Kathryn Dow, 56, an owner of a property in Novello Street, Fulham, agreed to let the top floor of the house to two tenants, but within months she had packed their belongings, put them into storage and changed the locks.
Her actions have cost her almost £25,000 in fines and costs — plus a criminal record — after a legal challenge from her tenants and the local council.
The tenants took civil proceedings against Dow and were awarded almost £14,000 in damages by West London County Court to cover their lost deposits, interest and court costs.
Hammersmith & Fulham council prosecuted her at the City of London Magistrates’ Court, resulting in further fines and costs of almost £11,000.
Magistrates heard that the two tenants had moved into the property in January 2013, paying a “large deposit” and agreeing to a 19-month tenancy.
In April 2014, they complained to their landlady about an “overwhelming smell” that they suspected was caused by a dead animal under the floorboards in the house.
Dow refused to deal with the problem, and also refused to move a large cabinet from the hallway, which the tenants feared was a fire hazard.
Officers from Hammersmith & Fulham council were called in and made several attempts to persuade Dow to deal with the problems.
Then, in September, the tenants returned home to find Dow had cleared their rooms of their belongings and locked them out.
Dow denied illegally evicting the tenants, but was found guilty and, on top of the fine and costs given against her, was handed a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
“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,” said councillor Lisa Homan, the council’s housing chief.
However, trade union GMB believes the only way to protect ‘generation rent’ is with government regulation of the private rented sector to enforce minimum standards on rent and eviction.