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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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Students win rent refund from unlicensed landlord

Five students from Leeds have won a rent refund from their landlord who failed to acquire a House in Multiple Occupation licence (HMO).

Ben Leonard, a postgraduate student, and his four housemates found out their home didn’t have an HMO licence when their landlord applied to Leeds City Council for one halfway through the tenancy.

A HMO must be held by any home occupied by five or more unrelated people who share communal facilities, with at least one tenant paying rent. It confirms the house has the correct safety certificates, that fire alarms are present and working and whoever is in charge of the property is qualified. It also confirms that the landlord does not have a criminal record.

Landlords who don’t have a HMO face fines of up to £30,000, including repaying up to 12 months of rent to their tenants, via a rent repayment order (RRO), which is what happened to Leonard’s landlord.

A housing officer from Leeds City Council informed the tenants that the council was taking action against landlord and explained that they were entitled to seek an RRO.

The tenants made their application, which included evidence of paying rent, bank statements and the tenancy agreement, which was accepted and the landlord was taken to court. He pleaded guilty and, after bills were deducted from the amount owed, as well as a further deduction due to the landlord’s financial situation, each tenant was owed around £2,000.

‘Incredible response’
After winning the case, Leonard told the BBC he received an “incredible” response on Twitter earlier this month. He was inundated with messages from other tenants who felt their landlords might have cases to answer.

The case coincides with the government’s announcement two weeks ago that they plan to repeal Section 21 of the Housing Act (1988), which allows landlords to evict tenants at the end of their fixed-term, and put an end to ‘no-fault’ evictions.

The change in the law would, the government said, “protect tenants from having to make frequent and short notice moves, and will enable them to plan for the future.”

Written by: Max Liu

Source: Your Money

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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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Highland landlord prosecuted for unlicensed HMO

A Fort William landlord has been successfully prosecuted for operating a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) without a licence.

Mr Harjinder Singh Randhawa, the owner of the 1st & 2nd floor flat at 39 High Street, pled guilty and was fined £1800 at Fort William Sheriff Court on January 28.

Whilst conducting an investigation into an accident at work, environmental health officers from Highland Council had cause to visit the property and found it to be occupied by seven people who were all residing in the property as their main residence and requiring to share kitchen and sanitary facilities.

The property was found to be in a relatively poor standard of repair throughout and failed to meet the council’s adopted standards for HMOs. Of particular concern was the lack of any fire safety precautions and the poor condition of the electrical installation within the property.

Councillor Ian Cockburn, chair of the licensing committee, said: ”Ultimately the HMO licensing scheme was introduced to protect tenants and help ensure properties are safe, and so it is important that the council takes action to protect tenants in these cases.

“I am pleased that in imposing this level of fine the court has reflected the importance of licensing and demonstrates to responsible landlords who have made the effort to comply with the legislation and bring their properties up to the required standard, that less responsible landlords are actively being pursued by the council. I would encourage both landlords and tenants to contact the council if they have any concerns about their property. Officers are here to help and offer advice.”

Graeme Corner, senior environmental health officer, added: “We hope that the significant fine imposed in this case sends out a strong message to landlords in the Lochaber area and throughout the Highlands that they must obtain a license if their property is being occupied as an HMO. Whilst our service always prefer to work with landlords to ensure compliance, we will not hesitate to take robust action where the health, safety and well-being of tenants is comprised by poorly managed and maintained properties such as in this case.

“The environmental health service will continue to take action against those landlords who do not apply, so I would urge all owners and agents to ensure that their properties are meeting legal requirements.”

Source: Scottish Housing News

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Court Case Legal Precedent For Landlord Challenges To HMO Licensing Cost

A recent court case may have set a legal precedent enabling landlords to challenge the cost of HMO licences set by their local authorities.

The court case of Mr Peter Gaskin v LB Richmond Upon Thames [2018] EWHC 1996 (Admin) has called into question the validity of certain licensing costs. Currently, by law local authorities are able to set the cost of HMO licences at their own discretion. The topic has gained traction recently as new rules for HMO licensing will come into effect from October 1st. It is estimated that a further 177,000 more landlords will need to obtain a licence.

However, in the recent court case it was ruled that licence fees can only cover the cost of the licensing scheme and not other costs such as enforcement. This was due to the fact that the Administrative Court decided that Mr Gaskin, a HMO landlord, was providing a service within the meaning of EU law, by the private letting of accommodation. As Mr Gaskin had met the requirements for providing a service, the court determined that the fee charged by the local authority had to be structured in such a way which complied with EU law.

The property in question is situated in Richmond Upon Thames in London. Under the Housing Act 2004 Mr Gaskin was required to obtain a HMO licence from the London Borough of Richmond before he was permitted to let out rooms in the property. HMO licences need to be renewed every five years and when the time came for Mr Gaskin to renew his he was told by the council that he would need to pay a fee which covered the costs of processing his application but also contributing towards the authority’s costs of running the HMO licensing scheme. Mr Gaskin refused to pay the amount requested, instead offering a lower sum.

The landlord was prosecuted in the Magistrates’ Court for operating an HMO without a licence. However, under EU Directive 2006/123/EC (“the Services Directive), there is a provision in its article 13(2), that where a charge is imposed for someone to apply to have access to a service activity, the charge is not permitted to exceed the cost of the authorisation procedures. The Administrative Court handed down judgment on July 31st, 2018, and stated that Mr Gaskin was providing a service within the meaning of EU law. Which therefore deemed that the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames’s fee for an HMO licence was unlawful as the charge covered costs beyond the cost of processing the licence application. The council was therefore not entitled to demand the fee which it had demanded.

