A jury has ruled that a lettings agency has been guilty of illegally evicting tenants in Margate - with locks changed, toilets smashed, flooring removed, electricity sabotaged and masked men ordering tenants to leave.
Sohila Tamiz, of Flint Lane, Lenham, was found guilty on five counts of conspiring to unlawfully evict a tenant, eight counts of conspiring to, or interfering with, the peace or comfort of a residential occupier, and one count of conspiring to burgle.
Pedram Tamiz, of Flint Lane, Lenham, was found guilty of two counts of conspiring to unlawfully evict a tenant, and five counts of conspiring to, or interfering with, the peace or comfort of a residential occupier.
Adam McChesney, of Gloucester Avenue, Margate, was found guilty of two counts of conspiring to unlawfully evict a tenant, and three counts of conspiring to interfere with the peace or comfort of a residential occupier.
Kasem El Darrat, Athelstan Road, Margate, was found guilty of one count of conspiring to unlawfully evict a tenant, and one count of conspiring to interfere with the peace or comfort of a residential occupier.
Council officers began investigating after a series of allegations came to light, involving criminal activity in relation to the management of a building containing 26 flats in Athelstan Road, Margate.
Lawful tenants were routinely threatened and evicted without notice; locks were changed and some tenants’ belongings were removed or thrown onto the street. In one case, a tenant was doused in petrol and punched causing the loss of several teeth. The allegations shared with council officers were the most harrowing heard in any investigation relating to tenancy management.
The unlawful actions of the defendants resulted in the council incurring significant costs in rehousing those tenants who had been systematically thrown out of their properties using violence or threats of violence.
Legal proceedings against Sohila Tamiz began in relation to a single incident of unlawful eviction.
Following Tamiz’s election of a trial in the Crown Court, the council instructed Michael Polak, a barrister specialising in unlawful evictions, and junior barrister, Llewellyn Culver-Evans, to review the case and prepare it for trial. Further investigations revealed evidence of other unlawful evictions and harassment against vulnerable tenants. Additional charges were added to the indictment, as were three more defendants: Sohila’s son Pedram, and Adam McChesney and Kasem Al Darratt who worked for the Tamiz’s as an enforcer and agent respectively.
The case was presented to the jury over four weeks following which the jury returned unanimous verdicts on 28 counts on the indictment.
A Thanet council spokeswoman says: “This is a landmark prosecution for us, and underpins our key priority of ensuring the ongoing safety of all of our residents. We hope that this outcome sends out the serious message to other landlords in the district and further afield that criminal activity, or any intimidatory or threatening behaviour towards tenants, will not be tolerated, but will instead be routinely prosecuted.”
The council will now begin the process of gathering victim impact statements ahead of sentencing, which is due to take place on October 10.
The council believes this case to be the largest ever prosecution of its type for offences under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
Some of the harrowing accounts from victim tenants have been reported on the Kent Online news website here.