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A Leeds landlord has been given a suspended prison sentence for illegally evicting his tenant by changing the locks while the tenant was on holiday.
Leeds Magistrate’s Court heard that the former tenant was forced to sleep in a tent for three months without access to most of his belongings following the eviction, leaving him unable to work.
The Leeds landlord, Christopher Saville, sent text messages to the tenant asking if he intended to continue living at the property, after purchasing it five weeks earlier with the sitting tenant, who had recently signed a 12-month fixed term tenancy.
He then told the tenant that he wanted him to sign a new tenancy agreement, pay a full month’s rent and a deposit and he was changing the locks.
On his return from holiday the tenant found that the external gate had been padlocked and the entrance door to the flat had been locked from the inside, effectively leaving him homeless and without access to personal belongings including his DJ equipment which he needed to work.
Saville only agreed to give back the tenant’s belongings if he handed over the keys, which he therefore felt he had no option but to do. Saville stated that he considered this as termination of the pre-existing tenancy agreement.
Despite this agreement the landlord only allowed the tenant to return to the flat a few times and take what he could carry meaning he lost the vast majority of his possessions.
The tenant approached Leeds City Council Housing Options alleging illegal eviction, and the council decided that there were reasonable grounds to believe Saville had intent to unlawfully evict the tenant.
The Leeds landlord was brought before Leeds Magistrates Court last week and sentenced to 20 weeks custody suspended for 12 months, 250 hours unpaid work and £1,000 compensation. Saville was also banned from contacting the tenant indefinitely.
Leeds City Council’s executive member for communities, Cllr Debra Coupar, said: ‘It is our priority is to ensure residents have a secure home to live in. There is a wide range of help and support available for landlords to ensure they fully understand the rules and regulations that keep them and their tenants safe and tenancies and contracts legally sound. This conviction is a clear warning that we refuse to stand by when landlords do not follow these rules and we are dedicated to ensuring the welfare, safety and security of all tenants in Leeds.’