Dr Amy Eskander, owner of an apartment in Kenilworth was sentenced at Wolverhampton Crown Court on 8 December 2022 after she had previously been found guilty of illegal eviction.
Dr Eskander was ordered to pay a fine of £2000, a compensation award of £3600 to the tenant, costs of £3000 to Warwick District Council and a victim surcharge of £190, making a total of £8790.
When passing sentence, Recorder Brand KC made the following comments:
Dr Eskander, I am quite satisfied that the relationship between you and (the tenant) had been entirely amicable before you asked him for more rent, and when he didn’t agree you were peeved and annoyed and the parrot was a useful excuse for him to have to go. The irony is that if you had given him a reasonable time, it seemed he was the type of personality who would have packed up and left of his own accord.
You gave him 2 weeks and that prompted him to contact the Council. What followed is that the Council warned you of their understanding of his legal position, in clear terms they told you in writing that his occupation was protected. They advised you that you should serve a notice and if he declined to leave you should seek a court order. They warned you in clear terms in writing if you didn’t comply you would be committing an offence.
In your correspondence with the Council, you displayed an arrogance which was unattractive. In his last few weeks (the tenant) had no heating or hot water, and while you did not cause this you did little to help it. You ejected (the tenant) from his rented home on a Friday evening because you felt you were entitled to have your way. I have suspicions that your text that Friday at 16.20 was deliberately timed to align with closure of Council offices.
It is an aggravating factor that you evicted (the tenant) in the midst of the Covid pandemic. You kept his deposit and the rent he had paid in advance, which he was entitled to. You had a trial which of course you are entitled to but the consequences are that (the tenant) had to give evidence, during which his credibility was challenged.
During that trial you repeatedly lied and made false accusations that (the tenant) had been threatening towards you. I have seen little or no sign of genuine remorse from you.
Dr Eskander rented a bedroom out in the 2-bedroom flat between February 2019 and September 2020 and kept a locked bedroom in the apartment for herself.
The Prosecution’s case was that she rarely visited the apartment, and the tenant often sent her mail onto addresses where she was living in London and Plymouth in connection with her work placements at local hospitals.
Dr Eskander had tried to argue that she shared the flat in Kenilworth with her tenant as her principal or only home and therefore he should not be afforded legal protection from eviction. However, the court heard evidence that Dr Eskander had signed an assured shorthold tenancy at a premises in London and had provided evidence in official documents that her home was in London and later in Plymouth.
The tenant was asked in June 2020 for a rent increase, and when he said he was unable to afford it, Dr Eskander told him he had to leave and sent him a text message telling him he had to vacate by 12 August 2020.
The tenant continued to live at the apartment and pay his rent and on 18 September 2020 whilst he was at work, he received a text from Dr Eskander to confirm that she had changed the locks and removed his possessions from the apartment. The tenant alerted the Private Sector Housing team at Warwick District Council, who had already issued a warning letter to Dr Eskander advising her that she needed to obtain a Possession Order from the County Court if she wanted to evict her tenant.
Shortly before the eviction, the Private Sector Housing team had served an Improvement Notice on Dr Eskander to repair a defective gas boiler and provide a Gas Safety Certificate. No certificate was provided, and the boiler was eventually renewed after the tenant had been evicted.
The matter was brought before Magistrates in 2021 when Dr Eskander elected to have the case heard in the Crown Court. Dr Eskander was convicted with a unanimous jury verdict under Section 1 Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
Jan Matecki, Portfolio Holder for Housing Services said:
“This case demonstrates that the Council will not tolerate landlords who evict tenants without following the legal process of serving notice and applying for a Possession Order.
“This eviction took place in the Covid pandemic when the Government had introduced a ban on evictions taking place. The fact that this action was taken by an NHS doctor makes this case particularly shocking.
“When letting, landlords cannot keep a locked bedroom for themselves, live elsewhere and then claim to be ‘sharing accommodation with their lodger.’ I hope this case sends out a strong message to landlords who may be tempted to do the same.
“It is reassuring to see that the tenant who was the victim of this offence has been awarded £3600 in compensation for the loss of deposit as well as the stress and disruption caused following the eviction.”