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Company director loses court appeal following claims of ‘significant overcrowding’ at Leominster property

A LANDLORD who allowed ‘significant overcrowding’ at a Leominster property has lost her appeal following a two-day trial.

Mayya Kostyuk, 58, of Bishopstone, Hereford, along with her company Herford Housing Solutions Limited, had appeals against eight housing-related offences under the Housing Act 2004 dismissed at Hereford Crown Court earlier this month.

Officers from Herefordshire Council’s Environmental Health Housing team gave evidence as to how Company Director Kostyuk and Herford Housing Solutions Limited had breached conditions of their licence for the House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) at Broad Street in Leominster.

The court heard that council officers obtained a warrant and entered the property in March 2015. They found significant overcrowding, a person sleeping in a prohibited room, and failure to maintain the protected means of escape in case of fire.

The case was originally brought by Herefordshire Council’s Environmental Health and Trading Standards Service to Herefordshire Magistrates Court in May 2017, but was subsequently appealed by Kostyuk and Herford Housing Solutions Limited.

Recorder Judge Brand, Q.C. heard the defence contend that the property was a hotel and not an HMO.

Kostyuk was initially ordered to pay a £1,750 fine and £1,750 costs.

Following the case Marc Willimont, Head of Regulatory and Development Management Services for Herefordshire Council, said: “This was one of the worst cases of overcrowding our officers have seen in a licensed House in Multiple Occupation – one tenant was even found sleeping in a prohibited boiler cupboard with no windows.

“Both the company and the director Mayya Kostyuk put profit before the lives of their vulnerable tenants.

“Herefordshire Council is taking housing crime seriously, and this result sends a clear message to other criminal housing landlords that they cannot hide behind their company and such behaviour will not be tolerated.

“We will continue to protect tenants’ safety and the livelihood of our decent housing landlords, by ensuring criminal landlords are brought to justice.”

It was Herefordshire Council’s first housing conviction of the director of a company, under offences by bodies corporate, meaning Kostyuk was also personally liable for the actions of the company.

Source: Hereford Times

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Record Fine For Luton Landlord

Safety breaches in his buy to let HMO property have led to a record fine for a Luton landlord.

Alyas Hussain of Dunstable Close, Luton, was fined £70,000 and ordered to pay additional costs of £1,148.79 plus a surcharge of £170 for a number of dangerous breaches of legislation designed to protect tenants.

The huge amount sets a new record fine for the council, and was imposed as the landlord was seen to have a total disregard for the safety of his tenants.

The HMO in question was found to be ‘overcrowded’, while tenants’ lives had been ‘put at risk’ through a lack of fire doors, automatic fire detection and heat detection, in addition to ‘obstructions to stairs and exits in the event of fire’.

The property also had unfinished electrical works throughout, with bare wires ‘hanging from ceilings and out of walls’, with bathrooms also said to be in a ‘terrible state of repair’.

Ceilings were found to be damaged in the property and an electrical meter had been tampered with, while the gas meter ‘had to be shut down due to a leak’.

The chair of Luton magistrates court said when sentencing: ‘It is clear to us that these offences are motivated by profit without any recourse to regulations or court processes. The defendant has two properties not subject to mortgage and received rent from the HMO in excess of £19,000.’

Tom Shaw, portfolio holder for housing, added: ‘We will not tolerate landlords who rent properties which fail to meet standards. The council has a commitment to ensure that private landlords in Luton do not take financial advantage of vulnerable tenants and put their lives at risk. We will not hesitate to prosecute landlords who show a disregard for the law and their responsibilities towards occupants.

‘At the start of 2018 this conviction sends out a really strong message to landlords: in every sense of the expression ‘Get your house in order’ or we will be on to you.’

Source: Residential Landlord

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Twickenham Landlord Faces Fines After Renting Unlicensed HMO

A Twickenham landlord is facing fines of almost £5,000 after renting out his property as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) without the correct licensing.

Landlord Maksin Arnautov purchased the Whitton Road property in 2012. He also resides in the home. An investigation carried out by the council last year found that more than five people were living in the property. However, Arnutov did not have a licence.

The Housing Act 2004 states that properties with three or more storeys which are also rented out to five or more people require a HMO licence. Despite the property breaching these conditions, the appropriate licensing had not been purchased.

During a hearing at Lavender Hill Magistrates’ Court on January 9, Arnautov was found guilty of operating a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) without a licence. The Twickenham landlord was subsequently fined £3,000 and must also pay a victim surcharge of £170 and £1,466 to the council in compensation.

Richmond Council’s cabinet member for housing, public health and community safety, Councillor Mark Boyle, commented on the case: ‘Following an investigation by council officers, this is a great result. This prosecution sends out a clear message that unscrupulous individuals cannot hide. It is our job to protect tenants’ safety and we will take appropriate enforcement action if landlords fail to obtain a licence or manage their properties. I am pleased that the courts are supporting the council in this approach through the sentence and fine issued. The growing issue of HMOs in our borough continues to be a problem. And whilst we will continue all our work on the ground, we will continue to make it clear to the Government that it must prioritise action over HMOs before sub-standard, over-crowded housing, and all its flow-on effects begin to impact the character and quality of life within our borough.’

