A letting agent who unlawfully evicted a tenant by changing the property’s locks and dumping the tenant’s possessions in bin bags in the garden, has been ordered by magistrates to pay £4,315.
Alan Croft, sole director of BestLet Property Management and Lettings in Cambridge, pleaded guilty to unlawfully depriving the resident of occupation of the premises under Section 1(2) of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
The case concerned a tenant who had rented a room in a shared house which was managed by BestLet.
The tenant contacted the council for help after the agent from BestLet had entered his room without giving him 24 hours’ notice of intention to enter, and without his permission.
Council officers contacted BestLet and advised the agency of the legal process to access rooms and the procedure to legally evict a tenant. BestLet advised that they were aware of the legal processes.
Despite this, the council says that neither Croft nor his agency served the required legal notice to seek possession, nor was an application made to the court for an order to evict.
Instead, Croft gave instructions to an employee to change the house lock and to put the tenant’s possessions into bin bags and leave them in the front garden.
The court also heard that BestLet had not protected the tenant’s deposit as required by law and it had not been returned.
Croft and BestLet were prosecuted and were fined a total of £1,370, ordered to pay the council’s costs of £2,408 and a total victim surcharge of £137.
The tenant was awarded £400 compensation for the distress caused and damage to personal possessions.
Cllr Kevin Price, executive councillor for housing, said: “Council officers work with tenants, landlords and agents to ensure that the correct legal processes are followed and if there is a dispute we help all parties move forward.
“Unfortunately, despite being advised by council officers as to the correct procedures, BestLet instead chose to evict the tenant by unlawfully changing the locks and removing the tenant’s property and leaving it in the garden.
“We take matters such as this very seriously and aim to tackle poor standards in the private rented sector and focus our enforcement action on the minority of unscrupulous landlords and agents who do not comply with the law.”