Worthing landlord fined £22,000 for renting out unlicensed HMO

Worthing Borough Council found five people living in dangerous conditions in the property.

The flat in Heene Road, Worthing, did not have suitable fire detection, and fire doors to individual rooms had not been installed.

There was also no safe fire escape route and the condition of the stairs meant that access was hazardous.

As required by law, the landlord had also failed to get a licence for the three-storey building and House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

The lack of suitable fire separation between a commercial kitchen on the ground floor and the residential flats meant the Council had to serve an Emergency Prohibition Order, making five people homeless.

Officers from the Council’s Private Sector Housing team and West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service inspected the flat above a kebab shop in December last year.

The owner of the flat, Yilmaz Yaziciglou of South Farm Road, Worthing, was charged with failing to licence an HMO and eight further charges under the HMO management regulations.

Mr Yaziciglou who pleaded guilty was fined £4,000 for failing to licence an HMO, an additional £1,500 for each of the eight offences under the management regulations, and was also ordered to pay £6,224.76 in legal costs and £170 victim surcharge for a total of £22,394.76.

Cllr Heather Mercer, Worthing Borough Council’s Executive Member for Customer Services, said: “The landlord of this flat showed complete disregard for the safety and wellbeing of his tenants and it is only through the timely intervention of the council’s private sector housing team that serious injuries or worse were prevented.

“The level of the fine shows that the court recognises the gravity of the conditions within this flat and completely justifies the actions taken by Worthing Borough Council.’

“Owners of HMOs need to be aware that if they do not comply with the new requirements the Council will take action to protect residents.”

At the time of this offence, only properties with three or more storeys rented out to five or more people forming two or more households sharing facilities needed a licence.

As of 1 October 2018, any property with five or more people forming two or more households sharing facilities will need to be licenced.

Failing to licence an HMO can result in an unlimited fine, or a civil penalty notice of up to £30,000.

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Agents and landlords ‘left in dark’ over new HMO requirements despite huge penalties

Letting agents are reminded that the clock is ticking towards the October 1 deadline, when the rules on mandatory HMO licensing change across England.

There has been no government campaign to raise awareness among agents and landlords, and nothing to explain what appears to be a little-known exemption. This is despite the possibility of swingeing penalties.

Currently, properties of three or more storeys, shared by five or more people in two or more households, where facilities such as kitchen or bathroom are shared, must have a mandatory HMO licence.

On October 1, the “storeys” criteria is removed and any property, of any height, that meets the other criteria must be mandatorily licensed.

What agents may not know is that there is an important exemption: purpose-built flats within a block containing three or more self-contained flats are excluded from the requirement.

Nothing from the housing ministry has explained this or other new HMO rules – and yet the penalties are potentially severe enough to close a business down.

An HMO that is not licensed when the law requires it could land the agent or landlord, or both, with a criminal prosecution and record, an unlimited fine, and an order to pay court costs and a victim surcharge.

Alternatively, the council could issue a civil penalty of up to £30,000 and a rent repayment order of up to 12 months’ rental income.

While a property is unlicensed, a Section 21 notice cannot be served.

Licensing expert Richard Tacagni said agents should be absolutely certain that HMO properties falling under the new rules are licensed promptly.

He said: “Many agents don’t yet fully appreciate the implications, and their criminal liability if an application is not submitted on time.”

An excellent guide by Tacagni for all agents in England is here

A second article is especially aimed at London agents but does explain the exemption for flats in purpose-built blocks of three or more apartments.

It also reveals that many London authorities – and this may well apply to councils outside the capital – are not making the process for HMO licence applications particularly easy.

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Landlord fined £177,000 for putting tenants at risk

A neglectful landlord, who allowed his tenants to occupy a property without working smoke alarms, a lack of sufficient fire doors and an external escape route that was in a poor state of repair, even after repeated warnings from the local council, has been fined £177,000 for serious breaches of fire safety regulations.

Philip Anthony Brotherton, the owner of Cresctcourt Properties Ltd, accepted that he put the lives of his tenants at risk by not having sufficient fire safety measures in place when he appeared before Reading Magistrates’ Court.

Brotherton pleaded guilty to four charges under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Officers from Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service found a number of serious issues, including various failings, when they inspected a property in Waylen Street, Reading, occupied as a house of multiple occupation.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Simon Jefferies, said: “Our priority is to ensure the safety of the people of Berkshire. We will always work with landlords to maintain fire safety standards in premises and prosecution is the last resort.

