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Rogue landlord sentenced for harassing his lodger

Rogue landlord sentenced for harassing his lodger

Council unit brings successful prosecution.

21 September 2021

A Bristol landlord has been handed a 12 month Community Order, including an eight-week tagged curfew, after harassing his lodger in a case brought by the city’s Rogue Landlord Unit.

Rowan Giles, of Willada Close, was also ordered to complete 15 days of rehabilitation work by Bristol Magistrates’ Court after admitting to interfering with the peace and comfort of one of his lodgers. Giles aggressively demanded they leave the property without reasonable notice during the second national COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in England last year.

The victim, an international student in Bristol, had found the spare bedroom in Mr Giles’ house advertised online, and moved into the property after travelling from abroad in October 2020.

After weeks of living peacefully with one another, Mr Giles’ behaviour took a turn for the worse and in November 2020 he aggressively demanded that the victim leave the property with no notice, leaving her homeless when access to hostels, hotels, and other means of private accommodation was limited. 

Following a complaint from the victim, Bristol City Council’s Rogue Landlord Unit opened an investigation into the harassment and brought a prosecution against Giles under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. He pleaded guilty to the offence at Bristol Magistrates Court on 23 August. 

Prosecuting for the council, Kate Burnham-Davies, said:

“It is the council's strong position that this was entirely unreasonable and that the defendant's actions amounted to harassment – designed to force the complainant to give up her occupation of the premises.

“This was entirely inappropriate in the circumstances nationally [COVID pandemic lockdown] especially as this was an international student who would not be entitled to housing support or allocation from the council. They were, essentially, at the mercy of friends until a solution could be found, thus making the so-called 'notice period’ all the more unreasonable and the defendant's actions all the more inappropriate and interfering." 

A statement provided by the victim and read aloud in court, said:

“It was very sad to feel so alone. It was my first time living outside my home country, and the first time travelling to another continent, only to be treated like this.’’

It also revealed they had to seek professional help for their impact the incident had on their mental health.

Due to the seriousness of the offence, and other factors, the court imposed the Community Order and further sanctions, with the eight-week tagged curfew including the use of an ankle monitor. He is not able to leave his home between the hours of 7pm-7am – starting immediately – and was also ordered to pay the council’s costs of £1,000, and a victim surcharge of £95. 

Sentencing, presiding justice Joanna Mellors said:

“This case doesn’t reach the threshold for a custodial sentence, but it is a very serious offence. We hope it was difficult for [the defendant] to hear the victim’s statement as this had a real impact on them and their health.’’ 

The court also ordered Giles to pay back the victim £750 in compensation, made up of the excess rent that was paid in advance by the victim, and further compensation for hotel expenses and emotional distress.

Cllr Tom Renhard, Bristol City Council Cabinet Member for Homes and Housing Delivery, said:

"This significant outcome highlights our message to all residential landlords in Bristol - that renters do have rights, and our officers will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action where those rights are interfered with. We thank the bravery of the lodger for coming forward and supporting our investigation, and to our Tenancy Relations Officer who led the investigation."

Illegal eviction and harassment of tenants and lodgers are serious criminal offences that carry an unlimited financial fine, and up to two years in prison.

If you are the victim of an illegal eviction or harassment, report it at: www.bristol.gov.uk/housing/harassment-and-unlawful-eviction

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