30 November 1888
Yesterday a case came before Mr. Under-Sheriff Burshell and a special jury at the Middlesex Sheriffs’s Court, Red Lion-square, which forcibly illustrated the state into which dwellings at the East-end relapse under the leasehold system. Judgment had been allowed to go by default in the High Court, and it had been remitted to the sheriff for assessment of damages. The plaintiffs were the trustees of the Emmanuel Alms-houses, Bethnal-green, and the defendant, Mr. E. A. Balls, of the Firs, Hockliffe-road, Leighton Buzzard, held a lease from them of land on which were 63 houses in Simpson-street East, and Columbia-road, St. George’s-in-the-East. The claim was for dilapidations, and the damages were laid at 2,205£.
Mr. Lionel Hart, who appeared for the plaintiffs, said the defendant’s predecessor in title took a lease in 1789 for 99 years, under which the property was to be kept in repair by him, but on termination of the lease in October last it was found that the houses had been allowed to become altogether unfit for habitation. Such was their wretched state that several of them had been condemned by the district surveyor, and would have to be rased to the ground.
Mr. E. Hyde, surveyor, Bishopsgate, gave evidence as to the exceedingly dilapidated condition of the property, which consisted of 56 labourers’ cottages and six shops and a beer house. The cottages would let at 5s. A-week. It would cost at least 2,205£. To put them in tenantable condition.
Mr. Mark Simmonds, Museum-street, Bloomsbury, agent for the trustees, stated that some of the houses were in utter state of ruin, and in such a miserable condition that it would be waste of money to attempt to repair them, and the best course would probably be to pull them down and put up a better class of property. The whole was worth at present 400£. Or 500£. A-year. About 12 years ago the tenants had notice to repair, but he did not know what had been done.
Mr. J. A. Price, who appeared for the defendant, said he had only had a transfer of his lease for the last ten years. He pointed out that when the lease was granted there were only five houses existing, and the rest had been put up by the lessee at a very considerable cost, of which the landlords would now get the benefit.
Mr. Hart. - You have been making a large profit out of these places, and letting them get into a state of wreck and ruin.
The Under-Sheriff. - Where is the defendant? Why is he not here that he might tell us what he got out of this property?
Mr. Price. - I regret he is not here. Probably the amount of the claim has frightened him.
No witnesses were called for the defence, but Mr. Price urged that the amount claimed was excessive.
The jury returned a verdict for 500£.