Students traumatised by the death of their friend from taking party drug ecstasy have today won their battle not to pay more than £6,500 in rent.
The grieving pals of Robert Chavda, 21, a former Rochester Math School pupil, felt emotionally unable to return to their shared Canterbury digs after finding his lifeless body.
Student landlord Werner Toogood had demanded the three students pay three of the remaining five months of their contract, taking a claim for £6,529 to Medway Civil Court.
District Judge Simon Gill ruled that by carrying out extensive renovation work at the house in Canterbury, the landlord has effectively repossessed it and therefore the former tenants should not be liable for the outstanding payment.
Rob Chavda, a Christ Church University student, lived in the house with best friend, Dan McCourt, 22, who also went to the Rochester grammar school.
His mother, Nicola McCourt, 48, from Wigmore, represented the students, who also included Elon Carlton-Carew, 22, and Adam Waller, 23.
Following the case, her husband Roly McCourt, 52, read out a statement to reporters on behalf of the tenants and parents.
He said: "We were amazed that as a landlord of over 200 properties in Canterbury and the director of a letting agency that he didn't understand implied surrender and brought this action to court for rents he wasn't entitled to."
Mr Chavda was found dead in the house in January last year, having suffered a brain haemorrhage after taking MDMA, beter known as ecstasy. His housemates desperately tried to resuscitate him, but their efforts were in vain.
Unable to bear living in the house, they asked Mr Toogood, who runs the Student Lettings Agency, to rehouse them, but he was unable to do so. They were instead rehomed by the Canterbury university and given counselling.
Three of students offered to pay the of the remaining five months of their tenancy to terminate the contract, but he refused. A fourth tenant, Jack Dick paid in full to avoid court action.
The lettings agency wrote to the students, saying: "We are sympathetic to your problems, but it is not realistic for you to expect the rent to be waived because of circumstances that are affecting you."
Judge Gill declined both parties' requests for costs and expenses.