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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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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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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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‘Cost-cutting with a view to profit’: Letting firm fined for string of faults at HMOs

A letting company has been fined over a string of defects at its shared accommodation for vulnerable adults.

Salop Lets, based in Madeley, Telford, has been ordered to pay more than £43,000 after pleading guilty to 24 offences under the Housing Act 2004.

The company had previously tried to blame the problems on its tenants – vulnerable adults who lived in three houses of multiple occupation in Hurleybrook Way, Leegomery.

The defects included broken and damaged fire doors and incomplete and missing safety certification for the the fire alarm systems, Telford Magistrates Court head.

General faults such as broken showers, damaged kitchen units and broken or missing lighting units were also found, as well as emergency fire alarms and lighting being connected to a pre-paid metered electricity supply, meaning when the meter ran out, the emergency systems did not work.

The issues were brought to light following an inspection from environmental health and a fire safety officer from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.

An initial complaint was made back in February.

The court heard improvement notices had been served to ensure the properties were brought up to the required standard, but the work was either done to a poor standard or not at all.

In one instance the company installed a second-hand fire door claiming it to be new.

Prosecuting, Sarah Morgan, said: “Very little work was done during the operation of the improvement notices.

“I would draw your attention to the past history of the company and consider that they were cost-cutting with a view to profit.

“They were a professional management company. They chose to house vulnerable tenants but failed to manage the risks associated with this”.

The court heard that since 2015 housing benefit totalling nearly £1.5 million had been paid in respect of properties managed by Salop Lets.

The company was fined £31,500 and ordered to pay £11,462.07 costs and £170 surcharge.

Sentencing the company, district judge Rebecca Crane said it had fallen far short of the housing standards expected and had ignored concerns raised by Telford & Wrekin Council, adding that there was a risk of death or life-changing injury from the company’s failure to maintain fire alarms and fire doors.

Councillor Richard Overton, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet member for housing and enforcement, said: “The safety of our residents is of paramount importance.

“That is why we are working hard to make sure that private rented housing is safe for tenants to live in.

“Earlier this year we set up the rogue landlord taskforce as part of our Better Homes For All package to improve housing in the private rented sector.

“This case highlights the vital work of this taskforce in keeping people safe.”

Source: Shropshire Star

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Immingham Landlord Fined For Licence Breach On Investment Property

An Immingham private landlord is facing a bill of £1380 after he was found to be renting his investment property out as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) without the correct licence.

Yordan Kaloyanov, 37, of Immingham, was taken to court by North East Lincolnshire Council. Housing enforcement officers and Humberside Police raided his rental property and discovered that he had been renting it to multiple people without a licence. The property also contained several other issues.

Upon entering the property it became apparent to officers that several people were residing there. Many of the rooms had multiple beds in them and there were far more shoes at the entrance of the property than there should have been. Although here was no one in the property when officers arrived, it appeared as though some residents had recently left the property as a freshly cooked lasagne and garlic bread was found in one of the bedrooms.

In addition to the licensing breach, the property failed to meet the standards required for a HMO. It had no interlinked fire alarms and there was no evidence that fire alarms worked or had been tested recently. There were also no fire doors, intumescent strips or self-closing arms on the kitchen or bedroom doors. Finally, the property also lacked emergency lighting and exit doors did not have the required thumb turn locks.

Kaloyanov also did not have the required locks to the rear final exit door and the front door of the property. This meant that so that they could be opened from the inside without the use of a key. This did not meet regulations stating that escape routes must be free from obstruction.

Portfolio holder for housing, Councillor Peter Wheatley, said: ‘A large number of local people rely on rented accommodation and landlords are expected to uphold high standards. Unlicensed and poorly maintained houses are not acceptable. Not only are they exploitative in nature, they could also put people’s lives at risk. The Council wants to work with landlords to ensure that they are on the right side of the law. If landlords are unsure of what they should be providing for their tenants, they can contact our housing team via our website for more information.’

Following the inspection, the house was issued with an Emergency Prohibition under the Housing Act. Yordan Kaloyanov was prosecuted and was found guilty of six offences under the housing act and handed fines of £100 per offence. He was also made to pay additional costs of £750 and a victim surcharge of £30.

Source: Residential Landlord

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Estate Agency And Landlord Both Fined For Licensing Breaches

A landlord has been ordered to pay more than £10,000 for licensing breaches relating to a property that has also seen an estate agency fined.

Willesden Magistrate Court fined Easy Let agency £20,299 in February for failing to licence a three-storey, semi-detached house that was found to be worryingly overcrowded. Following this, property owner Mohammed Mehdi Ali has also been fined £10,000 due to his failure to licence the property, which had been split into flats. This sum is on top of court costs totalling £3,300.

