Landlord prosecuted for illegally evicting tenant

Failing to follow legal requirements for evicting his tenant has costed a landlord several thousand pounds

Scales of Justice

A Sheffield landlord has pleaded guilty to illegally evicting a man from a shared house at Spurr Street, Sheffield.

Stephen John Donoghue, aged 42 (date of birth 24/09/75) of King Ecgbert Road, Sheffield was ordered to pay a total of £3,364 including a £2,000 fine, £894 costs to the Council and £300 compensation to the tenant.

Prosecuting for the Council, Paul Barber told Sheffield Magistrates’ Court that the tenant, a private tutor and proofreader, had lived in the house owned by Mr Donoghue and Mr Donoghue’s estranged wife, for almost a year.

There were complaints from others who lived in the house about the tenant which the tenant said that he took steps to address, but he was given notice to leave in November 2017.

Once a notice has run out, and the tenant has not left, the landlord must apply for a Court Order and it is up to the court to decide whether the landlord is entitled to evict the tenant, depending on whether the landlord has carried out the required obligations to the tenant.

In this case, the tenant made it clear that he was not going to leave and was still at the property when Mr Donoghue arrived on 15 January 2018 with another tall and heavy-set man, making it clear that they were there to evict him

As Mr Donoghue spoke to the tenant, the other man went upstairs and put the tenant’s possessions in the front garden. The tenant made it clear that he was not intending to move out and tried to ring the Council for advice but Mr Donoghue made it clear that he couldn’t get that advice. The tenant found the landlord’s behaviour threatening and intimidating and left the house with a rucksack leaving the remainder of his possessions out in the garden where they got wet.

Simon Gwynne, acting for the defendant, told the court that Mr Donoghue was aware of the law about bringing tenancies to an end and had been renting out properties with his estranged wife since 1998. The Court was told that Mr Donoghue apologised and that in 20 years he had never previously had this sort of problem. Mr Gwynne said that the breakdown of the relationship between Mr Donoghue and his wife, and poor communication between them, may have contributed to what happened.

The Court was asked to accept that this was an isolated incident in unusual circumstances.

Councillor Jim Steinke, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety at Sheffield City Council, said: We take these cases very seriously. The majority of landlords across the city are decent and hard-working but a few seem to have little care for the responsibilities that come with letting a property.

Unlawful eviction, the threat of unlawful eviction, harassment and intimidation are all totally unacceptable and it is our duty to take a very tough stance against this kind of rogue landlord behaviour.

As a result, we believe Sheffield’s private tenants are amongst the most-protected in the country and taking prosecutions like this to court are part of our commitment to making sure that there are high standards of accommodation and responsible management across the sector.