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Landlord Company Fined For State Of Rental Property

A landlord company based in Ripley has been fined £6,000 and ordered to pay costs as a result of the poor state of a rental property in Kirkby that is owned by the company.

In a visit to the Kirkby rental property, deemed an HMO (house of multiple occupation) by Mansfield District Council officers on April 1st, they found ‘inadequate’ fire doors that were blocked, an ‘unfinished’ wall in a ground floor bedroom, an electricity meter in a bedroom, and damaged windows that wouldn’t close properly.

In a hearing at Mansfield Magistrates Court on October 23rd, John Cotton admitted the three breaches of regulations, on behalf of his landlord company, JP Cotton, which is registered to Devonshire Avenue, Ripley.

Helen Lees, speaking on behalf of the landlord company, said it was ‘a difficult situation with difficult tenants and it was very difficult to turn a profit’.

Confirming that it was not a large corporate landlord company, she said: ‘This is a company which accepts its standards have slipped. It has operated with one property for a long time. Mr Cotton, or the landlord company, would like to sell it.’

The court also heard that the property is now being rented to a single family and is no longer a house of multiple occupation (HMO), and therefore no longer subject to the same strict regulations.

However, district judge at Mansfield Magistrates Court, Jonathan Taaffe said: ‘This landlord company has a responsibility under its statutory obligations.

‘It’s clear, notwithstanding the difficulties of the types of tenants who were in this property, these obligations weren’t met.’

The landlord company, JP Cotton Ltd, was fined £6,000 for the three breaches of regulations, and t was also ordered to pay £2,235 in costs and a £171 government surcharge, which must be paid by April 2020.

Source: Residential Landlord

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Agent is fined £80,000 over HMO failures discovered after blaze in attic

A letting agent has been fined £80,000 for HMO failures after a fire at one of the properties.

Orange Living, trading as Loc8me, had failed to license four HMOs, an investigation by council officials in Leicestershire revealed.

The investigation by Charnwood Borough Council was triggered by a fire in the attic of one of the homes managed by Loc8me in Loughborough.

All four properties were shared and had three storeys.

At Leicester Magistrates Court, the firm admitted four offences and was fined £20,000 for each. It was also ordered to pay costs of £3,690.

The attic blaze was attended by firefighters who found that the smoke detector had batteries missing, and that there were insufficient fire doors.

One of the occupants said they had emailed Loc8me’s maintenance team twice before the fire with concerns, but no one came.

There were no phone numbers for Loc8me displayed in the property, with tenants having to rely on email or a WhatsApp group.

Applications for HMO licences had been received by the local council, but had information missing, and so the properties went unlicensed.

Raffaele Russo, one of the directors of Orange Living Ltd, was interviewed by council officers and he confirmed that none of the four properties had a licence.

He stated that the lack of HMO licensing was a clerical error.

Russo said the fire alarms had been tested on a number of occasions.

With regard to failure to provide name, address and telephone number in a prominent position in the HMO, Russo did not know whether emergency contact details were displayed in the property. He said that tenants used a WhatsApp group.

During the court hearing, Russo accepted that there should have been mains-connected smoke alarms on an interconnected circuit and fire doors where needed.

After the hearing, Cllr Margaret Smidowicz, the council’s lead member for licensing, said it was a significant sentence and that she was pleased the courts had taken the matter seriously.

She said: “Licensing is there to ensure living and safety standards are met, and we will not hesitate to take action and use the full force of the law to make sure those standards are being met.”

By ROSALIND RENSHAW

Source: Property Industry Eye

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Landlord of dangerous HMO where foreign tenants spoke little English hit with huge fine

A landlord has been found guilty and fined £40,000 for letting out a dangerous and unlicensed House in Multiple Occupation.

It is the second largest fine levied against a landlord obtained by City of Lincoln Council.

Julie Churchill’s property was deemed dangerous by the magistrates for failing to comply with a number of safety breaches under the Housing Act 2004.

It had no fire doors to the bedrooms, ground floor lounge or kitchen, no working fire alarms on the ground floor, and one of the bedroom doors had a large gap to the top which would allow smoke to pass in the event of a fire.

Three of the bedroom doors could be locked by a padlock which if in use would not allow for a quick exit.

The court heard that if a fire had erupted in this building, these inadequate fire warning systems and lack of fire containment measures would have put the tenants at extreme risk.

