A buy-to-let landlord in Leeds who left his tenant homeless after changing the locks while he was on holiday has been handed a suspended jail sentence for carrying out an illegal eviction.
Leeds Magistrate’s Court heard that the tenant was left with no alternative but to sleep in a tent on a campsite for three months without access to crucial belongings following the eviction, leaving him unable to work.
The landlord, Christopher Saville, sent text messages to his now former tenant asking if he intended to continue living at the property, a rented flat above a fish and chip shop at 9 Coldcotes Circus, Gipton, LS8, after acquiring the property a month earlier with the sitting tenant, who had recently signed a 12 month fixed term tenancy.
Having failed to respond to the text message, the tenant, a self-employed DJ, found when he returned from holiday that the external gate to the tented property had been padlocked and the entrance door to the flat had been locked from the inside, leaving him with nowhere to live and without access to personal belongings including his DJ equipment.
Given the nature of his pre-existing tenancy agreement, the tenant approached Leeds City Council Housing Options alleging illegal eviction.
Leeds City Council understood there were reasonable grounds to believe Saville had intent to unlawfully evict the tenant and had committed an offence under Section 1(2) of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 by unlawfully depriving the tenant of the occupation of the flat.
After being found guilty at a previous hearing which he failed to attend, Saville was brought before Leeds Magistrates Court last week and sentenced to 20 weeks custody suspended for 12 months, 250 hours unpaid work and £1,000 compensation.
The landlord was also banned from contacting the tenant indefinitely.
Cllr Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member for communities, said: “It is our priority is to ensure residents have a secure home to live in.
“There is a wide range of help and support available for landlords to ensure they fully understand the rules and regulations that keep them and their tenants safe and tenancies and contracts legally sound.
“This conviction is a clear warning that we refuse to stand by when landlords do not follow these rules and we are dedicated to ensuring the welfare, safety and security of all tenants in Leeds.”