This post first appeared on Derby Telegraph. Read the original article.
A dishonest tenant left a family homeless on Christmas Eve when he tricked them out of £700 for a room that never became vacant.
Atiq Rehman assured them they could move into the property and so they handed in their notice and made plans for the switch.
They came up with £350 deposit and an identical amount for the first month's rent, only to be told the current tenant would not be moving out until New Year's Eve, said David Miles, prosecuting.
But they found it difficult to contact Rehman, 45, now of Douglas Street, Derby. However, later he said the man would be moving out "in a week or two." By this time, the pair had lost their tenancy in Birmingham and had to take a room in a Nottingham hotel.
Mr Miles told Nottingham Magistrates' Court: "He started to make excuses and they became homeless, having to move into a local hotel."
At around that time, the man was deported to Pakistan, leaving his wife facing the housing problem alone. She later told police: "I lost £700 and this is a large amount I can't afford to lose. I believed I would be able to move in."
Eighty hours of community work were ordered from Rehman, who had been renting the Nottingham property at the time.
He pleaded guilty to fraud by dishonestly offering to let a flat while intending to make £700. He was put on probation for a year and must pay £150 prosecution costs and a government surcharge of £85.
Presiding magistrate Len Miller said: "Compensation is a no brainer. You will pay the £700.
"This was a very nasty offence, a despicable business, about as bad as it can get. This was a lot of money and what you did was very mean and that is being gracious to you.
Parminder Samrai, mitigating, told the court: "This has been playing on his mind for a while. He accepts this was a mean, unpleasant offence."
But Rehman's position had "changed hugely in the last few weeks" and he hopes shortly to set up a gardening business. Currently he is on state benefits of £70 per week.
Rehman told the court: "My circumstances were desperate. I would like to have the opportunity to pay them, God willing. I would like to offer them my sincere apologies."