A Brighton & Hove-based independent estate agency specialising in lettings was described as ‘abhorrent and vile’ as it was found guilty and fined a total of £60,000 for three offences under The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 in a prosecution by the council.
Mr Shadi Baja, Owner and Sole Director of SB Lets appeared at Lewes Crown Court for a sentencing hearing on Monday last week.
Baja represented his company, which had earlier pleaded guilty to three charges under the act. The fines were reduced to £20,000 for each offence following the guilty plea.
Each of the three victims of the harassment was awarded £8,000 in compensation to be paid out from the fines. Baja was also ordered to pay the council £9,000 in legal costs.
The prosecution has cost SB Lets a total of approximately £119,000.”
Including their own legal costs, the prosecution has cost SB Lets a total of approximately £119,000. Baja has been given 18 months to pay all the costs.
The council took action against SB Lets last year following complaints from tenants about harassment which included threats by email and phone for the occupier to move earlier than they needed; vexatious court proceedings against tenants and their guarantors; cutting off or reducing utility supplies; entering tenants’ homes and rooms without notice or permission and behaving in an intimidating manner.
The Judge HHJ Judge Mooney was scathing in his comments about the behaviour of SB Lets, calling it ‘abhorrent and vile’.
Baja will now be expected to step back from any day-to-day operations of the agency and put alternative management arrangements in place so that he no longer has direct contact with any tenants.
Councillor Gill Williams, Brighton & Hove City Council Chair of the Housing & New Homes Committee, says: “This is an appalling case of unacceptable behaviour towards tenants in their own homes.
“We are determined take action to protect our residents from such abhorrent harassment.
“We’re happy that the sentencing reflects the severity of the case. It sends out a strong message that we will not tolerate landlords and letting agents acting unlawfully.”
The Neg revealed earlier this month that agents and landlords in Brighton and Hove face more red tape after the city’s council revealed plans for extra licencing including for smaller Houses in Multiple Occupation and a Selective Licensing Scheme for all private rented homes in certain areas.