Belfast Telegraph

Derry landlord hit by £750 fine for forcing family out of house

By George Jackson

A landlord who forced a family to leave their rented accommodation has been fined £750 at Londonderry Magistrates Court.

John McCartney, from Belt Road in Derry, pleaded guilty to causing the tenant to leave his property at Old School House in Main Street, Eglinton, following a series of calculated acts, contrary to the Rent Northern Ireland Order 1978.

The prosecuting body in the case was Derry City and Strabane District Council.

A solicitor for the council told District Judge Barney McElholm that on July 29, 2016, the defendant, who claimed he was owed rent arrears, entered the property without the permission of the tenant.

He proceeded to remove the external doors and disconnect the water and electricity supplies.

McCartney was accompanied by a group of eight men at the time.

After the defendant and the eight men left the house, the tenant then put plastic sheets over the external doors and stayed in the property on his own over the weekend.

He contacted the council and officers attended the property.

After they inspected the premises they made several attempts to contact the defendant.

One week later the defendant returned to the property, again without the permission of the tenant, and removed the plastic sheets from the external doorways and also stripped the house of its electricity cables.

The council solicitor told the court sitting in Omagh that the defendant failed to respond to several requests to be interviewed about the allegations.

Defence barrister Stephen Mooney said the defendant, who had initially denied the allegations, now admitted carrying out what Mr Mooney called his egregious behaviour towards his tenant.

He said no financial loss was incurred by the injured party nor by his wife, but he accepted that they had suffered distress because of the actions of the defendant.

"He now accepts he did a number of things wrong," Mr Mooney said.

Mr Mooney said the tenant had been renting the property since 2014 and had experienced financial difficulties as a result of which he fell behind in his rental payments to a total of almost £3,500.

"Correspondence had been sent about the outstanding rental arrears for some time and there was little if any response," Mr Mooney said.

"The red mist then descended on the defendant who for some reason did what he did.

"He has no previous convictions, there are no other matters pending in relation to him being a landlord and he now accepts his behaviour was totally improper."

The District Judge said while the maximum sentence in the case was a fine of up to £1,000 and or a six-month jail sentence, he took into consideration the defendant's previously clear record and fined him £750.

He also ordered the defendant to pay court and legal costs totalling £120.

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