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Waste Dumper Receives £285,700 Bill for Unlawful Occupation of Land

industryTenants or licencees of land who refuse to budge after receiving valid notices to quit become trespassers and can be hit hard in the pocket. In a Court of Appeal case on point, a businessman who for several years remained in unlawful occupation of an industrial site received a six-figure damages bill.

The 7.2-acre site was owned by a British Virgin Islands company, the beneficial owner of which had granted the businessman a licence to occupy it. The businessman was given notice to quit about a year later, but refused to leave. During his years of occupation since, he had used the site as a waste dump in breach of planning control and the terms of his licence.

That activity ultimately led to his prosecution by the Environment Agency and an 18-month jail term for breaching environmental regulations. After the company launched proceedings, the businessman was summarily ordered to give up possession of the site. The notice to quit had validly given him seven days to leave and he had thereafter remained in occupation as a trespasser.

In those circumstances, a judge ordered the businessman to pay £285,700 in damages to the company, that sum representing the rental income that could have been achieved but for his unlawful occupation of the site. In dismissing his appeal against that award, the Court found that the judge had been entitled to accept expert valuation evidence put forward by the company.