Hammersmith & Fulham Council has successfully prosecuted a landlord who illegally evicted tenants after they complained about a foul smell and a fire hazard in their flat.
Kathryn Dow, 56, of Novello Street, Fulham, was given a suspended prison term at City of London Magistrates’ Court on Friday 13 February.
The court heard that in January 2013 Dow rented the top floor of her home to two tenants who paid a large deposit for a 19-month tenancy.
However the court was told that when the tenants noticed an overwhelming smell in the hallway and one of the bedrooms in April, they suspected a dead animal under the floorboards, but Dow refused to investigate.
She also refused to their request to move a large cabinet which they considered a fire hazard because it blocked the hallway entrance.
Officers from Hammersmith & Fulham Council were called to the three-storey home and after smelling the odour, sent Dow a letter giving her seven days to take action, but by August she had cancelled two further meetings with officers.
The court was told that in September the tenants returned home to find Dow had removed their belongings and changed the locks, claiming there had been a carbon monoxide leak and she’d booked the tenants into a hotel. But no such leak was found and it was later discovered the tenants’ belongings had been booked into a self-storage facility before the date of the claimed leak.
The tenants approached Hammersmith & Fulham Council where housing officers investigated their claim of a wrongful eviction, which led to the prosecution.
Just two days after the locks were changed, new tenants were moved in but within two weeks had moved out again, citing a strong smell of mould and unsanitary conditions for their family. They were also advised by council housing officers about how they could recover their deposits.
Dow had denied illegally evicting the tenants but was found guilty at the court hearing and given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years. She was further ordered to pay £10,794 in costs and compensation.
In a separate civil claim against Dow, heard at West London County Court, one of the original tenants was also awarded £13,970 damages towards their lost deposits, interest and court costs.
“Rogue landlords cannot mistreat residents in this manner and this prosecution shows the council’s determination to ensure that private tenants in the borough are treated fairly,” said Cllr Lisa Homan, the council’s cabinet member for housing.