The "very unusual" case of a tenant, his pets and over £10,000 worth of damage
7:30am Sat Jan 23, 2016
Martin Starsmore, 28, of Walker Close in Newark, admitted fraudulently signing a tenancy agreement saying he would not have pets at the property, even though he intended to.
More than £10,000-worth of damage — said to have been caused by pets a tenant should not have had — was discovered at a rental property.
In what was described as an unusual case, Nottingham Magistrates’ Court heard that the tenant, Martin Starsmore, 28, admitted fraudulently signing a tenancy agreement saying he would not have pets at the property in Newark, even though he intended to.
When he and his wife moved in, it was also with a border collie and three cats.
The court heard that Starsmore, now of Walker Close, Newark, got the border collie as security against a former partner who was jailed for physically abusing him.
The prosecutor, Mr Lee Shepherd, said: “This is quite a strange set of events.
“Mr Starsmore secured a tenancy agreement on a property on Hawton Lane through Richard Watkinson (estate agency) advertised for occupancy without pets.
“He’s signed the lease and moved in a dog and three cats.
“£12,000 of damage is discovered when the property is vacated.”
Mr Shepherd said the agent was not often allowed into the property during the tenancy and that excuses included Starsmore and his wife being away on honeymoon.
Mr Shepherd said it was clear the animals had been allowed to “roam at their will.”
A neighbour had reported a bad smell coming from the property to the agent.
An inspection after the property was vacated revealed dog urine and excrement inside and “damage throughout.”
Mr Shepherd listed the damage, which included damage to UPVC window boards and the cooker.
The carpets had to be replaced at a cost of £1,012.
Building work costs were £4,000 and included replacing floorboards.
He said Starsmore had forfeited the £795 bond — one month’s rental on the unfurnished property.
Mr Shepherd said the unusual circumstances were compounded by indecision over what exactly Starsmore should be charged with.
Criminal damage was ruled out because it was alleged the pets were at fault, and they couldn’t be tried.
Mr Graham Heathcote, defending, said: “He (Starsmore) was the victim of very serious violence from his previous partner. She was jailed.
“His mental and physical health suffered and he has lasting physical injuries.
“He got the dog as a measure of security for fear his ex-partner would come back.
“He is agoraphobic among other things, so the dog was not walked.
“The dog was confined to the lower part of the dwelling.”
Mr Heathcote said Starsmore, who claims Disability Living Allowance, and his wife now lived with her parents.
“He knew he was making a false claim but didn’t know that it would cause financial loss to the landlord,” Mr Heathcote said.
“It’s something of a sentencing conundrum.”
Starsmore was told by the bench that it was “a very unusual case” and they weren’t convinced all of the damage could be attributed to the animals, and it was on that basis that the case had been brought.
Starsmore was ordered to pay £1,000 in compensation to Richard Watkinson and Partners estate agents to cover the cost of new carpets. There was no order for costs.
The case against Starsmore’s wife, who was jointly charged with fraud by false representation, was withdrawn.