Recognised in the Legal 500
Chambers is delighted to congratulate Russell James on his ranking as a leading individual on the Western Circuit by the Legal 500 in the area of Property and Construction. Russell, head of Chambers’ civil team, is described by the Legal 500 as being ‘our first choice for complex housing work.’
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.
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  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.
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.