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Rogue Carlisle landlords prosecuted for unsafe conditions

Two Carlisle-based rogue landlords have been fined more that £1,000 each following a successful prosecution by Carlisle City Council.

Following a series of unannounced visits to rented premises in November 2018, Carlisle City Council has successfully prosecuted Sait Colak (49) and Erkan Colak (43) – both of 41 Fernlea Way, Carlisle – for offences under the management of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) regulations.

The visits backed by warrants from the Magistrates Court were carried out in coordination with the Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, Cumbria Police and the Immigration, Control and Enforcement Service.

The offences related to poor management and unsafe conditions in the property. The landlords were fined £1,000 each on Wednesday 8 May 2019 by Carlisle Magistrates Court. In addition to the fine, £150 costs and £50 Victim Surcharge were also imposed.

Both Sait Colak and Erkan Colak pleaded guilty (by post) and neither attended the hearing.

Carlisle City Council spokesperson said: “The successful prosecution demonstrates the effectiveness of multi-agency working – a key feature of the Rogue Landlord Project funded by the Controlling Migration Fund. The project targets unlawful activity in the private rented sector with a focus on the Botchergate area and fast food premises.

“All Houses of Multiple Occupation should be properly managed; ensuring the safety and security of the tenants. In addition to this court prosecution, we are also now using the powers under the Housing and Planning Act 2016, to issue civil penalties against landlords. To date we have issued five civil penalties to landlords found to be operating without HMO licences.”

A House in Multiple Occupation is a privately rented property which is shared by more than two individuals and who share facilities such as a bathroom or kitchen. Any HMOs occupied by five or more individuals must be licensed. All HMOs must be managed to ensure the tenants are safe and secure.

 Source: Cumbria Crack
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Thousands of HMO landlords still operate without licences and provide poor living conditions

Many UK renters are living in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO), which, under current regulations, are properties rented out to three or more people forming at least two separate households, where tenants share basic amenities such as a kitchen or a bathroom. Any HMO that houses more than five people forming two or more separate households requires the landlord to apply for a licence to the local council, at an average cost of £600.

Students and the increasing number of people sharing flats with friends will be familiar with the common problems associated with living in an HMO. Most commonly, HMO landlords can be slow to make repairs, and the overall quality of the housing is more likely to be substandard.

Under current regulations, HMO landlords have to provide adequate fire escapes, gas and electrical safety, and minimum bedroom sizes; however, when it comes to the actual quality of the housing, there are no standards that can be enforced. In the worst cases, large-scale HMO housing has been found to contain damp and mould, kitchens in a state of disrepair, and vermin. These problems especially affect HMOs that have been converted from guest houses, as a 2015 BBC exposé demonstrated.

Moreover, thousands of landlords across the country are still avoiding licensing, putting their tenants at risk. In a landmark court case earlier this year, five Leeds flatmates took their landlord to court for failing to comply with licensing regulations, winning back all of their rent.

It may be that a more transparent and uniform landlord licensing scheme in which the money is reinvested into property maintenance could improve tenants’ living conditions – and increase landlord compliance.

‘Effective enforcement of rental sector standards is one of the biggest problems facing the lettings industry,’ says Neil Cobbold, chief operating officer of automated rental payment company PayProp.

‘Landlords might be happier to pay for these licences if they know the money is going to be used to raise PRS standards and identify rogue operators. Licensing schemes are sometimes criticised for being “revenue raisers” for local councils,’ adds Cobbold.

‘However, if authorities are more open about where the money is going and more focused on reinvesting it into housing, licensing schemes could be more effective with higher rates of compliance.’

Source: Real Homes

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Plans to turn Rhosddu property into HMO for up to eight people given go ahead on appeal

Plans to convert a terrace property in Rhosddu into a HMO have been allowed on appeal – despite being rejected unanimously by planning committee members.

The application for 33 Park Street proposed that the four bedroom property was turned into five-bedroom house in multiple occupation (HMO) for eight residents.

The plans had been recommended for approval by the head of environment and planning Lawrence Isted, who said he was satisfied that the development “would not result in an over concentration of HMOs in the immediate locality.”

But the plans were were turned down by councillors in January 2019 amid concerns over a lack of parking and amenity space for residents.

Objections had also been raised by several neighbours who fear that tenants would be ‘crammed in’ and may include substance abusers. The council’s highways department said it was also against the scheme because it did not include enough parking spaces.

However planning inspector Clive Nield has now overturned the council’s decision and approved the application on appeal.

In his report Mr Nield says that although there is a lack of parking along Park Street, the proposed HMO “would be in a suitable location for tenants who rely on walking, cycling and public transport”

Addressing concerns about a lack of amenity space, Mr Nield continues onto say: “The council’s Local Planning Guidance Note 5 (Houses in Multiple Occupation) says that HMOs should have a large enough private outdoor area to provide space for external drying areas, cycle parking and bin storage and to provide for the amenity of the future occupiers.

“It goes on to say that for an HMO accommodating 8 tenants it will normally seek a minimum private outdoor area of 32 m2.

“In this case, the space in the back yard of the appeal property is reported to be 27 m2. There is also a small area at the front of the property. However, that is not private space, as required.

“The limited amount of private amenity space available also falls well short of the level normally considered acceptable for a family dwelling and is a feature of this densely developed urban area.

“However, there are public open spaces only a few hundred metres away, and the yard is adequate for clothes drying and the storage of bicycles and bins.

“Whilst it does not fully meet the standard sought by the Council’s Guidance Note 5, I consider this shortcoming to be insufficient reason on its own to justify refusing the proposal.

“I conclude that the private outdoor amenity space provided would be adequate, despite its limited area.”

He also notes that whilst there have been concerns from residents about potential occupiers of the HMO and antisocial behaviour, the “licensing requirements for HMOs also provide an element of control, including a condition that the landlord is held accountable for antisocial behaviour.”

It is the second HMO in the Rhosddu to have been allowed on appeal in the past 12 months.

Grosvenor councillor Marc Jones, said: “This goes against the local planning committee‘s decision and ignores the concerns raised by myself and local residents.

“The inspector claims parking for 8 people would not be any worse than for a family. He also states that being close to public transport makes it less likely that people will need a car. What public transport?!

“He admits that the amenity space is below guidance levels for eight people but says it’s no big deal and it’s limited for a family anyway. There’s a big difference between eight individual people living under one roof and a family in terms of needing outdoor space.

“This is a poor decision by the Planning Inspectorate and confirms my view that local communities do not have enough say in planning matters.”

Source: Wrexham