A Sheffield man, Rami Nazzal, in a landmark case at Sheffield Magistrates Court, has been convicted of both illegal eviction and subletting a council house he rented, both at the same time.
It is believed that this is the first case of its kind in the country following the recent introduction of new letting laws.
Nazzal illegally sub-let his council home and then evicted his tenant using force and was prosecuted by Sheffield Council.
Rami Nazzal had rented the one-bedroom council flat to student Ata Allah Alalawi without permission from the council. He subsequently forced him out of the flat threatening that he would never see his possessions again if he went to the police, according to evidence produced in court by Sheffield Council.
As reported by The Yorkshire Post Nazzal, 35, pleaded guilty at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court. The court heard that he rented out the flat at St George’s Close in Netherthorpe for around six months before he forced out his tenant following an argument. Nazzal was fined a total of £1,923 including £250 compensation to his tenant and a £15 victim surcharge.
Former tenant, Ata Allah Alalawi said:
“He told me it was his own property. He lied to me. I didn’t know he was a council tenant.
“Everything was fine until I wanted to leave. He started asking for extra rent – two months extra. He said it was summer and he wouldn’t be able to get a new tenant. When I wouldn’t pay he started shouting, saying the house was in a bad condition. He was making any excuse for me to pay.
“He started throwing my books about and ripping the bed sheets off. I asked what he was doing because a few days ago everything was fine. He grabbed me and pushed me out of the property and threatened I’d never see my possessions again if I called the police.”
A spokesperson for Sheffield Council said it was the first council outside London to enforce new legislation designed to resolve problems between tenants, landlords and letting agents. The authority has said it will “continue its crackdown on bad practices in rented housing”.
Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for housing, Coun Jayne Dunn, told The Yorkshire Post:
“This person was breaking the law on two accounts – by illegally sub-letting his rented home and by forcing an eviction. This has been recognised by the courts and I hope it sends a strong message that rogue landlords will not be tolerated.
“We want people to be able to live in good, safe housing, where their rights are respected.
“Thankfully most letting agents and landlords in Sheffield are very good. But we will take firm action on the minority that are not.”
Sheffield City Council’s housing team is now undertaking legal proceedings to evict Nazzal from his council home. Councillor Dunn said: “Sub-letting council housing is illegal and it deprives people in need of social housing. We will not stand for abuse and fraud within the system.”