The stairs were painted gloss black and had no slip resistance in the event of a tenant falling, and the kitchen did not have adequatefacilities for the seven tenants living in the property. One of the occupied bedrooms was below the legal minimum size for an adult.

It was heard in court that the repair of these defects would have cost Churchill as little as £6,000.

When the four-bedroom property was inspected by police and housing officers under a magistrates’ court warrant in January, the occupants were found to be seven unrelated eastern European and sub-Saharan immigrants in four bedrooms.

The tenants spoke little English and were unaware of their rights, receiving no tenancy agreement, rent book or rent receipt during their tenancy. Only two of the seven tenants knew what the landlord’s name was.

It was discovered that Churchill was taking up to £1,480 per month in rent, which at that rate would give her an income of approximately £35,520 over the two years she had owned the property.

Cllr Donald Nannestad, portfolio holder for quality housing at City of Lincoln Council, said: “We’re extremely pleased to bring another case to justice as part of our ongoing battle to crack down on rogue landlords.”

By ROSALIND RENSHAW

Source: Property Industry Eye

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HMO landlord in Birmingham hit with £2,000 penalty

A landlord has been hit with a £2,000 penalty for fire safety breaches at a two-storey property housing nine people in a landmark case for Birmingham City Council.

Officers visited the house in multiple occupation (HMO) in Small Heath in November and found there to be no interlinked fire alarm, fire doors or fire blanket, and a lack of fire separation in the building.

The council stated the landlord co-operated with the investigation and swiftly completed the necessary work to a high standard meaning the penalty was reduced to £2,000 after it was originally set at a higher a figure.

The property owner is the first to be punished under new civil penalty regulations in Birmingham after the council updated its policy earlier this year.

The move gave them powers to issue penalties of up to £30,000 for offences such as overcrowding and failure to comply with management regulations.

The council said it was not allowed to provide the exact address of the Small Heath HMO or name the landlord saying the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had issued ‘strict guidance’on what information could be released.

A spokeswoman added: “The ultimate goal of civil penalties and our BCC policy is to prevent any further offending but to also help ensure that the landlord fully complies with all of their legal responsibilities in the future.”

Now, all rented buildings occupied by five or more people from two or more households require a HMO licence from the council.

A law change in October saw a three-storey threshold scrapped.

There are around 1,900 licensed HMOs in Birmingham but the council estimates there are more than 4,000 unlicensed properties.

The authority stated it is working to raise awareness of the October law change and encourage landlords to proactively apply for a licence as opposed to taking immediate enforcement action at this stage.

The council charges a £1,150 fee for a new licence application, which is typically granted for five years, with income ring-fenced to cover costs associated with issuing licences and finding other unlicensed HMOs.

While money from penalties will be spent on housing matters.

The Small Heath property was not licensed at the time of the inspection but was not penalised for this due to a three-month grace period from October for landlords to apply.

Cllr Sharon Thompson, cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods, said: “While there are a great many landlords who provide excellent accommodation, inevitably there are some who will only respond and make necessary improvements on threat of financial penalties or legal action.

“With that in mind, I’m delighted that the recent change in policy has improved our effectiveness and ultimately enabled us to take enforcement action against landlords who are letting substandard accommodation.

“HMO properties have a massive role to play in providing affordable housing to people in Birmingham, particularly as we are in the midst of a national housing crisis.

“However, these properties must also meet building and fire safety standards, be properly regulated, appropriately licensed and ultimately provide good quality housing for citizens who are paying a monthly rent.

“We’ll continue to work closely with the private-rented sector to ensure that people have a broad range of choice for housing in Birmingham.”

By Carl Jackson

Source: Express and Star

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Court hands agent £4,500 bill after HMO fire safety breaches

An agent has been fined £3,000 after admitting three offences relating to a House in Multiple Occupation. It was also ordered to pay £1,496 in costs plus a £120 victim surcharge.

Miller Metcalfe Estate Agents appeared at Bolton Magistrates Court, which heard how the building had two businesses on the ground floor, and a single tenant on the first floor.

When Miller Metcalfe took over the management of the second and third residential floors, this formed a second flat which was let to three more tenants.

This meant the property was reclassified as an HMO.

However, Bolton Council officers found that it did not have the fire safety measures required in an HMO. There was no fire-protected escape route, or interlinked fire alarm.

The council served an emergency prohibition order requiring the upper floor not to be used as residential accommodation. The tenants were found alternative accommodation.

In court Miller Metcalfe admitted it had not taken all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of their tenants.

