Published on 12th May 2023

A wooden gavel on top of a document

Cheltenham Borough Council has successfully prosecuted a rogue landlord for the second time for illegally evicting a tenant from their accommodation in Cheltenham.

The prosecution for offences relating to the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 was brought by the Private Sector Housing Team at Cheltenham Borough Council with the assistance of the Counter Fraud and Enforcement Unit.

The landlord - Lidia Szopinska, a London resident - let a room in a house she owns in Cheltenham to a tenant in January 2022 for a period of 3 months. However after the terms were agreed they were changed, regarding when the tenant could and couldn’t stay, and what was included in the rent.

A dispute occurred between the tenant and Ms Szopinska, which resulted in the tenant having to leave the property. Ms Szopinska changed the door code and the tenant was unable to access his room for the remainder of the agreement. The tenant only stayed at the property for two weeks instead of the agreed three month period. Ms Szopinska also failed to return the deposit or provide a refund for the time the tenant was not at the property.

It is a criminal offence under s1(2) of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 when a person unlawfully deprives or attempts to deprive a residential occupier of any premises of his occupation of those premises without reasonable cause to believe that the occupier had ceased to reside at the premises.

Cllr Martin Horwood, council member for customer and regulatory services, said: “We are committed to ensuring that all private landlords operate on a level playing field and officers will support those who operate professionally, while taking enforcement action against rogue landlords."

Mark Nelson, enforcement manager at Cheltenham Borough Council, said: "When relationships break down between tenants and landlords there are strict legal processes that have to be followed and council officers are here to help both sides move forward.

"No landlord can act outside the law and we will do everything in our power to ensure tenants can live in rented properties safe in the knowledge that we are there to protect them from illegal eviction."

Ms Szopinska appeared at Cheltenham Magistrates Court on 10 May 2023 and received a fine of £210, a victim surcharge of £84 and was also ordered to pay prosecution costs and compensation totalling £7,540.60.

Members of the public can contact the council with any concerns about illegal evictions or tenancy issues by email [email protected] or the Counter Fraud and Enforcement Unit by email at [email protected].

For media enquiries contact [email protected] 01242 264 231.

Ms Szopinska had previously been found guilty of unlawfully depriving the couple of their occupation of the premises at a trial at Cheltenham Magistrates Court on the 22 March 2023.

The prosecution was undertaken by One Legal Services Legal Team (One Legal is a legal service shared by Cheltenham Borough Council, Gloucester City Council, Stroud District Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council.) working with the Housing Standards Team and the Counter Fraud and Enforcement Unit (CFEU).