London’s Brent Council found that Easy Let and Ali were in breach of HMO laws. They had crammed more than 10 people into the ground and first floor rooms. Three children were also living in the property.

Willesden Magistrates Court also heard a second case, involving landlord Stephen Citron, who was ordered to pay £17,273 in fines and court costs. This was due to his failure to comply with licensing regulations.

Brent Council had found Citron renting out undersized bedrooms to tenants. He was letting a two-storey property with five standard size bedrooms and two undersized rooms which prohibited for use under the licence conditions.

The rooms measured 5.1 sqm and 4.8 sqm respectively. The legal requirement minimum requirement for a single room is 6.5 sqm, rendering the rooms clearly undersized and unfit for human habitation.

It was said that Citron ignored repeated warnings to make adjustments to his property in order to comply with legal requirements.

Brent Council’s head of private housing services, Spencer Randolph, said Ali and Citron were given ‘every opportunity’ to comply with regulations.

He stated: ‘Instead they held the council in contempt and ended up in court. If they had cooperated with us, they would have been spared the hefty financial blows and criminal records they were dealt in court.’

Source: Residential Landlord

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City landlord fined £2,000 for property condition failings

A property management company has been landed with a legal bill of almost £2,000 after admitting that it failed to keep a property in Nottingham in good repair.

Nottingham City Council`s Housing Licensing and Compliance team secured a successful prosecution against ADKAM CIC (Community Interest Company) resulting in a fine of £1000 with costs of £836 and a £100 victim surcharge at Nottingham Magistrates court.

The Council prosecuted ADKAM CIC for five separate Housing Act offences due to the licence holder failing to manage the property in line with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006.

ADKAM CIC pleaded guilty to five separate offences of failing to comply with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations.

Nottingham City Council’s Housing Licensing and Compliance team licence landlords to operate HMOs. The council regularly undertakes risk-based compliance visits to ensure landlords are complying with the law, and on the 7th April 2017 council officers inspected a licensed house in multiple occupation (HMO) on Gregory Boulevard.

The licenced HMO was in a state of disrepair and the landlord ADKAM CIC was failing in its duties to manage the premises in accordance with the law. ADKAM CIC admitted in court that they had failed to keep the property in repair.

Portfolio Holder for Planning and Housing, Cllr Jane Urquhart, said: “Landlords are required to manage their property in accordance with the law. As this case shows, we will take robust action through the courts to prosecute landlords who put tenants’ safety at risk.

“We have powers to revoke the licence of anyone convicted of offences such as these, preventing them from operating premises in future, as well as to impose civil penalties of up to £30,000 against landlords who contravene the law, as an alternative to taking prosecutions through the Courts.”

From April 6th 2018 anyone committing a defined housing related offence such as this may receive a banning order preventing them from owning or operating rented housing.

Source: West Bridgford Wire

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Bedford Landlord Fined For Unlicensed HMO

Bedford landlord has been prosecuted for operating an unlicensed House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

Bedford Borough Council prosecuted Mr Fhalora of Ampthill Road, Bedford, in January for failing to obtain an Additional HMO Licence for the property that he manages on behalf of its owner. Mr Fhalora lets out the Brackley Road property to tenants.

The landlord was found guilty in his absence after entering a not guilty plea. As a result of this, he was fined £2,500 by Luton Magistrates Court. He was also told that he must pay the council’s full costs of £8,911.12 along with a victim surcharge of £170.

Bedford Borough Council introduced the Additional HMO Licensing scheme in 2013. It applies to properties rented out to three or more unrelated tenants who share facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms. These types of properties are subject to additional regulation to give greater protection to tenants who reside in them. The licences require landlords to invest in their properties, making them safer and improving their state of repair.

Mr Fhalora had been reminded by the council’s Community Regulation Team that he was required to license the property under the Housing Act 2004. However, the court heard that the rogue landlord had failed to act on the advice he was given by the council. He potentially risked the safety of his tenants and neglected his responsibilities as a landlord.

Portfolio Holder for Community Safety & Regulatory Services, Councillor Colleen Atkins, said: ‘Bedford Borough Council prioritises the safety of its residents by ensuring the Borough’s private rented sector is effectively regulated. An Additional HMO Licence is required for HMOs which are occupied by three or more unrelated people who share certain facilities in the household such as a kitchen or bathrooms. Anyone who owns or manages an HMO can check with the Council to see if they need to have a licence.’

Source: Residential Landlord