A Peterborough landlord has been sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for the illegal eviction and harassment of a private tenant, following a prosecution brought by Peterborough City Council.
Mirza Tariq Mahmud Jaral of Burmer Road, Peterborough was also ordered to pay more than £8,000 in compensation to the victim.
Jaral had pleaded not guilty to offences of illegal eviction and harassment of an assured tenant from his home during July 2020.
Council officials were first alerted to the incident in early July 2020 following concerns raised for the tenant’s safety and well-being and for the behaviour of the landlord.
Further allegations were made claiming that the locks to the property had been changed and that the owner landlord had moved in with two other unknown males, the council said.
Shortly after the incident a meeting was held with the tenant and evidence was gathered. In giving evidence the tenant was able to demonstrate a comprehensive statement of events including photographs from within the property. Additionally, the council were provided with details of two other independent witnesses who also gave evidence.
The court heard that initially the tenant was allowed to return to the property although he returned home from work one evening to find that all his personal possessions had been bagged up and deposited in one of the bedrooms where he continued to reside for a short period. Later in July the tenant returned home from work to find that all locks to the property had been changed and was denied entry to the property, thus rendering him homeless.
Prosecution proceedings commenced against Jaral and were first heard at Huntingdon Magistrates Court on 30 June 2021 where Jaral pleaded not guilty to the charges of illegal eviction and harassment of the tenant.
The case was adjourned for full trial at Peterborough Magistrates Court on 21 October 2021. The court concluded that Jaral was found guilty of all charges relating to the illegal eviction and harassment of the tenant. However due to the seriousness of the offences the magistrates considered that sentencing may need to be referred to the Crown Court.
The case was again heard at Peterborough Magistrates Court on 12 November 2021 although on this occasion Jaral failed to attend and a warrant was issued to the police for his arrest.
A further hearing at Peterborough Magistrates Court was held on 31 January 2022 where again Jaral failed to attend. The case was heard in his absence with magistrates concluding that they had limited powers regarding sentencing and the case was adjourned until 27 May 2022 to be heard at Peterborough Crown Court.
The case hearing was finally concluded on 27 May 2022 at Peterborough Crown Court with Jaral having been previously arrested and remanded in custody until the hearing date.
The judge sentenced Jaral to 12 months imprisonment. He also awarded £1000 compensation to the tenant for emotional distress together with £7350 compensation for loss of personal possessions. Council costs were not awarded considering the custodial sentence given.
Investigating Housing Enforcement Officer Peter Bezant said: “In almost 27 years service for the council this is by far the most serious case I have had to deal with, and this is reflected in the sentencing that has been passed. This reinforces the zero-tolerance stance by the council who will not hesitate to take prosecution proceedings for such illegal offences.
“This case was long and protracted even though the evidence was substantial thanks to the vigilance and forward thinking of the tenant who stood strong throughout this very emotive hearing.”
Bezant added: “This case will hopefully serve as a stark warning to those who continue to flout the law. It was also reassuring to learn that the courts are taking these matters seriously and continue to support the good work and commitment by local authority officials.
“It was significant that the compensation has been awarded to the tenant who suffered the most in this ordeal. This case started with tears of pain and sadness for the victim but ended with tears of joy and who can now continue with their life safe in the knowledge that justice has been served.”
Cllr Steve Allen, Deputy Leader Peterborough City Council, said: “The council will seek to continue working with landlords, lettings agents and tenants in order to raise awareness of the law and housing standards as it applies to the private rented sector and provide any relevant advice and assistance in order for them to comply with their legal obligations.”