Chief executive at Commercial Trust Limited, Andrew Turner, said: ‘This is an interesting case which may set a precedent for some landlords and could have the potential to save HMO landlords hundreds of pounds, if some local authorities have been charging more than they were legally entitled to, for HMO licences. This is a matter of law and I would urge any HMO landlords that believe they may have been overcharged, to seek professional legal advice.’

Source: Residential Landlord

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Landlord fined over £20,000 for not licensing HMO with fire hazards in Bath

A Bath landlord has been fined £24,000 after failing to licence and manage a House in Multiple Occupation, which council investigators found to be in poor condition and had fire hazards.

Allan Green, of Credenhill Road, London, was charged with failing to licence a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), failing to comply with regulations related to the management of the HMO and failing to respond to a formal request for information.

Green was found guilty of all six offences by Bath Magistrates when the case was heard on 30th May.

He was fined £24,000, £4000 for each of the six offences, ordered to pay the prosecution costs of £1,860 and the victim surcharge of £170.

The court heard that Bath & North East Somerset Council started investigations following a complaint from a resident about the property.

Officers found the property should have been licensed as an HMO because it is within the council’s Additional Licensing area and was occupied by three unrelated tenants who were sharing one or more amenity.

The court heard that officers found the house to be in a poor condition with a number of fire hazards, particularly related to the means of escape from the building.

Green was asked to supply to the council the latest gas and electrical test certificates but failed to do so and contact details for the HMO manager were not displayed in a prominent position within the property.

The court heard the defendant also failed to co-operate with the council or respond to a formal request for information.

Council officers served schedules of works on Green but he failed to complete any of the remedial work and did not apply for an HMO licence.

Councillor Paul Myers, (Conservative Midsomer Norton Redfield) Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “Our Housing Service always works in partnership with landlords to improve housing standards wherever possible.

“Additional licensing helps to ensure that occupants of HMOs are able to live in safe and well-managed properties.

“Where landlords fail to licence their properties such as the case here, they are undermining the objectives of the Additional Licensing Scheme and are putting the safety of their tenants at risk.

“This case shows our message is clear – landlords and letting agents operating outside the law will not be tolerated by Bath & North East Somerset Council.”

For more information on the legal requirements for Houses in Multiple Occupation, visit: www.bathnes.gov.uk/hmos or contact the Housing Standard and Improvement team on 01225 39644.

People can also report an unlicensed HMO here by visiting: www.bathnes.gov.uk/reportunlicensedhmo

Source: Bath Echo

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Bury Landlord Fined For Unlicensed Property In Poor Condition

A rogue Bury landlord has been ordered to pay nearly £3,000 after being found guilty of several breaches relating to an unlicensed HMO in the area.

Abdul Raza Saddiqui, aged 50, of Parkhill Road, Bury, was fined a sizeable £1,200. He was also ordered to pay £2,452 costs as well as a £30 victim of crime surcharge after being found guilty of 12 housing offences.

The rental property, located on Seymour Road in Crumpsall, M8, failed various minimum safety standards. These included fire safety and gas safety, seriously compromising the safety of the tenants in the property and potentially endangering their lives should there have been a fire.

Council officers also discovered other breaches of management regulations in the property. These included a lack of working fire alarm, damaged fire doors, cluttered escape routes and broken heating facilities. There were also damaged kitchen units, as well as filthy and verminous common areas that rendered the property unfit for human habitiation due to the lack of hygiene.

Saddiqui pleaded guilty to eleven offences of breach of HMO regulations, and one offence of a breach of a condition of his HMO licence at a hearing at Manchester Magistrates’ Court,

Deputy leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Bernard Priest, took a hard line on rogue landlords in Bury: ‘There’s no place for rogue landlords in Manchester. Landlords have a responsibility to provide their tenants good quality, safe housing and we take the issue of tenant safety extremely seriously. We will continue to pursue enforcement action to defend the rights of tenants and will not hesitate to take legal action against anyone whose property fails to meet the required standards.’

He continued: ‘Our message to landlords is simple – bring your property up to standard, make sure your tenants are safe and get a licence where the law requires one.’

Source: Residential Landlord

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Operating unlicensed HMO costs Bedford landlord more than £11K

A landlord has been prosecuted by Bedford Borough Council for operating an unlicensed HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) in the Bedford area.

Mr Fhalora of Ampthill Road, Bedford, was charged on January 3 with failing to obtain an Additional HMO Licence for the property that he manages on behalf of the owner and leases to tenants in Brackley Road.

Mr Fhalora was found guilty in his absence after entering a not guilty plea. As a result, Luton Magistrates Court fined him £2,500. Mr Fhalora was also ordered to pay the council’s full costs of £8,911.12 along with a victim surcharge of £170.

The court heard Mr Fhalora had been reminded by the council’s Community Regulation Team that he was required to licence the property under the Housing Act 2004. However, he failed to act on the advice given, potentially putting the safety of the tenants at risk and showing wilful neglect of his responsibilities as a landlord.

Councillor Colleen Atkins, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety & Regulatory Services 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.” Bedford Borough Council introduced an Additional HMO Licensing scheme in 2013 for properties rented out to three or more unrelated occupiers who share facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms.

These types of properties are subject to further regulation to give greater protection to tenants as these licences require landlords to invest in their properties, making them safer and in a better state of repair Landlords or tenants requiring further information or clarification regarding HMO Licensing requirements should contact the HMO Licensing Team on (01234) 718099 or refer to the council’s website at: www.bedford.gov.uk/multipleoccupation

Source: Bedford Today

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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 www.york.gov.uk/info/20097/private_landlords_and_tenants/1083/hmo_licensing

Source: Minster FM