By ROSALIND RENSHAW

Source: Property Industry Eye

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Brent Landlord Ran Illegal HMO Earning Almost £70k Per Year

A Brent landlord running an illegal HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) was estimated to be raking in £68,400 a year.

Officers from London’s Brent council found 16 people crammed inside the unlicensed HMO, a converted three-bedroom semi – including three in the shed.

The Council raid followed tip-offs from neighbours. Fly-tipping and the constant coming-and-going from the property had led neighbours to complain to Brent council’s enforcement team.

The three tenants in the shed were found to be paying the Brent landlord up to £800 per month for the privilege.

One family of four told officers they were paying the landlord £800 a month to live in a single, windowless room on the ground-floor.

Tenants had no written tenancy agreement from their landlord or any cash receipts for their rent payments – with the Brent landlord estimated to be raking in £68,400 a year.

The illegal house in multiple occupation operated by the Brent landlord also lacked a working fire alarm system, had poor maintenance, and also had poor ventilation.

Cllr Eleanor Southwood, cabinet member for Housing and Welfare Reform, confirmed that the Brent landlord ‘faces a hefty fine for breaking the licensing laws around houses in multiple occupation’.

She said: ‘We will do everything in our power to protect vulnerable tenants from this kind of gross exploitation. Every renter in Brent deserves to live in a home that is safe and maintained to a decent standard.’

Earlier this week, Brent council’s cabinet backed changes to the way limited social housing is allocated in the borough – with homelessness increasing and a third of the borough’s residents in PRS.

The cabinet is driving forward an ambitious programme to build 1,000 council homes, increasing affordable housing through the council-owned company i4B and London-wide Capital Letters initiative, and driving up standards in the private rented sector.

Source: Residential Landlord

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Flintshire HMO Landlord Prosecuted

A Flintshire HMO landlord has been prosecuted for several offences under legislation designed to protect tenants living in shared accommodation.

Environmental health officers at Flintshire Council visited the Flintshire House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) owned by landlord Glyn Trevor Roberts in July 2018.

The inspection revealed numerous deficiencies including no working fire alarms, no fire doors, defective electrics and inadequate bathroom amenities.

The Flintshire landlord also subsequently ignored requests made under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Wales) Regulations 2006 to produce gas and electrical testing certificates.

An improvement notice was served by Flintshire Council under the Housing Act 2004 and a subsequent inspection found that the improvement notice had not been complied with and that the gas boiler had been condemned for safety reasons.

The council then took the matter to Wrexham Magistrates Court. Mr Roberts pleaded guilty to all six offences relating to the property – in Connaught Avenue, Shotton.

The six offences included failing to comply with an Improvement Notice, failing to register rental property, failing to obtain a licence to manage rental property and failure to supply gas and electrical test certificates.

Mr Roberts claimed to be in financial difficulties and the property was due to be sold within the next six weeks. However, he was found guilty of all six offences and in sentencing was fined £600. He was also ordered to pay a contribution of £200 to Flintshire Council’s costs.

The Flintshire landlord was told that breaches of such legislation could end in tragedy and that if it weren’t for his financial situation, the scale of the fines would have been much greater.

Flintshire Council’s chief officer for planning, environment and economy, Andrew Farrow, said: ‘This successful prosecution sends a clear message that Flintshire County Council will not tolerate the poor management of Houses in Multiple Occupation.

‘This legislation is designed to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable residents.’

Source: Residential Landlord

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Shotton landlord fined for leaving tenants without fire alarms, faulty electrics and an inadequate bathroom

A private sector landlord has been prosecuted for a number of offences under housing legislation designed to protect tenants living in shared accommodation

Flintshire Environmental Health Officers inspected a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) at  7 Connaught Avenue in Shotton last July

They discovered the house had no working fire alarms, no fire doors, defective electrics and inadequate bathroom amenities.

The property owner Glyn Roberts had ignored requests made under HMO to produce gas and electrical testing certificates.

An Improvement Notice was served under the Housing Act 2004, a follow up inspection found that the Improvement Notice had not been complied with and that the gas boiler had been condemned for safety reasons.

Glyn Trevor Roberts pleaded guilty to all 6 offences relating to the property at Wrexham Magistrates Court.

Offences included failing to comply with an Improvement Notice, failing to register rental property, failing to obtain a licence to manage rental property and failure to supply gas and electrical test certificates.

In mitigation it was heard that Mr Roberts was in financial difficulties and was expecting to complete a sale on the property within the next six weeks and would then no longer be a landlord.

