Landlord fined £700 for payment harassment

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A LANDLORD who harassed his tenant by sending her daily text messages demanding rent has been ordered to pay nearly £700 in fines and legal costs.

Steven Loxley, aged 52, pleaded guilty to breaking tenancy laws after his actions forced tenant Amanda Muscroft out of the flat on Chesterfield Road, Meersbrook, Sheffield.

Paul Barber, prosecuting at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court, said: “The law regards taking someone’s home away as a very serious matter. It puts great store in a tenant being able to live in their home, free from interference, with their peace and comfort, free from harassment.”

He said problems first arose in December 2009 when Ms Muscroft, 43, lost her job as a cafe worker.

She applied for job seekers’ allowance and housing benefit, but there was a delay in the money arriving.

Brian Wrigley, defending, said Loxley, who rents out five properties, started sending regular text messages asking when the rent would be paid.

Mr Wrigley said: “None of these text messages contained any threats or obscene language. But I accept simply to keep sending texts, just about every day, is conduct which could be assessed as harassment.”

Council officers warned Loxley twice about his behaviour but Ms Muscroft continued to receive the messages including, in one text, a warning that a lodger would move in the very next day.

In April 2010 Ms Muscroft shifted her furniture out of the flat.

A council tenancy relations officer warned Loxley not to take any action until the tenancy had been formally surrendered, but he ignored the advice and changed the locks.

When Ms Muscroft returned three days later she could not get in.

District Judge Anthony Browne ordered Loxley, of Smithy Croft, Dronfield Woodhouse, to pay a £250 fine, a £15 victim surcharge and £425 legal costs.

He said: “You are an experienced landlord and you know what is right.

“Sending texts on a daily basis demanding rent would unsettle anyone.

“In the face of advice from the council, which was to do nothing, you took the thing back into your own control, which was unacceptable.”

Dave Hickling, the council’s tenancy relations co-ordinator, said outside court: “We want to send a message that we will not tolerate any landlord using any kind of bullying or threatening behaviour and we will be tough on those who do.”