A DAD has been fined £900 for leaving his children’s toys in a communal garden outside his home.

Ben Keitch, aged 24, said he feels ‘victimised’ by West Mercia Homes, who took him to court last week over the dispute at Lingmell Court, Worcester.

The father-of-three said he is sleeping on a mattress on his living room floor and can only afford to pay the fine off at a rate of £3.70 per week.

But West Mercia Homes said Mr Keitch had breached his tenancy conditions and that it had taken court action as a last resort.

Mr Keitch said: “They said they [the toys] were a fire hazard.

“They started sending me the letters this summer saying all personal belongings must be removed from the communal gardens.

“I refused to do anything about it, I thought ‘this is a joke’.

“We had a kids’ table, chairs and a little wooden swing. I cleared the garden before I had to go to court.

“I phoned Nexus Housing [now West Mercia Homes] and said ‘I’ve got rid of all the rubbish, do I still have to come to court?’ They said yes.

“We are on benefits. I fell out of a tree a couple of years ago and ruined my back. I’m on Jobseeker’s Allowance, they just took me off Employment and Support Allowance. My girlfriend is a full-time mum. I don’t have the means to contest it [the fine].”

Mr Keitch added that he lives in a two-bedroom flat with his two sons, aged one and four, his daughter, two, and his girlfriend.

He said his son and daughter each have their own bedroom, which means he sleeps on a mattress in the living room with his partner and his youngest son.

“I don’t think it’s healthy the way we are living,” he said.

“We have got no choice. Now we have got this £900 debt I don’t think they will let me move.”

Mr Keitch said he received the fine at Worcester County Court on Monday, January 8, and is slowing paying it off with small weekly instalments.

"That’s all I can afford,” he said.

He first moved into the terraced property in 2013 and said the problems started after he put up a 3ft picket fence in the garden around two years ago.

Mr Keitch fitted the fence in response to neighbours moving in with dogs.

He then started to leave his children’s toys on the ground, including a few toy vehicles and a roll-up swimming pool, although he said he always brought them in at night.

Now that he has removed the toys and fencing, Mr Keitch refuses to let his children use the garden.

He said: “They stand at the back window now saying ‘can we go outside today’, I say no. There’s so much dog mess outside.”

A spokesman for West Mercia Homes said: “As a social landlord we have a responsibility to our customers to ensure our communal areas are safe and we see court action as a last resort.

“We had been working with Mr Keitch to resolve this issue, which was a breach of his tenancy conditions, since July 2016 and only began legal action in November 2017.

“Throughout this process we kept Mr Keitch informed of the steps we were taking and that we would seek to recover our costs which the court set at £900. We are pleased to say that we have agreed an affordable repayment plan with Mr Keitch to reduce the financial burden on his family.”

Have you had a similar problem? Email md@worcesternews.co.uk