Illegally evicting tenant results in 3 month curfew and fine for Battersea landlord

Monday, March 20th, 2017 - Wandsworth Council

A rogue landlord who waged a campaign of harassment and intimidation against a young mother he wanted to illegally evict has been given a stiffer sentence after losing an appeal against his conviction.

Joel Zwiebel from Hackney and his property company Interpage Limited were first convicted of harassment and carrying out an illegal eviction in a case brought by Wandsworth Council at Wimbledon magistrates court in November.

Last month Mr Zwiebel and Interpage lost their bid to overturn the magistrates court conviction and sentencing when their appeals were thrown out by a judge at Kingston Crown Court.

And on Monday this week, the judge imposed a stiffer sentence against Mr Zwiebel and ordered both he and his company to pay thousands of pounds extra in court costs.

The prosecution was mounted by the council’s housing department after it emerged that Mr Zwiebel plus another man, Derrick Stuart, who was also convicted in November but did not take part in the appeal, had harassed a young woman and her son in a malicious bid to evict them.

The victims had lived at the rented flat in Queenstown Road, Battersea, for many years even though it suffered from damp, water leaks and serious disrepair.

And because Mr Zwiebel and his company refused to fix these problems the woman began withholding her rent, prompting him to begin eviction proceedings.

At this point the council intervened and negotiated a compromise agreement in which she would pay the rent she owed and he would carry out the necessary repairs.

However within days Mr Zweibel reneged on the deal. Instead of fixing the defects he sent Mr Stuart – who had previously been the subject of a BBC Rogue Traders investigation – to the property and he proceeded to switch off the gas and electricity supply even though it was the middle of winter.

A few days later the woman arrived back at the flat to find the locks had been changed and she could no longer get in to her home. It took her 18 months to eventually regain her possessions, most of which had by that stage either disappeared or been broken.

Wandsworth’s housing spokesman Cllr Paul Ellis said:

This was an utterly appalling display by these men. They waged a disgraceful and unforgivable campaign of harassment against this mother and her son.

To switch off their gas and electricity in the middle of winter showed a shocking lack of compassion so I am pleased the court has upheld these convictions and imposed a stiffer sentence against Mr Zwiebel and his company.

Let this case and its outcome serve as a salutary warning to other landlords thinking of following the same illegal path.

Last week Mr Zwiebel was ordered to wear an ankle tag and comply with an overnight curfew for three months between the hours of 9pm and 7am. He was also ordered to pay £4,000 in costs and £1,000 compensation to his victim.

Interpage Limited was fined £4,000 plus costs of £3,500 and £1,000 in compensation.

For his role in the eviction, Mr Stuart, from Newham, was fined £1,500, with £2,500 costs and ordered to pay a further £1,000 in compensation.

Last year the council’s private housing team, whose role is to ensure tenants in privately rented properties are treated fairly and not ripped off by landlords, or forced to live in substandard accommodation, responded to 728 service requests and served 171 legal notices to ensure these homes were maintained to a decent standard.

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