Thanet District Council has brought what it believes to be the largest ever prosecution of its type for offences under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
On 19 July 2022, a jury at Canterbury Crown Court reached 28 guilty verdicts in respect of four defendants involved in managing rented flats in Athelstan Road, Margate.
Sohila Tamiz, of Flint Lane, Lenham, was found guilty on five counts of conspiring to unlawfully evict a tenant, eight counts of conspiring to, or interfering with, the peace or comfort of a residential occupier, and one count of conspiring to burgle.
Pedram Tamiz, of Flint Lane, Lenham, was found guilty of two counts of conspiring to unlawfully evict a tenant, and five counts of conspiring to, or interfering with, the peace or comfort of a residential occupier.
Adam McChesney, of Gloucester Avenue, Margate, was found guilty of two counts of conspiring to unlawfully evict a tenant, and three counts of conspiring to interfere with the peace or comfort of a residential occupier.
Kasem El Darrat, Athelstan Road, Margate, was found guilty of one count of conspiring to unlawfully evict a tenant, and one count of conspiring to interfere with the peace or comfort of a residential occupier.
Thanet said council officers began investigating after a series of allegations came to light in relation to the management of a building containing 26 flats in Athelstan Road, Margate.
“Lawful tenants were routinely threatened and evicted without notice; locks were changed and some tenants’ belongings were removed or thrown onto the street. In one case, a tenant was doused in petrol and punched causing the loss of several teeth. The allegations shared with council officers were the most harrowing heard in any investigation relating to tenancy management,” the local authority claimed.
“The unlawful actions of the defendants resulted in the council incurring significant costs in rehousing those tenants who had been systematically thrown out of their properties using violence or threats of violence.”
Legal proceedings against Sohila Tamiz began in relation to a single incident of unlawful eviction.
Following Ms Tamiz’s election of a trial in the Crown Court, the council instructed Michael Polak, a barrister at Church Court Chambers specialising in unlawful evictions, and pupil barrister, Llewellyn Culver-Evans also of Church Court Chambers, to review the case and prepare it for trial.
Further investigations revealed evidence of other unlawful evictions and harassment against vulnerable tenants, Thanet said. Additional charges were added to the indictment, as were three more defendants: Sohila Tamiz’s son Pedram, and Adam McChesney and Kasem Al Darratt who worked for the Tamiz’s as an enforcer and agent respectively.
The case was presented to the jury over four weeks following which the jury returned unanimous verdicts on 28 counts on the indictment.
Cllr Jill Bayford, Thanet's Cabinet Member for Housing, said “This is a landmark prosecution for us, and underpins our key priority of ensuring the ongoing safety of all of our residents. We hope that this outcome sends out the serious message to other landlords in the district and further afield that criminal activity, or any intimidatory or threatening behaviour towards tenants, will not be tolerated, but will instead be routinely prosecuted.”
The council said it would now begin the process of gathering victim impact statements ahead of sentencing, which is due to take place on 10 October 2022.