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Potters Bar Landlord Fined Nearly £7,000 For Failing To Obtain HMO Licence

A Potters Bar landlord is facing a fine of nearly £7,000 after he failed to obtain the correct HMO licence for his rental property.

Andrew Harvey avoided paying the £500 licence fee, leaving him with a bill of over ten times this when Hertsmere Borough Council bought legal action against him.

Harvey appeared at St Alban’s Magistrates Court on Wednesday 22 November due to his failure to obtain a HMO Licence for the rental property he let, located on Oakfield Close. The property had been operating without a licence from March 2012 to June 2017. The court was told that Harvey, 50, from Stevenage, avoided all contact from the borough council, failing to respond to emails and other correspondence on multiple occasions. Harvey defended himself by claiming that he had not received the emails from the council.

When sentencing the Potters Bar landlord, magistrates said they believed Harvey should have been aware anyway that his property was meant to be licenced. It was therefore his duty to ensure that the correct licensing for the property had been obtained.

It is a criminal offence for anyone to control or manage a house with three or more storeys which is occupied by five or more people in more than one household without a licence.

An inspection by the council’s private sector housing officer in June revealed five veterinary students living in the home.

Harvey was fined £5,542 and was also ordered to pay £1,319.29 in costs, as well a £125 victim surcharge.

A House in Multiple Occupation licence costs just £542 for five years, proving that in aiming to avoid the licence fee Harvey was in fact subjecting hiself to a far higher fare.

Portfolio holder for housing, Councillor Jean Heywood, said: ‘Everybody has a right to live in decent accommodation, and the council takes its responsibilities to enforce basic living standards very seriously. As a landlord, you are responsible for the welfare of your tenants and there are strict rules in place to ensure certain conditions and duties are met. This is for the protection of all. The vast majority of landlords are happy to work with us to ensure they are managing their properties and looking after their tenants according to the letter of law. However, we will not hesitate to take other landlords who deliberately fail in their duties to court, where they could receive unlimited fines.’

Source: Residential Landlord

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Houses in Multiple Occupation, two storeys or three?

Legislation relating to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) has long existed to ensure landlords follow the necessary requirements when renting out properties to multiple people. All HMOs are subject to legislation about how they are managed and certain larger HMOs (3-storeys or more with 5 or more occupants) are required to have a license.

In the recent case of Woking BC v Johnson (unreported), 10 October 2017, (QB (Administrative Court)), a two-storey self-contained flat situated above a restaurant was occupied by more than five people who did not form part of the same household. Whilst it was clear that this was indeed an HMO, the question for the magistrates was whether the property fell within the description of an HMO, which was required under the statutory scheme to be licensed.

Article 3(3) of the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2006 (SI 2006/371) provides that a property requires a license where:

  • It is occupied by five or more people.
  • The HMO or any part of it comprises three storeys or more.
  • It is occupied by persons living in two or more households.

The local authority alleged that the respondent had committed an offence under section 72 of the Housing Act 2004 (HA 2004) by failing to obtain an HMO license in respect of the property. The local authority argued that the restaurant (below the flats) should be included within the number of storeys considered when calculating the requirements under Article 3(3). The magistrates relied on the decision in Islington LBC v Unite Group Plc [2013] EWHC 508 (Admin) in which it was decided that it was the HMO itself that had to comprise three storeys and not the building in which it was situated. The magistrates decided that the restaurant did not form part of the HMO and therefore did not require a license. The local authority appealed by way of case stated.

The issue for the High Court was whether the magistrates had been correct to exclude the restaurant when calculating the number of storeys.

The appeal was subsequently allowed by the High Court. It was held that the magistrates should not have relied on Islington LBC v Unite Group Plc as the circumstances differed to the present case. In Islington, the property comprised a five-storey block of purpose built self-contained flats. The ground floor consisted of a shop and the four upper floors were residential accommodation. Most such accommodation was in the form of cluster flats with four to six bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and a communal living room and kitchen. Each flat was on one storey. The cluster flats were each a house in multiple occupation (HMO) within the meaning of the Housing Act 2004. In contrast, in the present case the property was a two-storey self-contained flat above a commercial premises.

The correct approach should have followed the explanatory note to the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2006, which requires that commercial premises above or below living accommodation, except where they were located in the basement, should count towards the calculation of storeys.

Source: Lexology

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Unlicensed HMO owner ordered to pay £5,000

A couple who owned and managed an unlicensed HMO has been prosecuted and ordered to pay a total £4,991 in fines, court surcharges and costs.

Aligul Kala, aged 49, and Gulten Kala, aged 43, both of Gillingwood Road, York attended York Magistrates Court today (8 November) which issued each a fine of £1,200, a £120 surcharge each and ordered each to pay half the court costs which totalled £2,351.

The house at Blossom Street, York is owned by Gulten Kala and managed by her husband Aligul.

Council officers found it to be occupied by six people on 22 December 2016 when they visited the property following concerns about waste disposal from the address.

Officers met Mr Kala at the five-bedroom property on 1 February 2017.

They pointed out to him that as it was let to more than five persons over three storeys and had shared cooking and bathroom facilities, it should be licensed with the council as a house in multiple occupation, and showed him how to apply.

While there, they inspected the property and found that the standard of the accommodation was poor, with areas of concern around unsatisfactory fire safety measures, no carbon monoxide detection, kitchen units and the electric meter in a poor state of repair, loose handrails on staircases.

These hazards would have been identified and required to be repaired through the HMO licensing process and removed within a specified timeframe.

Mr Kala failed to make an application and continued to let the property – including one room rented at £340 per month – as an unlicensed HMO until mid March 2017, despite having been advised otherwise.

Tom Brittain, assistant director of housing and community safety at City of York Council, said:

Homes which are occupied by a number of unrelated people who share facilities, need to be licensed to ensure landlords uphold their responsibilities to their tenants. In this case, fire safety measures and maintenance standards were lacking, thereby putting the tenants at risk.

Anyone in any doubt about what constitutes an HMO and what they should do if they own, manage or let one should visit

Source: Minster FM