A law student is celebrating his first ever legal victory and the return of £1,000 after taking his landlord to court.

Jack Simm successfully sued the company behind Velocity Student on St Mildreds Road, West Earlham, for breach of contract following a string of problems with the accommodation.

Complaints about the state of the building, developed by the Freedman Project LLP and managed by a company called Estateducation, were first made in this newspaper in June. At the time, Norwich City Council said it had launched an investigation which is still ongoing.

Eastern Daily Press: The Velocity Student building, formerly the Freed Man pub, Earlham.The Velocity Student building, formerly the Freed Man pub, Earlham. (Image: Archant 2021)

Mr Simm, who is studying at UEA, said that when he turned up at the former Freed Man pub in September last year, it was more like a building site than a home.

“It was clear that it was still under construction,” the 19-year old said: “But our landlord assured us that all problems would be sorted.”

Mr Simm said he chose Velocity Student because of its location and website. Living in Newcastle, he only had two weeks to find somewhere to stay and could not visit Norwich before term started, but he said he soon realised he had been misled.

Eastern Daily Press: Jack Simm, a UEA law student, who won a court case against his former landlordJack Simm, a UEA law student, who won a court case against his former landlord (Image: Archant 2021)

On arrival he said he was greeted by cleaners clearing debris at reception and a workman leaving his bathroom. “There was dust everywhere,” he said. “It was almost funny because the landlord was showing us around and saying how nice everything was but everything was in a state. I was just in shock.”

In an email to Estateducation after he moved in, his family complained about issues including “a gaping hole" where the extractor was supposed to be in the bathroom, "a clearly broken faucet” and “a faulty shower".

Eastern Daily Press: Jack Simm complained about his accommodation being unfinished when he moved inJack Simm complained about his accommodation being unfinished when he moved in (Image: Jack Simm)

'Students misled'

In documents lodged at Newcastle County Court other students at Velocity also complained about no heating or hot water and a flooded room.

In a legal statement shared with the court, student Aayra Khawaja described her experience as “traumatic to say the least”.

“There was limited to no hot water and the heating didn’t work,” she said. “I spent a night wrapped up in many clothes to keep myself warm.”

Another student, Aidan Spencer, added: “A builder somehow managed to drill from the outside through an entire wall into my radiator, flooding my room whilst I was still asleep, leading to the loss of my iPad and laptop."

After a week, Mr Simm left the room, accused his landlord of breaching their contract and asked Estateducation for his deposit and first month’s rent of £859.

But in response, the company’s property manager, James Moore, questioned what clauses of the contract had been breached and said in an email: “the landlord's position is that should you vacate the property you will be liable for the full 12 months rent".

He left and found new accommodation but by December, Mr Simm was being chased by a debt collection agency.

In a statement to the court, his dad George said that the Freedman Project's operation was characterised by “low cunning, deceit, obfuscation and finally threats against isolated and vulnerable young people”.

He said they were “misled” and “duped” after being told the unfinished room which they found on arrival would be fixed quickly.

In response to the court and this newspaper, director of the Freedman Project and Estateducation, Ben James Smith, said he was not given enough time to fix the problems. He said Mr Simm left after a week and he legally had 14 days to fix issues.

However, the Simm family argued to the court that “no effort was made to repair anything over a period of months”, citing witness statements from tenants who stayed, as well as an article from this newspaper in June.

Eastern Daily Press: Flooding at Velocity Student on Earlham RoadFlooding at Velocity Student on Earlham Road (Image: Velocity Student)

Eastern Daily Press: Flooding in March at Velocity Student - another one of Estateducation's developments in EarlhamFlooding in March at Velocity Student - another one of Estateducation's developments in Earlham (Image: Submitted)

That article included similar grievances from several other students who wrote to Estateducation in October - three weeks after Mr Simm had left - about the front door not locking, dirty rooms, and the heating and Wi-Fi not working. The students said in the email that they were “shocked to discover that the accommodation was far from finished”.

'The best bit of revision'

In a statement to the court, Mr Simm said of his son's experiences: “It was supposed to be the beginning of a great adventure and reading a subject at university that he loves.

"However, because of Ben Smith’s failures and his appalling attitude towards his clients and basic commercial probity, Jack was falling very quickly behind in his critical inaugural studies."

He accused the company of fraudulent misrepresentation under the terms of the Misrepresentation Act 1967 and lodged a claim at Newcastle County Court earlier this year.

But in response, the company countersued Mr Simm for not paying rent for the full term of the contract - a figure of £7,000. They also said they had not been given enough time to fix the problems as Mr Simm had left after a week.

But the counterclaim was dismissed by the county court last month, with the judge ordering the defendant to pay back the student’s deposit, rent and court fees - a total of £999.

Mr Simm said: "It feels so good as a law student to win the case. It's probably the best bit of revision I've ever done.”

A Norwich City Council spokesperson, which is investigating issues with Velocity Student, said: “We are pressing the owners of the property to carry out the essential remedial work that the council and the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service have specified.

“Where we identify serious breaches of HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) legislation and requirements are not followed, we look at all appropriate further enforcement options and seek to ensure those responsible understand the seriousness of failing to comply.”

Get the latest from the investigations unit with our weekly newsletter