Suspected ‘Revenge Eviction’ at Property Owned by Tory Councillor

A tenant was kicked out after complaining about bad water pressure.

by Andrew Kersley

24 June 2024

a woman stands holding a sign saying 'honk if your rent is too high'
A protester holds a placard outside an estate agent in Brent, December 2022. Credit: Jess Hurd/London Renters Union

A Tory councillor is believed to be the landlord of a tenant who faces being kicked out of his home of six years in an alleged revenge eviction, Novara Media can reveal.

The plumbing in Tom Cliffe’s rented home in Ealing, west London, had been failing for months. “We were getting really bad water pressure,” he explains. “Often the shower was just dripping.”

In the end it took 18 months of constant complaints from Tom and failing water pressure before the landlord’s agents fixed the problem. 

Just days after the fix was finished in June 2023 however, Tom says he was handed an eviction notice by Built Asset Management (BAM), the company managing the house on behalf of the landlord.

He was the only person in the five bedroom house of multiple occupancy (HMO) who was trying to get the water pressure fixed, and he was the only one to get an eviction notice.

“I tried to ask what the reasons were but they said because it’s a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction they don’t have to tell me. They just refused point blank to explain or engage,” he said.

“I always paid my rent on time, including when the rent had gone up drastically, and always took great care to look after the property. It’s so blindingly obvious it’s a revenge eviction.”

The idea of leaving the shared house he had spent the last six and a half years turning into a home was a source of “immense anxiety and stress”, so Tom spent the next few months fighting the eviction in court, even as the cost of a lawyer was a huge burden.

But the moment they reached court, Built Asset Management discontinued its eviction and then re-filed a new eviction notice, meaning he would have to start the legal fight all over again.

Unable to keep affording the time and money to fight this new notice in court, Tom said he will now have to leave the property.

Built Asset Management is run by Alex Gibbs and former rugby player Jordi Pasqualin and manages a portfolio of thousands of properties across London.

The company specialises in homes with multiple occupants, where it rents out each room individually, what the firm likes to call on its website “co-living”. 

In a speech to the HMO Awards conference in 2022 – an award show and networking event for HMO landlords – Pasqualin complained about “arsehole” tenants being one of the main challenges the company has faced in the sector. 

He told the audience of landlords and managing agents: “When I first started out I had no idea how unreasonable people could be.”

“No matter how much logic and reason you apply to some people you can’t get through to them,” he added.

Because Build Asset Management managed Tom’s house on behalf of the owner, Tom never knew who the ultimate landlord was. 

But after the eviction notice he found the deed for the property on the government land registry and discovered that the owner was Victor Henry Lewanski. 

Victor Henry Lewanski is the name of a Tory councillor and the deputy leader of Reigate and Banstead Borough Council in Surrey.

In the councillor’s register of interests, Lewanski writes, “I rent out two houses in the London Borough of Ealing for which I receive income.” He is retired as an accountant.

Lewanski did not reply to multiple emails or calls from Novara Media asking for comment on the situation, while Reigate and Banstead borough council told Novara Media it was “not in a position to comment on the personal matters of elected councillors”.

After an exhaustive search on Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, birth records, historical electoral registers and Companies House, Novara Media was not able to identify anyone else with that same name anywhere else in the UK.

Build Asset Management, said that it, rather than the ultimate landlord, issued the section 21 that led to Tom’s eviction as the main operator of the building. A spokesperson said: “The landlord of the property in question had no influence over Build Asset Management’s decision to issue the notice. As such, there is no connection between Build Asset Management’s decision and a landlord’s political affiliation.”

Built Asset Management said it couldn’t comment specifically on the story because of data protection laws, but a spokesperson insisted the company “does not and would not engage in retaliatory evictions, and never has”.

The government vowed to outlaw “no fault” evictions for over five years, but the proposals were watered down after extensive lobbying by landlords, including multiple Tory MPs, and then failed to progress before the election.

The Conservative party manifesto pledges to “deliver the court reforms necessary to fully abolish Section 21 and strengthen other grounds for landlords to evict private tenants guilty of anti-social behaviour.” 

And amid the delay and alterations, data suggested the number of no-fault eviction notices served in England increased by almost a third (28%) in 2023, the highest rate since 2016.

The impact of those evictions can be huge.

“It’s constantly draining. It constantly feels like you’re up against it. You’re fighting something that feels so unjust and wrong,” Tom told Novara Media.

“I’ve been in this shared house for six and a half years. I’ve already made a home here and I’m being forced out, and I don’t know if I move into a different house if I can try and recreate that home.”

Andrew Kersley is a journalist.

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