We have all learned from Ben Reeve Lewis’s writings on this blog, how hard it is to get a conviction for harassment against a landlord.
Well hats off to Sheffield Council whose officers obtained a conviction against landlord Steven Loxley in May at Sheffield Magistrates Court.
His tenant, Ms Muscroft, had lost her job and as is the way of things, her housing benefit was taking a while to come through.
Mr Loxley was not pleased about this and responded by sending a text message to her every single day. In one of them he threatened to move in a lodger the next day.
The local authority tenancy relations office asked him to stop sending the texts but he took no notice.
Eventually Ms Muscroft moved her furniture out but, again ignoring Council advice, Loxley went in and changed the locks before Ms Muscroft had formally given up the tenancy. When she tried to get in three days later she found she was locked out.
Loxley pleaded guilty at the prosecution and was fined £250, a £15 victim surcharge and £425 legal costs.
This is not a huge amount of money of course and some landlords may think it worth the risk to get rid of a non paying tenant. However a conviction is not a good thing to have on your record, and this may well affect Loxley adversely in the future – for example if he were to need an HMO license.
We are not told whether Ms Muscroft actually paid her outstanding rent once the benefit came through, or why the payment was made late – was it general delays on the part of the benefit office or was it due to Ms Muscroft failing to provide all information needed?
However I suspect that if the benefit had been paid promptly, the whole scenario would never have happened.
Still from the point of view of us lawyers, it is helpful to know that daily texts demanding outstanding rent can constitute harassment.