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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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Wrexham lettings agent and landlord prosecuted by council over HMO regulation breach

A private landlord in Wrexham has been prosecuted by Wrexham Council for operating an unlicensed house in multiple occupation (HMO).

At Mold Magistrates Court yesterday, landlord Jane Sabio – who had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing – was fined £5,000, with costs of £1,697 and a £170 victim surcharge also imposed.

An officer from the council’s Environmental Health and Housing Standards team found the unlicensed HMO during an inspection following up on a complaint due to lack of repairs.

Letting agents Countrywide, trading as Beresford Adams, also pleaded guilty to a number of breaches at the same property, including inadequate fire safety measures and failing to supply an electrical safety certificate to Wrexham Council.

In sentencing at Wrexham Magistrates Court earlier this month, Countrywide was fined a total of £22,500, plus a £107 victim surcharge and £2,819 costs.

Cllr Hugh Jones, lead member for communities, partnerships, public protection and community safety, said: “The council is proactively working with landlords and letting agents to assist them in raising standards for tenants.

“But if they choose not to cooperate and not to comply with the legal requirements, we will have no hesitation in taking firm enforcement action, as this case demonstrates.”

Wrexham Council say: “Most landlords and letting agents ensure HMOs are properly licensed and maintained, but if your landlord or letting agent fails to acquire an HMO licence or carry out the necessary repairs and make adequate fire safety arrangements, you can contact the Environmental Health and Housing Standards team by e-mail at HealthandHousing@wrexham.gov.uk or on 01978 292040.

“We keep a list of currently licensed HMOs on our website, and also provide information on what an HMO is, and how they can be licensed.”

Source: Wrexham

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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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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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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

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Redbridge Landlord Fined £7,500 For Overcrowded HMO

A Redbridge landlord has been fined £7,500 after he was found to be cramming 23 people into a house in east London. The property in question, situated in Beehive Lane, Gants Hill, had room for just six occupants.

Housing officers at Redbridge council raided the property following complaints from neighbours about overcrowding. The officers discovered 16 people currently in the house as well as evidence of another seven living there. The people inside did not have access to sufficient cooking, washing and toilet facilities. The residents inside were also all adults.

The property’s managing agent, Marvel Estates Limited, held a house in multiple occupation (HMO) licence, however it was only valid for six tenants.

Following the raid, which took place in June last year the firm, based in Forest Gate, appealed against a financial penalty imposed by the council. However, at a tribunal hearing last month it agreed to pay the fine.

The cabinet member for housing and homelessness at Redbridge Council said: ‘We are determined to root out rogue landlords and this financial penalty makes it clear we mean business. It’s unacceptable for tenants to be living in conditions which fail to comply with legislated requirements. We want to work with landlords to prevent this kind of situation but if they are not willing to do so, our message is clear – we will find and fine you.’

The fine for the Redbridge landlord is part of a wider crackdown on rogue landlords in Redbridge and across London. Last month in Brent a landlord was found to have crammed 26 mattresses into a dangerous three-bedroom house. Officers forced their way into the property and found over 20 men who were residing in conditions described as ‘appalling and unsafe’. The house, located in Kingsbury, was described by the council as one of the worst illegal HMOs it has ever experienced.

Source: Residential Landlord

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Property manager landlord wins appeal against nine HMO convictions

A landlord and property manager has won his appeal against convictions relating to a House in Multiple Occupation.

Cyril Thomas, director of Platinum Crown Investments in Colchester, was fined £20,000 by magistrates last December.

The case was sparked by a tenant’s complaint to Colchester Council about heating and mould. This led to an investigation at the end of 2015.

Thomas faced nine charges, but immediately after the convictions he said he would appeal.

He has now had them overturned by Chelmsford Crown Court.

Afterwards, he said he was delighted.

He said: “It has been a costly, emotionally draining and time consuming process for all involved. The judge stated that all charges were to be dismissed due to insufficient evidence from the council.

“One of the main reasons why I was able to successfully defend myself was that over the last several years I had invested significantly in bespoke software systems that enabled me to provide the necessary evidence when required.

“It is important for property managers and landlords to invest in systems that help them to stay on top of all the legal requirements that are now in place.

“My defence barrister Archie Maddan pointed out several issues with the council’s case. Some of the issues included the fact that one of the alleged charges failed to state what Mr Thomas was actually being convicted for.

“Several of the alleged charges did not occur on the date that Environmental Health Officer Torben Wood initially claimed that they occurred on and were not confirmed by the judges to be offences that warranted a charge.

“The main reason for the dismissal was the fact that the council never had sufficient evidence to prosecute me in my personal name from the beginning but for whatever reason still decided to push the case forward.”

He said at least three of the alleged offences were due to tenant negligence – for example, taking lightbulbs from communal areas to put in their bedrooms, and leaving bikes in fire escapes despite written warnings from Platinum Crown.

Thomas will now be refunded the fine and can apply to have some of his legal fees refunded.

A spokesperson for Colchester Council said: “The earlier decision by Colchester Magistrates’ Court to judge Mr Thomas, rather than his company Platinum Crown Investments, had a key bearing on the case and means no party has been convicted for the breaches identified.

“However, the appeal was upheld on the basis that Mr Thomas, in his capacity as landlord, was not the person responsible – not that violations did not exist – and we therefore maintain that it was right to take the action we did against serious breaches of the regulations.

“While we will continue to work closely with local landlords and letting agents to improve standards of accommodation in the private rented sector, we remain committed in our duty to pursue legal action whenever accommodation is not being responsibly managed.”

Source: Property Industry Eye

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Huge Fine For HMO Licence Breach Landlord

A criminal landlord has been hit with a huge fine of £35,000 after being found guilty of breaching House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) management regulations.

Landlord David Greene, 64, was prosecuted at Birmingham Magistrates Court on August 30. The rental property that he was letting was described by council officers as the ‘worst they had seen in the last 10 years.’

The landlord had owned a three-storey property, which included ten self-contained flats, since 1986. He pleaded guilty to breaching HMO regulations through his rental property.

Birmingham Council officers visited the building and found smoke detectors hanging form the ceiling, as well as poorly fitted fire doors. There were also blocked fire exits which would have seriously hindered tenants’ opportunity to escape in a fire, rendering the property a serious danger for human habitation. There were also broken and boarded up windows. The tenants who lived in the building had no access to hot water or heating. The front and rear doors of the building were insecure, leaving the property open to the elements which would have caused real issues in winter.

The council had attempted to contact Greene on several occasions to resolve the poor conditions. However, he neglected his responsibilities as a landlord and as a result and put the lives of his vulnerable tenants in danger.

As a counter argument, Greene claimed that he had issues gaining access to the flats. However, he was still charged with the huge fine of £35,000 as well as costs of £1,941 and a victim surcharge of £170.

Cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods at Birmingham City Council, Councillor Sharon Thompson, spoke out about the huge fine, saying: ‘Mr Greene has shown a callous disregard for his responsibilities as a landlord. This fine sends out a message to all landlords who ignore the law that Birmingham City Council will pursue anyone who lets out substandard accommodation.’

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