Hammersmith & Fulham Council has successfully prosecuted a landlord, after she illegally evicted tenants when they complained about a foul smell and fire hazard at their flat.
Kathryn Dow, 56, of Novello Street in Fulham was given a suspended prison term at the City of London Magistrates’ Court, on 13th February 2015.
In January 2013, Dow rented out the top floor of her home to two tenants who paid a high deposit for a 19-month tenancy, the court heard.
Dow then refused to investigate when the tenants went to her complaining of a horrible smell in the hallway and one bedroom in April. The tenants suspected a dead animal under the floorboards, the court was told.
Additionally, Dow refused to move a large cabinet that was blocking the hallway entrance when the tenants believed it to be a fire hazard.
Officers from the Council were called to the three-storey property, where they could smell the odour. They sent Dow a letter giving her seven days to take action, however, by August, she had cancelled two other meetings with officers.
The court heard that in September, the tenants returned home one day to find that Dow had taken away their belongings and changed the locks. She said that there had been a carbon monoxide leak and that she had booked the tenants into a hotel. No leak was found and it emerged later that the tenants’ belongings were booked into a self-storage facility, before the date of the supposed leak.
The tenants went to the Council, where housing officers investigated the claim of an unfair eviction, which led to prosecution.
Only two days after the locks were changed, new tenants moved in. However, within two weeks they had moved out again, claiming there was a strong smell of mould and unsanitary conditions in the property.
The tenants were advised by the Council on how they could get their deposits back.
Dow denied illegally evicting the tenants, but was found guilty at the court hearing, where she was given a six-month prison sentence and two-year suspension. Furthermore, she was ordered to pay £10,794 in costs and compensation.
In another civil claim against Dow, at West London County Court, one of the original tenants was awarded £13,970 in damages towards their lost deposit, interest, and court costs.
The Council’s cabinet member for housing, Lisa Homan, says: “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.”1