A landlord battling to get his flat back from Brighton and Hove City Council was stunned when he was barred from going inside.
Music teacher Neil Morris rented the flat to the council for seven years under a contract that ran out in November.
He gave the council four months’ notice to find another place for the tenants who were living there because he needed the flat for his daughter and son-in-law.
After weeks of frustration, with council officers failing to respond to emails, Mr Morris asked Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove, to take up the case.
Almost a month after the end of a four-month notice period, a month longer than required, and the occupants having moved, Mr Morris was shocked to receive an email from a council officer “forbidding” entry to his property.
He was shocked by the comment after being told that council housing officers told the tenant that it would “take months” for Mr Morris to go through the courts to take possession.
Mr Morris said: “I was astounded he had the temerity to quote terms of a lease to me which they wilfully ignored to remain in the flat illegally.
“No sign of the formal apology that was promised or some haste on their part after all these months.
“The point is, some sense of urgency would have been appreciated, some apology for the delay, some acknowledgement of how we’ve already been waiting long enough for my daughter and husband to set up a home there.
“Instead … they quote the lapsed lease they themselves violated, with not a hint of humility or sense of irony.”
The flat was handed over after a 3pm meeting on Monday (14 December). However, Mr Morris and his wife Patricia were shocked that it was not returned in a professionally cleaned state as it was when originally let.
The council said: “The occupier was recently moved into a new property to facilitate the handback of Mr Morris’s flat.
“This move was originally arranged to meet the end date requested by Mr Morris. Unfortunately, this was delayed due to repair issues being impacted by the covid-19 lockdown.
“We are pleased that the new property is now ready for occupation and Mr Morris’s property can be returned.
“Although we understand Mr Morris was keen to gain access to the property and approached the sub-tenant directly, the council recommended the tenancy was ended formally, which would include a joint end of tenancy condition survey to ensure any damages (less fair wear and tear) were accounted for.
“We will be in contact with Mr Morris this week to conclude matters and will apologise for the delay in the return of his property.”
Mr Morris understands that his MP had planned to meet council chief executive Geoff Raw to raise the issue.
Mr Kyle’s director of operations, Chris Henry, who also represents Westbourne ward on the council, said that he would expect an apology, even if there was a delay due to covid.
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