Telford Landlord fined after sending threatening and abusive messages to tenants.
Delbag Singh Fagura, (49) owned a house in Dudmaston, Hollinswood which had been divided into six studio apartments. Two of his tenants at this address in 2015 were Nicholas Stokes and Emma Stokes (no relation).
In a long running case involving a number of appearances, Shrewsbury Crown Court heard that Mr. Fagura sent the two tenants a string of threatening and abusive text messages.
Mr. Fagura initially denied the offences, until in September 2018 he pleaded guilty to two counts of harassing the tenants. He later wanted to change his pleas to not guilty, the application for which was rejected by Judge Anthony Lowe at a further hearing last month. The Judge said Mr Fagura “has done his best to manipulate the system in the hope that the local authority would not pursue the matter and sought to achieve that end by bombarding the local authority and the court with pages of documents and various legal submissions in an attempt to stop the case before it reached a jury.” The case was adjourned for sentencing on 1 April 2019.
During today’s sentencing hearing, witness impact statements of tenants Nicholas Stokes and Emma Stokes were considered by the Judge. Both said that they were driven out of their homes.
In his statement, Nicholas Stokes said: “I started to get text messages from the landlord saying I would have to leave my home. I was getting loads of messages a day … The messages started to accuse me of being untrustworthy, a liar and a drunk, other messages said he would be coming into my studio to disconnect the toilet and remove the kitchen at any time. He then started to threaten me with the police and bailiffs. He made a false report to the police that I had assaulted him they investigated this and dismissed the claim, he bombarded me with messages about fabricated rent arrears but when he took me to court for the arrears the claim was struck out by the judge who said the arrears weren’t due. Delbag also said I would have a criminal record and would be sent to prison. After 4 months of not feeling safe in my own home I decided that the pressure was unbearable so I moved out.”
In her witness impact statement, Emma Stokes described how Mr. Fagura told his son not to allow an environmental health officer from Telford & Wrekin Council in to inspect the property. Emma said: “I was totally shocked I didn’t know what to think, this had been my home for the last 5 months and I was being threatened with eviction. I got a continual stream of threatening text messages. I hope the sentence given to Delbag Singh Fagura gives a message to all bad landlords out there to stop treating tenants so appallingly.”
Sentencing Mr. Fagura today, Judge Anthony Lowe said he was imposing a financial penalty as the offence was “commercially motivated: all about money.”
Mr. Fagura was fined £9,500 and ordered to pay £17,500 in costs and £1,000 compensation each to Nicholas Stokes and Emma Stokes who were effectively evicted from their homes.
The judge said that the effect of eviction, “could be profound”, that “Buying and letting for commercial reasons carries responsibility. People are not commodities. They derive security and stability from their home even if it is only one bedroom in a house in multiple occupation.
His Honour added: “Ask anyone who’s homeless about the huge importance of having a home to go to.”
Felicity Mercer, Assistant Director: Commercial Services at Telford & Wrekin Council, said: “This was a very difficult case, dealing with a very difficult landlord. Our Tenancy Relations team work hard to help tenants who are treated badly by their landlords and bring justice for them, but this can only be done with the help of tenants themselves.
“It is thanks to the tenacity of Nick and Emma who provided evidence and statements and who stuck with it for more than three years to see it through to the end.
“This is not just a victory for Telford & Wrekin’s Tenancy Relations Team but for tenants everywhere and should act as a warning to any landlords or letting agents.
“Tenants who are being harassed or illegally evicted can call the Tenancy Relations Team on 01952 381875/381877 or visit https://thf.telford.gov.uk/Home/Tenants