Rogue landlord faces tougher sentence over illegal eviction of young mother and son

Published: 24 February 2017

A rogue landlord who was found guilty late last year of waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation against a young mother he wanted to illegally evict, has lost his bid to overturn that conviction and sentence.

Joel Zwiebel from Hackney and his property company Interpage Limited had their appeals thrown out this week by a judge at Kingston Crown Court.

In November Mr Zwiebel and Interpage were jointly ordered to pay a total of £10,500 in fines and court costs and also told to pay their victim £2,000 as compensation for her ordeal after they were convicted at Wimbledon magistrates Court of two offences under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.     

Mr Zwiebel and Interpage will be re-sentenced next month by the crown court judge, who has the power to impose a more stringent sentence than was available to the magistrates at the original hearing.

The case was brought to court by Wandsworth 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 this week’s appeal – had harassed a young woman and her son in a malicious bid to evict them.   

The woman and her young child 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 she 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 almost immediately 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 her gas and electricity supply even though it was the middle of winter.

A few days later she 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: “I am absolutely delighted these appeals have been comprehensively dismissed. It has been a good day for justice and fairness.

“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. Now the judge will be able to impose a new sentence and I hope it will be a salutary one that serves as a warning to other landlords thinking of following the same illegal path.”

For his role in the eviction, Mr Stuart, from Newham, was fined £1,500, with £2,500 costs and also 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.

Anyone living in private rented accommodation in Wandsworth who needs their assistance can email privatehousing@wandsworth.gov.uk or find out more at www.wandsworth.gov.uk/privatehousing.