A private landlord has been found guilty of unlawful eviction after he changed the locks on his tenant ‘illegally’.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council brought the case against Lee Challinor which was heard at the North Staffordshire Justice Centre, Newcastle-under-Lyme. The council has worked extensively to bring forward the prosecution on behalf of a tenant after he came home from visiting relatives to find he could no longer get into the property where he was living in Parkhouse Street.
Collette Lamb was the solicitor prosecuting on behalf of Stoke-on-Trent City Council. She said: "On April 2 last year, the injured party secured a tenancy at the address after replying to an advert.
“Approximately four months later, the relationship between the tenant and the defendant broke down. The tenant had defaulted on the rent payments. There were a number of discussions between the two via WhatsApp over the rent and the cleanliness of the property.
“On November 30, the tenant went to visit family in Nottingham for the weekend. While he was there, he received a message from the defendant, telling him the locks had been changed on the property.
“The lawful process is that formal notice should be given in writing and an application should be made to the county court for an order of possession. It is unlawful to simply change the locks on someone’s accommodation.”
Following evidence provided by council officers on behalf of the tenant, magistrates have sentenced Challinor to a 12-month community order alongside a requirement to undertake 120 hours unpaid work. He will also have to pay £1,422 in costs including a victim surcharge of £85.
Councillor Randy Conteh, cabinet member for communities and safer city at Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “As a city council we want to make sure people who rent privately have the legal protection they deserve. We have a duty to take positive action against those who mistreat tenants. While the majority of private landlords abide by the law, sadly there are those who feel they can bend the rules. Due processes have to be followed – you can’t just simply change the locks on a tenant and think that is ok. This sends a strong message to those landlords who think they can do what they want in Stoke-on-Trent. It is simply not the case as we will take steps to stop those who don’t protect people’s rights.”
“I’m pleased that the magistrates have shared our concerns and found in favour of the tenant. While he is now living elsewhere, we can only bring successful prosecutions like these with the help and support of witnesses. My thanks also go to our housing and legal employees who have put in hours of work to secure this outcome. Ultimately it is helping to make Stoke-on-Trent a better place to live.”
Anyone with concerns about a tenancy they have with should contact the private sector housing team via our website.
Call the press office on 01782 232987 (journalists only).