A landlord has been ordered to pay nearly £6,000 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to harassing and financially exploiting one of her tenants, following an investigation by Bristol City Council’s Private Housing Rogue Landlord Unit.
Private landlord Cauline Thomas admitted an offence of harassment under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. She also pleaded guilty to knowingly or recklessly engaging in a commercial practice which contravened the requirements of professional diligence at Bristol Magistrates Court on Thursday (February 20).
The council said these “included not telling a tenant in advance how additional charges for her bills would be calculated, failing to safeguard the tenancy deposit in an approved scheme and sending communications in the name of a fake person”.
The vulnerable victim, who has children, had moved into a multiple occupancy flat in Easton during July 2017, receiving no tenancy agreement and with monthly rent including utility bills.
According to the council, several months into the tenancy Thomas started making additional charges that had no contractual basis after enquiring about the tenant’s immigration status.
The prosecution argued that she believed she could financially exploit the victim because of a mistaken belief that she had no leave to remain in the country.
“When challenged over the charges, Thomas began a campaign of harassment, including interfering with the flat’s water and electricity supply, entering the flat without consent before issuing verbal threats and illegal eviction notices,” the council said.
The behaviour caused the tenant to pay the additional charges under protest until she was eventually driven out of the property in November 2018, it added.
Thomas was fined £2,500, with a victim surcharge of £170, and ordered to pay the tenant £1,181 compensation for the charges paid under protest. The city council was also awarded £2,000 towards costs.
Cllr Paul Smith, Cabinet member for Housing at Bristol, said: “This case demonstrates how the council are taking action to protect vulnerable tenants and penalise those landlords who harass and exploit vulnerable tenants.’’