Source: Residential Landlord

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Tough New Laws To Stamp Out Rogue Landlords

Tough new laws for shared housing landlords will come into force from April 2019, says Housing Minister Alok Sharma.

Although the rules will need clearance from Parliament, the measures will curb overcrowding in houses in multiple occupation by demanding landlords offer tenants more sleeping space.

The rules will cover all private rented homes in England where five or more tenants from two or more separate households live.

From April, local councils will have to licence an extra 160,000 shared homes. Councils are already responsible for licensing 500,000 homes in England.

Bedrooms sleeping one adult will have to measure at least 6.51 square metres, while those for two adults should be no smaller than 10.22 square metres.

Rooms for children up to 10 years old must be 4.64 square metres or more.

Unscrupulous landlords

The new HMO licence will state how many people can live in a room and the total occupancy for a property will specify how many people can stay in a home as a way of halting overcrowding.

The new measures will also specify several criminal offences that will bar landlords from letting out shared homes.

Landlords will also gain a duty to manage refuse disposal and recycling for HMO properties.

“Every tenant has a right to a safe, secure and decent home. But far too many are being exploited by unscrupulous landlords who profit from providing overcrowded, squalid and sometimes dangerous homes,” said Sharma

“Enough is enough and so I’m putting these rogue landlords on notice – shape up or ship out of the rental business.

£30,000 fines for breaking new laws

“Through a raft of new powers, we are giving councils the further tools they need to crack down these rogue landlords and kick them out of the business for good.”

These new measures add to action by the government to improve safety and standards in the private rented sector.

Recent action includes bringing in fines of up to £30,000 for dodgy landlords, protections for tenants from revenge evictions and £12 million funding for councils to take enforcement action in hotspot areas.

A database of rogue landlords convicted of housing offences is due to switch on from April.

Source: iExpats

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Landlords fined for failing to look after property in Camborne

Two landlords who failed to ensure a house of multiple occupation in Camborne was maintained adequately have been fined £2,000 by the courts.

Anthony Pickering and Alan Short pleaded guilty at Truro Magistrates Court this week to breaching several requirements of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006 (“HMO Management Regulations”).

The charges were brought by Cornwall Council in relation to a property at Pendarves Street, Tuckingmill, Camborne.

On the 19 January 2017, Cornwall Council Private Sector Housing Team visited the premises and found that the communal kitchen and bathroom, staircase, rear out building and garden were poorly maintained.

The pair were given an opportunity to put right the problems but failed to do so.

Pickering, aged 57 of St Francis Meadow, Mitchell and Short, 53 or Hunter’s Gate, Okehampton were facing several charges.

The admitted failing to ensure that the common parts of the premises were maintained in good and clean decorative repair, maintained in a safe and working condition free from obstruction in relation to the kitchen and bathroom amenities and that they failed to ensure all hand rails and bannisters were at all times kept in good repair.

They also admitted failing to ensure that outbuildings, yards and forecourts used by residents of several properties were maintained, clean and in good working order.

Two other offences – failing to ensure that the common parts of that premises were maintained in good and clean decorative repair, maintained in a safe and working condition and free from obstruction in relation to the kitchen amenities and that every window and means of ventilation were kept in good repair were withdrawn.

They were ordered to pay a total of £3,847 – £2,000 for the offences committed, £1,647 in prosecution costs and a victim surcharge of £200.

Cornwall Council cabinet member for homes Andrew Mitchell said: “Well managed multi-occupancy houses are an important part of the housing market in Cornwall. However where the standards of management are poor, it can place tenants at significant risk of serious harm.

“In situations such as this, the Council will take enforcement action to protect the health, safety and welfare of occupiers.”

In 2018 it is anticipated that the Government will widen the coverage of the existing mandatory licensing scheme to cover all rented housing shared by five or more people.

To find out more and keep abreast of changes to the private rented sector, landlords are encouraged to join the free Cornwall Responsible Landlords Scheme.

Source: Cornwall Live

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Council collects £30,000 in housing fines from landlords

£31,606 has been collected in fines by Oxford City Council for housing offences since new financial penalty powers came into force in April 2017 to help clampdown on rogue landlords and protect the safety of renters.

The new powers, granted under the Housing and Planning Act 2016, allow local authorities to impose penalties to a maximum of £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution for various housing transgressions. Councils can keep all the income and spend it on private sector housing enforcement.

In a press release, Oxford City Council outlined the fines they have imposed: “In the biggest of the three fines, a landlord who owns a rented property on Garsington Road received financial penalties totalling £25,298 for failing to licence it as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and uphold HMO management standards.

“The landlord was issued a financial penalty of £7,149 for failing to licence the property as well as an additional £18,149 for four separate fire safety failures.

“The third landlord was given a financial penalty of £1,234 for renting out an HMO on Iffley Road whose licence had expired in 2014. All three landlords cannot be named for legal reasons.”

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Board Member for Planning and Regulatory Services, has spoken on the issue: “I’m pleased that the Council can now take swift action against landlords who break the rules, and do it without the costs of taking a case through the courts. We will continue to use these new powers to drive up standards in the private housing sector and protect tenants from unsafe homes and rogue landlords.”

Source: Oxford Student