenancy case based on a catalogue of failures by the social landlord in its decision making process and not following its own policies.

Plymouth City Council v Hill (2010) LAG (Jan) 31

Appeal against decision of DJ to order a warrant for eviction to lie on file in an introductory tenancy case.

Personal

In his spare time Russell enjoys running and spending time with his family.