A landlord ended up in court after illegally evicting a tenant by changing the locks on his home while he was away for the weekend.
There had been a 'breakdown' in the relationship between Lee Challinor and the tenant in the weeks before the eviction, due to issues with rent payments and the cleanliness of the shared house, Magistrates at North Staffordshire Justice Centre heard.
While the tenant was away visiting family for the weekend, he got a message from the defendant saying the locks had been changed on the property, the court heard.
The resident returned to the property in Shelton, Staffordshire, to discover he could no longer get in – effectively making him homeless, Stoke-on-Trent Live reports.
Collette Lamb, prosecuting on behalf of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: "The defendant is the owner and property manager. On April 2 last year, the injured party secured a tenancy at the address after replying to an advert.
"Approximately four months later, the relationship between the tenant and the defendant broke down. The tenant had defaulted on the rent payments.
"There were a number of discussions between the two via WhatsApp over the rent and the cleanliness of the property.
"On November 30, the tenant went to visit family in Nottingham for the weekend. While he was there, he received a message from the defendant, telling him the locks had been changed on the property.
"The lawful process is that formal notice to quit should be given in writing and an application should be made to the county court for an order of possession. It is unlawful to simply change the locks on someone's accommodation."
Different rules apply to live-in and live-out landlords and Challinor, 37, claimed he was living at the property at the time of the incident – meaning he would not have needed to obtain a court order to evict the tenant.
But a trial heard that Challinor had been described as a live-out landlord on a website listing rooms to rent and his correspondence address was in Leek.
Magistrates found Challinor guilty of depriving or displacing a residential occupier from a premises.
The court heard he was a university graduate who had left a career in the pharmaceutical industry to become a professional landlord. He also owns a vape shop.
Simon Leech, mitigating, said: "The assertion that the tenant has been suddenly made homeless is not correct. This is an example of the breakdown in the relationship rather than anything more sinister.
"This tenant is not a vulnerable person. He knew full well there was going to be a consequence to his failure to pay the rent. He was told he could arrange to collect his belongings on a date that was convenient."
Magistrates handed Challinor a 12-month community order. He must also complete 120 hours' unpaid work and pay £1,422 in costs and an £85 victim surcharge.
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