Mr Roberts was found guilty of all 6 offences and in sentencing was fined £600.

He was also ordered to pay a contribution of £200 to Flintshire County Council’s costs.

In sentencing, Mr Roberts was warned that breaches of such legislation could end in tragedy and that if it weren’t for his financial situation, the scale of the fines would have been much greater.

Flintshire County Council’s Chief Officer for Planning, Environment and Economy, Andrew Farrow, said:

“This successful prosecution sends a clear message that Flintshire County Council will not tolerate the poor management of Houses in Multiple Occupation.

This legislation is designed to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable residents. 

It reflects Flintshire County Council’s commitment to ensuring homes in the private rented sector are in good repair, have all the necessary amenities and are properly managed.”

Source: Deeside

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Highland landlord given £4,000 fine

A Highland landlord has been fined £4,000 for operating a house in multiple occupation (HMO) without a licence.

Following concerns that several flats within Cruickshank Court in Dingwall were being occupied as unlicensed HMOs, Highland Council’s environmental health team led a joint investigation with Police Scotland in September 2017 into the matter.

The investigation identified several unlicensed HMOs and a report was submitted to the Procurator Fiscal’s Office at the time.

At Inverness Sheriff Court on February 28, Inverness businesswoman Claire Mohammed was fined £4,000.

An HMO is a property in which three or more unrelated adults are residing as their main residence and require too share kitchen, toilet or personal washing facilities. It is an offence for any landlord to permit a property to be occupied as an HMO without a license issued by the council. Safeguards for tenants provided by HMO licensing include checks on electrical, gas and fire safety, space standards, and management standards. Licensing helps ensure that accommodation is safe, well managed and of good quality.

Gregor MacCormick, Highland Council senior environmental health officer, said: “This was a significant operation for the Environmental Health team with visits being undertaken to nine individual flats. Serious safety concerns were identified in respect of both the management and maintenance of the flats, and we therefore welcome the level of fine that has been imposed.

“Our main aim in these investigations is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of tenants. We will continue to work in partnership to conduct such interventions in the future and take robust action where we find that landlords have failed in their responsibilities.”

Detective Inspector Peter Mackenzie, Police Scotland, said: “We acknowledge the penalty imposed on Claire Mohammed at Inverness Sheriff court. This operation brought together several partner agencies with Police Scotland and Environmental Health Officers from Highland Council taking the lead and working closely together to gather a sufficiency of evidence in relation to serious safety concerns that were identified and subsequently reported to the Procurator Fiscal. This shows the advantages and benefit of a multi-agency approach, which we will continue to do to target any landlord who risks the safety and lives of their tenants.”

By Dominic Robertson

Source: Scottish Housing News

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Landlord convicted of unlawfully evicting tenant now fined for running unlicensed HMO in Telford

A landlord from Telford who had previously been convicted of unlawfully evicting a tenant has now been fined for running an unlicensed house in multiple occupation.

In March 2017, David Beattie admitted threatening violence against a tenant in his property in Dudmaston, Hollinswood.

Shropshire Magistrates Court sitting in Telford on Monday heard that Beattie, of Priorslee, was not deemed by Telford & Wrekin Council to be a ‘fit and proper’ person. This is one of the requirements to having a licence to operate an HMO.

As Beattie didn’t meet this requirement he couldn’t apply for the HMO licence and, as a result, could not accommodate more than four people at his property.

The court heard that Telford & Wrekin Council could identify from leases that there were five people living there.

Beattie pleaded guilty to controlling and managing the HMO without a licence. He was fined £284 and ordered to pay costs of £410 and a victim surcharge of £30.

Councillor Richard Overton, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet member for enforcement, said: “This latest conviction gives the council the opportunity to apply for a Rent Repayment Order to get back any rent paid in housing benefit to Mr Beattie during the offence period. We can also advise any tenants who paid privately to live at this property on how they too can apply for a rent payment order for the same period, between June 5 and September 19 last year.

“We would also encourage any tenants who privately rented accommodation from Mr. Beattie in Dudmaston, Hollinswood to contact us as they may too be able to apply to refunds to their rents.

“We are committed to ensuring all tenants in the borough live in safe and well-maintained accommodation. HMO licensing plays a big part in ensuring this.”

A licensable HMO is defined as any rented property with five or more people living as two or more households. Before October 1, 2018 only HMOs that had three or more storeys with five or more people required a licence.

Source: Shropshire Star