Including threatening letters, cutting off services resulting in £20,500+ fine
A firm of property agents that conducted a concerted campaign of harassment against some tenants and tried to carry out an illegal eviction has been called to account following an investigation by housing officials in Wandsworth.
Wimbledon-based Spudnic Ltd were ordered to pay £20,561 in fines and prosecution costs after the council took it to court when it uncovered a prolonged campaign of dirty tricks it had used to try and hound the tenants out of the property.
A jury at Kingston Crown Court heard that Spudnic turned off the water and electricity supplies, damaged the toilet so it couldn’t be used, sealed up the letterboxes so the occupants couldn’t receive any mail and sent in builders without any prior notice, who then left the property full of rubble, rubbish and dust – rendering it virtually uninhabitable.
On one occasion, one of the tenants, a librarian, returned home after work to find the front door locks changed and all their belongings packed up and removed from the house.
Spudnic also sent quasi-legal documents to the tenants telling them they had to leave - even though the company didn’t have a court-issued eviction order.
One Spanish-born tenant received a letter from Spudnic telling him that they needed to see his passport and wage slips and that if he failed to provide them, they would report him to the Home Office and also to the Inland Revenue fraud department.
Another was told that if he didn’t leave voluntarily the company would sue him, while another was repeatedly threatened with legal action over a noise abatement notice that had been issued to another tenant who’d left the property months before.
They were also sent threatening letters warning them not to co-operate with council officials and to refuse them entry.
On another occasion the tenants returned to find a notice on the front door telling them that the electricity supply was dangerous and that they had to move out. But while they were standing on the doorstep discussing what to do next, two brand new tenants arrived who had been told by Spudnic they could move in.
The court heard that the company had been charging the tenants upwards of £20,000 a year in rent for the five bedroom property in Ibsley Gardens, Roehampton. The jury was also told that before the council became involved, the tenants had repeatedly asked Spudnic to carry out routine repairs to the maisonette, but their pleas had been ignored. Instead the residents were left with a leaking shower, broken shower door, a leaking sink and a broken kitchen window. The central heating system was also defective.
The continuing leaks were causing so many problems of damp that they started to affect a neighbouring property. The concerned occupant of that home called in the council, whose officers then uncovered the events happening next door.
Commenting on the case, the council’s housing spokesman Cllr Paul Ellis said:
“This was a truly shocking and relentless campaign of harassment and intimidation carried out against innocent tenants. The tenants were paying their rent on time and were not causing any problems to their neighbours. Yet this company seemed determined to drive them out. Its behaviour was totally unacceptable
"Landlords and their agents should not be under any illusion. We will simply not tolerate them bullying their tenants in this way. If you are a landlord and you would like a tenant to leave then you simply must go through the proper legal channels. Any tenant who is threatened with an illegal eviction or harassment should contact the council's housing department straight away."
Anyone who is being harassed or mistreated by their landlord can seek assistance from the council. Call (020) 8871-6840 for more information.
December 7, 2011