COUNCIL officers who took action against a negligent private landlord who axed a long-held tenancy agreement via text message - which resulted in a government probe taking place due to a counter claim against the local authority’s handling of the case - have been found not guilty of any wrongdoing by an inspector.

The unnamed tenant - said to have lived in the property for ‘some years’ - attended a pop-up stall organised by the council’s housing and environment team with issues.

He alleged the landlord - who is referred to as ‘Mr X’ in a report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) - issued a so-called Section 21 ‘retaliation eviction’ in February 2023 as a result of his complaints to the council over damp, faulty smoke alarms, cracks and loose steps.

Councils have duties to address risks to the health and safety of occupants or visitors to residential properties in its area, including private rented properties, and subsequently contacted the landlord.

An informal inspection took place - which corroborated the tenant’s complaints - before the council issued the landlord with a ‘put-right’ notice.

However, the tenant was then told via a text message to vacate, before the council and landlord escalated the matter with the LGSCO when the local authority claimed he had ‘made derogatory comments about one housing officer and threats in his communication’.

The report said: “Mr X complained about the council’s actions in response to a report of disrepair at one of his rental properties, and to his complaint about this.

“The council’s inspection identified a number of hazards and it served Mr X with an improvement notice.

“This detailed the category one hazard as falling on stairs due to a lack of handrails or suitable handrails or lack of required guarding to the property’s front steps, staircases, balustrade and rear staircase.

“It also detailed the remedial work required and the dates by which this should be started and completed.

“Mr X complained to the council about its officer’s contact with him about the issues with the property, saying the officer had harassed him and phoned out of the blue asking for personal information he was not comfortable giving without being told what the call was about.”

A cease and desist letter was therefore sent by the council to Mr X relating to his ‘offensive’ behaviour, which meant all further communication must go through the local authority’s legal team.

The report added: “We do not consider the council was at fault in the action it took in response to the concerns about possible disrepair at the property and the hazards identified following its inspection.

“Therefore, we have not found fault with the council’s actions.”

The investigation comes after landlords across Barnsley evicted more than a dozen tenants from their home in a year through Section 21 notices.

The government first vowed to end Section 21 evictions - where a tenant can be evicted without a reason - in 2019.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: “Renters are still being marched out of their homes in their thousands, while vested interests in Parliament manoeuvre to weaken urgently needed reforms.

“There cannot be any loopholes to banning no-fault evictions and it must not be tied to unspecified court reforms.”