A landlord has received a criminal record and a £10,794 fine after Hammersmith & Fulham Council successfully prosecuted her for illegally evicting 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 February 13.
In a separate civil claim against Ms Dow, which was heard at West London County Court, one of her previous tenants was also awarded £13,970 damages towards their lost deposits, interest and court costs.
The court was told that in January 2013 Ms Dow rented the top floor of her three-storey home to two tenants who paid her a large deposit for a 19-month tenancy.
But when the tenants complained about an over-whelming smell in the hallway and one of the bedrooms in April, which they suspected was caused by a dead animal under the floorboards, Ms 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.
When officers from Hammersmith & Fulham Council were called to the home and after confirming the vial smell, they sent Ms Dow a letter giving her seven days to take action, but by August she had cancelled two further meetings fixed by the officers.
In September, the court was told, the two tenants returned home to find Ms Dow had removed their belongings and changed the locks. She claimed there had been a carbon monoxide leak and she’d booked the tenants into a hotel. But no leak was found and it was later discovered the tenants’ belongings had been taken to a self-storage facility, which proved to be before the date of the claimed leak.
Later the tenants contacted the council whereupon housing officers investigated their claim of a wrongful eviction, which led to the prosecution.
Two days after the locks were changed new tenants had been moved in to the accommodation, but within two weeks they had moved out again, citing a strong smell of mould and unsanitary conditions for their family. The council staff advised them about how they could recover their deposits.
In court, Ms Dow denied illegally evicting the tenants but was found guilty and given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years. She was also ordered to pay £10,794 in costs and compensation.
Cllr Lisa Homan, the Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing said:
“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.”
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) March 18, 2015