“However, we hope that the significant level of this fine will send a clear message to all property owners that they have a duty to keep our communities safe and if they put anyone at risk by breaking the law, we won’t hesitate to prosecute.”

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Letting agency hit with £10,000-plus fine for smoke alarm failings

Letting agency hit with £10,000-plus fine for smoke alarm failings
A London council has fined a letting agency over £10,000 for failing to install smoke alarms in a rental property.

Waltham Forest council has prosecuted Just Move Estates, located in Walthamstow, using powers under the Housing and Planning Act.

The agency claimed that tenants had removed three smoke alarms from a rental property in Leyton. However, upon inspection council offers found no evidence they were ever installed, according to a report in the East London and West Essex Guardian.

The council then proceeded to issue the agency with a civil penalty. The firm originally appealed the fine, before withdrawing and accepting to pay £10,000 plus costs of £750.

Waltham Forest Council becomes one of the first authorities in the capital to prosecute under the Housing and Planning Act for failing to fit smoke alarms in a rental property.

Waltham Forest’s cabinet member for housing, Councillor Louise Mitchell, said: “I’m genuinely shocked that an experienced lettings agent like Just Move Estates thought they might get away with this.”

“As an established agency, trusted by landlords and tenants alike, they really should know better. We would very much expect this hefty fine will help them to remember their obligations.”

London Fire Brigade’s deputy assistant commissioner, Al Perez, added: “Any landlord who fails to fit smoke alarms is not only breaking the law but needlessly putting tenants’ lives at risks.”

“We welcome this result for Waltham Forest Council, and we hope this will act as a wake-up call to all landlords that under this legislation it is your responsibility to install measures to keep residents safe from fire.”

“It’s absolutely vital to have working smoke alarms fitted on every level of your home. We would also urge everyone to make sure they have one fitted in every room where a fire can start except kitchens or bathrooms where heat alarms are more appropriate,” he said.

“They give the earliest warning possible when there’s a fire and there’s no excuse for landlords not to fit them.”

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Just Move Estates fined £10k for failing to install smoke alarms in rented house in Leyton

Just Move Estates in Hoe Street, Walthamstow, had claimed that tenants removed three smoke alarms from the house on Melford Road, Leyton, but upon inspection, council officers found no evidence they were ever installed.

They were fined by Waltham Forest Council, using powers from the Housing & Planning Act.

The council issued a civil penalty against Just Move Estates, which the company initially appealed but later withdrew and agreed to pay a fine of £10,000 plus legal costs of £750.

Speaking after the landmark case for the rights of private tenants, Cllr Louise Mitchell, cabinet member for housing, said she was personally “shocked” that such a well-known company thought it could flout a law which aims to save lives.

Cllr Mitchell said: “I’m genuinely shocked that an experienced lettings agent like Just Move Estates thought they might get away with this.

“As an established agency, trusted by landlords and tenants alike, they really should know better.

“We would very much expect this hefty fine will help them to remember their obligations.

“Quite apart from the fact that it is a legal requirement for landlords to ensure they are present, they are inexpensive and easy to fit. It’s so little effort to prevent a tragedy.”

Waltham Forest Council was one of the first in the country to adopt the powers contained in the Housing & Planning Act (2016) which includes measures to tackle rogue landlords and help protect private rental tenants. It also allows the council to seek rent repayment orders in serious cases.

London Fire Brigade’s deputy assistant commissioner, Al Perez, said he hopes the case will serve as a warning to other landlords.

Mr Perez said: “Any landlord who fails to fit smoke alarms is not only breaking the law but needlessly putting tenants’ lives at risks.

“We welcome this result for Waltham Forest Council, which is one of the first councils in London to prosecute for failing to fit smoke alarms in a rented property under the Housing and Planning Act (2016) and we hope this will act as a wake-up call to all landlords that under this legislation it is your responsibility to install measures to keep residents safe from fire.

“It’s absolutely vital to have working smoke alarms fitted on every level of your home. We would also urge everyone to make sure they have one fitted in every room where a fire can start except kitchens or bathrooms where heat alarms are more appropriate.

“They give the earliest warning possible when there’s a fire and there’s no excuse for landlords not to fit them.”

Government research shows that you are four times more likely to die in a fire in a property that does not have a working smoke alarm.

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