Worksop: Rash actions leave landlord with court appearance

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A Worksop landlord who unlawfully evicted his tenant was landed with a court appearance, from which he received a conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs of more than £600.

Victor Fernandez from Newark, the landlord of a property on Fingleton, Worksop, unlawfully evicted his tenant Terry Fraser on January 14 after he had fallen into arrears with his rent.

Mr Fraser seriously injured his arm in July 2014 which limited his ability to work, causing him to accumulate rent arrears of £900.

As Mr Fraser was unable to pay his arrears, Mr Fernandez served Mr Fraser with a notice to formally end the tenancy on 15th December 2014.

The notice stated he required possession by February 28 2015. If Mr Fraser failed to leave the property after this date Mr Fernandez would have been able to apply to the County Court for an order requiring him to leave.

In addition Mr Fernandez wrote to Mr Fraser on December 19 2014 requesting he pay the balance of the arrears, of which Mr Fraser was still unable to pay.

However, six weeks before the notice was due to expire Mr Fernandez visited the property with two men who claimed to be bailiffs, but had no identification, and told Mr Fraser that they were taking possession of the property unless the tenant was able to pay the arrears.

In his evidence, Mr Fraser stated he felt ‘outnumbered and threatened’ and had ‘no option to leave’ and was given 10 minutes to collect his belongings and made to hand over the keys to the property.

Mr Fraser sought help from both the Police and Bassetlaw District Council who advised Mr Fernandez that he had acted unlawfully and that without waiting for the possession notice to expire and thereafter applying for a court order, he could not force Mr Fraser to leave.

Mr Fernandez was given the opportunity to let Mr Fraser to return to the property to allow the notice to expire and then instigate court proceedings for a lawful eviction.

The landlord refused to let Mr Fraser back into the property agreed to let him collect the remainder of his possessions from the property. When Mr Fraser arrived at the property he found all his possessions in the garden.

Officers from Bassetlaw District Council interviewed Mr Fernandez under caution where he admitted to the offence and the Council took the decision to prosecute him.

The case was heard at Mansfield Magistrates Court on August 6 2015 where self-employed Mr Fernandez explained the stress of the court proceedings had caused him to be unable to work, which in turn had placed financial pressures upon the business and forced him to make two members of staff redundant. He was also in the process of claiming employment support allowance.

He explained to the court that due to the stress of renting out the property and these proceedings he had been signed off as unfit to work by his GP.

The Magistrates addressed Mr Fernandez stating as he owned his own business he knew that actions have legal implications, and therefore he should have known better in this situation.

They added: “Being a landlord comes with responsibilities and worries and you have to accept this as no one forced you to become a landlord you did this of your own free choice.”

After pleading guilty, Mr Fernandez was given a 12 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £589 costs along with a £15 victim surcharge.

Mr Fernandez has 6 months to pay the fine or face imprisonment.

Cabinet member for Neighbourhoods at Bassetlaw District Council, Councillor Julie Leigh, said: “This is a situation that many landlords may find themselves in. However, the law does not allow landlords to act in this way and serves to protect the public.

“The Council takes a zero tolerance approach to unlawful evictions and will seek to assist Bassetlaw residents who are unlawfully evicted.”