Three landlords have been fined a total of £24,170 including costs, for failing to have a licence for a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).
Chiabass Lawrence, who has been managing HMOs across London since 2003, pleaded guilty at Willesden Magistrates’ Court on 19th June for failing to acquire a license for an HMO without reasonable excuse. Mr Lawrence and his property management companies, OGAS Group Ltd and LT Group, were prosecuted under the council’s Additional HMO licensing scheme for breaching property management regulations.
The council was made aware of the unlicensed, two-storey property following noise complaints from neighbouring residents. Upon inspection, Barnet Council’s Enforcement Team found that nine different tenants under different letting agreements were sharing a single kitchen and bathroom, with no satisfactory means of fire escape or fire detection
One of the more dangerous lettings was formed by placing a partition in the kitchen which, in the event of a kitchen fire, would leave the tenant completely trapped.
After the District Judge had seen the photos of the undersized rooms, he concluded that Mr Lawrence was aware that an HMO licence was required for the property and that the letting of undersized rooms was strictly prohibited, despite Mr Lawrence’s defence that the property had only been unlicensed for three months. Mr Lawrence and his property management companies were sentenced for the calculated risk they took.
Councillor Gabriel Rozenberg, Chair of the Housing Committee, said: “This unlicensed rental property was in an unacceptable and dangerous state and I am glad to see this recognised in court.
“Our message to tenants facing rogue landlords is simple: we are on your side. Managers of HMOs who do not have the necessary licence should expect to be prosecuted or issued with a Penalty Notice of up to £30,000 per offence.”
Private tenants having problems with their accommodation should contact their landlord immediately and give them an opportunity to rectify the issue.
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The scheme requires landlords to apply for a licence to operate student homes
Nottingham City Council plans to extend a licensing scheme which tackles rowdy students blighting residential areas.
Landlords have had to apply for a council licence to operate a HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) in areas of Nottingham since 2014.
This scheme applies to HMOs where three to five unrelated people live and share one property, which is predominately students in areas such as Lenton, Radford and Park and the Arboretum.
Larger HMOs are covered by a different scheme.
The licence ensures the property is kept to a safe and decent standard and ensures rogue landlords move properties into responsible ownership.
But the scheme is also to reduce anti-social behaviour in areas blighted by noise by forcing landlords to be more responsible.
Giles Inman, from East Midlands Property Owners (EMPO) which represents landlords in the city, told the Post: “If you look at Lenton and Dunkirk the additional licensing was the main motivator to reduce anti-social behaviour and crime – and improve the management style of landlords.
“Around 85 percent of these properties are licensed. If you look at the police stats crime has gone up, and you have to draw your own conclusions.
“This was the golden goose to deal with all this but if you listen to residents’ groups it has been as bad as it ever has been.
“There are a lot of phone calls made about noise in Lenton. The landlord is not called until a few weeks later about the incident (by the council). It should be the next day.
“But there have been improvements and housing standards have gone up.”
The council has issued 2,458 licences under the previous scheme, with nine landlords prosecuted and three receiving civil penalty final notices (financial penalties).
The current five-year scheme will soon end, so the council is consulting on proposals for a new scheme, which would run for a further five years from January 2019.
The new ‘Additional Licensing’ scheme is proposed to cover all or parts of the following wards: Arboretum, Berridge, Bridge, Dales, Dunkirk and Lenton, Mapperley, Radford and Park, Sherwood, St Ann’s and Wollaton East and Lenton Abbey.
New or extended areas include around 150 properties in Sherwood, Berridge, St Ann’s and the Bridge.
Councillor Jane Urquhart, portfolio holder for planning and housing at the city council, said: “This scheme, along with others, is a major part of our plans to improve all types of private rented housing in the city.
“Not only does the scheme help to improve poorer standards of accommodation, it means tenants know what is expected of their landlord in terms of the management of their home.
“It also helps us to tackle rogue and bad landlords by providing a clear set of guidelines which all landlords need to meet, and helps prevent bad landlords cutting corners or ‘undercutting’ good ones, creating a level playing field for all.
“We are encouraging landlords, managing agents, residents and tenants to have their say on these proposals to help us shape the new scheme.”
Concerns have also been raised by landlords about the price hike of the new scheme.
It is proposed the cost of a licence will go up from £910 per property for five years to £1,000 for accredited landlords, £1,350 for non accredited and £1,750 for any landlord that has breached their licence.
Mr Inman added: “The fees have raised eyebrows.”
A consultation on the new scheme began on May 1 and is running until July 20. You can find out more here.
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Three landlords have been prosecuted for licensing offences in Gainsborough.
Collectively the landlords, who all live outside of the West Lindsey area, were ordered to pay fines, costs and victim surcharges totalling more than £6,000.
They all pleaded guilty to selective licensing offences during a hearing Lincoln Magistrates Court on June 4.
Coun Sheila Bibb, chairman of the prosperous communities committee on West Lindsey District Council, said: “These successful prosecutions continue to demonstrate the council’s commitment to improving housing standards and management within the Gainsborough area.
“All three of these landlords are not from the local area and this should send a clear message to other landlords operating or looking to operate in the area that we will hold you to account in regards to your legal obligations. “From May this year the council now has additional powers in relation to the issuing of civil penalties for these offences, which will extend our ability to deal with these issues and hold landlords to account.”
Richard Barratt, from Brigg, pleaded guilty to three offences of operating without the required licences in place.
He was fined £179 per offence, ordered to pay costs of £633.47 and a victim surcharge of £30. The court made a collection order in relation to the total costs of £1,200.47.
Mohammed Faruq, 36, of Willowmead Close, Scunthorpe, entered guilty pleas to two unlicensed offences. He was fined £1,000 per offence, alongside costs of £435.95 and a victim surcharge of £100. The court made a collection order in relation to the total costs of £2,535.95.
And Margaret Lamport, from Liverpool, pleaded guilty to three unlicensed offences.
She was fined £670 per offence and must pay costs of £468.47 and a victim surcharge of £67.
These take the total number of landlords prosecuted for non-compliance under the selective licensing scheme in the Gainsborough area to nine since its implementation in 2016.
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