A landlord who unlawfully let cramped and overcrowded bedsits and then harassed tenants who complained has been fined thousands of pounds and warned he’ll be jailed if he tries to let other properties.
Balazs Stalter was prosecuted by Wandsworth council in south London after the authority received complaints from his tenants. It discovered that Stalter had been letting family sized properties after unlawfully converting them into bedsits.
In one case he let a property in Tooting to five tenants after switching the living room and dining room into bedrooms, with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. He did so without planning consent nor registering the property as an HMO.
A statement from the council says that when Stalter found out that some of the tenants had complained “he waged a campaign of harassment against them.”
This included tampering with their water, gas and electricity supplies, and glueing up their locks. He also posted fake and negative online reviews of the company owned by the family of one of his tenants, which led to him receiving a formal police warning.
When the case reached court at the end of last year Stalter was convicted of unlawfully operating an HMO without a licence.
The council says that during his trial last year Stalter produced what appeared to be a tenancy agreement, apparently signed by a tenant confirming that the room he rented was not his permanent residence.
However the council alleges the document was fraudulent and the signature forged. The tenant in question had returned to his native New Zealand and was living on the other side of the world at the time the agreement was “signed”.
In court last year Stalter was fined £1,858 and ordered to pay the council’s prosecution costs of £2,089 plus a victim surcharge of £170. The council also successfully applied for a banning order preventing him from operating as a landlord.
If he breaches this order it is a criminal offence carrying a minimum term of three months imprisonment.
Now at Kingston Crown Court, in a recent separate hearing, Stalter appealed against the fines imposed by the magistrates and the banning order.
A video link to New Zealand saw the tenant whose signature was on the forged document testify he had never seen nor signed the document in question.
Stalter’s appeal was dismissed and he was ordered to pay a further £3,818 in costs.
A Wandsworth council spokesman says: “By his own disgraceful and unacceptable behaviour Mr Stalter has shown he is an unfit person to be a landlord. I’m delighted we’ve been able to take concerted action in the courts to not only secure justice for his tenants but to prevent him victimising any others in the future.”