Private tenants in Nottingham are being urged to report rogue landlords, after an illegally evicted tenant was awarded over £12,500 in damages in a test case.
The council’s Safer Housing team provides support for tenants who are having problems with their accommodation or landlords, carries out inspections and takes enforcement action where necessary, up to and including prosecutions and removing the right for landlords to hold a licence.
A recent successful prosecution by the team saw Mohammed Azheem ordered by Nottingham magistrates to do 120 hours unpaid work as well as paying his tenant in Sneinton Dale £1,000 compensation, after she was illegally evicted when her locks were changed while she was out. It followed a series of breaches in the tenancy agreement, including Mr Azheem and his father letting themselves into the property without notice and issuing threats to the tenant over rent.
The tenant took a case to civil court last Tuesday (November 13) supported by the City Council and Nottingham Law Centre. The court awarded over £12,500 of damages to the tenant, who it was recognised was a vulnerable person who had suffered harassment and mental health problems as part of her ordeal. Mr Azheem was also ordered to pay £9,000 costs towards the Nottingham Law Centre.
Sally Denton from the Law Centre said: “This was a test case where we were able to work jointly with the City Council who were prosecuting the criminal case and so sets a precedent for further action. In many cases like this, it is difficult to prosecute because tenants are often vulnerable, reluctant to come forward to take on their landlord and may have language barriers or a lack of understanding over their rights.
“We’re pleased that the judge took on board that the sort of behaviour displayed by the landlord in this case is not acceptable, won’t be tolerated and will lead to significant penalties.”
Portfolio Holder for Community Protection, Cllr Toby Neal, said: “This case shows that the courts will take the issue of rogue landlords seriously. I hope this helps to send out a clear message to landlords to remind them of their obligations and the penalties they face if they don’t meet them.
“I also hope it will give any tenants in the private rented sector who are facing similar problems the confidence to come forward and tell us about what’s happening so that we can take the appropriate action to resolve the situation.”