Stoke-on-Trent landlords fined almost £1,800 & more will be prosecuted

Two landlords have been told to pay almost £1,800 – after failing to apply for a relevant licence.

Both Sarah Machin and Mohammed Ashraf failed to apply for the licence within a selecting licensing areas in Stoke-on-Trent.

The initiative had previously been rolled out by Stoke-on-Trent City Council with leaders claiming the scheme is aimed at raising the condition of rental properties.

And the authority has said it will continue to prosecute landlords owning homes in designated areas who fail to apply.

The prosecutions of Machin and Ashraf come as the council is seeking approval to roll out selective licensing to 14 new areas.

Machin, of Windermere Street, Hanley, was fined £1,016.91 for not licensing her rental property also on Windermere Street. She failed to attend the hearing at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court and was found guilty in her absence.

Meanwhile Ashraf, of Winifred Street, Hanley pleaded guilty to failing to apply for a licence for his rental property on Denbigh Street, Hanley

He was ordered to pay a fine and costs totalling £755.48.

The city currently has schemes around Hanley and Fenton with more planned. Critics have said the scheme punishes good landlords along with rogue ones and have called for the scheme to be halted until after the Government publishes a report on selective licensing in the spring.

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Landlord fined for operating illegally

Nasar Shaikh, of Coleshill Road, Birmingham, was fined £5,000 after failing to obtain a licence from Waltham Forest Council to rent out a two-bedroom flat on Theydon Street, Walthamstow.

The landlord let the property to a young family who had been living at the house since 2010.

The council identified the address in 2017 as one that needed a licence, but when officers contacted Shaikh, after initially saying he would apply for a licence, he instead applied for an exemption saying he intended to move into the property.

Mr Shaikh then took a room back from the tenants and padlocked it in an attempt to show that he was living at the property, forcing the family of four to live in cramped conditions.

Council officers concluded that Mr Shaikh was settled in Birmingham and that his claim to be living in the property was a sham to avoid his legal responsibilities.

On Thursday November 1, the authority took possession of the property. The tenants’ rent will be paid direct to the council and the money used to fund essential repairs and safety work.

Mr Shaikh was fined £5,000 for his failure to get the required licence.

Cllr Louise Mitchell, cabinet member for housing, said: “Mr Shaikh tried to get around his obligation to obtain a licence for this property, and when challenged refused to accept any responsibility but instead illegally changed his tenants’ agreement so as to remove their access to parts of the property.

“Tenants should not find themselves at the whim of their landlord. They had signed a tenancy agreement in good faith, but because of Mr Shaikh’s irresponsibility found themselves being penalised.

“Ensuring that residents have a decent roof over their heads is a top priority for the council and we will continue to hold rogue landlords to account in Waltham Forest.”

Mr Shaikh at first appealed the £5,000 fine, but a London Residential Property First-tier tribunal on November 26 and 27 dismissed this, finding his actions amounted to “nothing other than an attempt to circumnavigate the impact of the financial penalty.”

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Landlord fined £60,000 for license breaches

A court has fined a Gateshead private landlord £60,000 for committing serious offences under The Housing Act 2004.

Regev Hazan, the landlord of the property in Ridley Gardens in Swalwell, was found guilty of failing to comply with an Improvement Notice and breaching the conditions of his landlord licence by failing to effectively manage his property.

Issues with the property, which is located within the former landlord licensing area in Swalwell, first came to light following an investigation by Northumbria Police who had identified the property as a cannabis farm operated by a former tenant.

It was soon apparent that Mr Hazan had failed to obtain the required licence to operate as a private landlord in the area and he was instructed to apply for a licence. The Council also requested that he undertake a number of works to bring the property up to a rentable standard.

The property was re-let but the Council was soon receiving complaints from neighbours about loud music, shouting, regular parties and reports of people urinating in the rear yard. The disturbances resulted in one resident moving out of their own property.

Further investigations suggested that the property was operating as a house in multiple occupation and council officers provided Mr Hazan with advice on how to better manage the property and encouraged him to attend training, which he declined.

As part of a further police-led investigation in July 2017 – Operation Kestrel – the property was inspected again and found to have multiple occupants, some without a tenancy agreement, and several serious hazards such as defective heating, lack of internal doors and lighting, lack of safety catches to windows and an inadequate fire detection system.

Despite the property being home for up to five people, there were no household waste or recycling bins and a growing build-up of waste in the rear yard.

The council served an Improvement Notice on Mr Hazan in August 2017 instructing him to remedy the hazards by no later than 10th October 2017. Mr Hazan duly advised the council that all the works had been completed – but when the property was inspected a little while later this proved not to be the case. On questioning, Mr Hazan admitted that he was unaware of the number of tenants occupying his property or who they were.

In March this year, as part of Operation Vienna, which is Gateshead Council’s ongoing joint working partnership with Northumbria Police, a warrant to enter the now-empty property was obtained. A large quantity of cannabis and other drug paraphernalia were found inside, as well as an axe and club, and a large accumulation of rotting food and bedding in the rear yard.

Mr Hazan was duly charged with two offences under The Housing Act and appeared before a district judge at South Tyneside Magistrate’s Court where he was fined £30,000 for failing to comply with the Improvement Notice, and a further £30,000 for being in breach of his landlord licence by failing to effectively manage his property.

He was also required to pay a Victim Surcharge of £120 and ordered to pay costs of £1,200.

“This is a fantastic result and sends a clear message to landlords in our region…” – Northumbria Police

In sentencing Hazan, District Judge Elsy described the offences as being ‘as serious as you can get,’ and the property as being barely fit for human habitation.

Councillor Malcolm Brain, Gateshead’s Cabinet member for housing, says:

“This was a huge fine, but the sentence was well-deserved.

“Whether Mr Hazan’s poor management of this property was intentional or it was simply as a result of his inadequacies as a property manager is irrelevant. What’s important is the fact he broke the law, repeatedly, and has been called to account.

“Landlord licencing schemes have proven to be very effective in reversing decline in areas of low demand and enabling those areas to grow and prosper once more.

“They are also a valuable tool in ensuring that unscrupulous landlords do not take advantage of poor and vulnerable individuals, and that they and their properties fulfil their proper legal responsibilities.

“It’s hoped that Mr Hazan has now learnt his lesson.”

Inspector Mick Robson of the Gateshead Neighbourhood Policing Team says:

“The occupants of this particular property were living in desolate conditions and their behaviour was ruining the lives of their neighbours through anti-social behaviour and criminal activity.

“Police will take action when they can but it is through work like Operation Vienna that we can work with the council to target those people who allow it to continue.

“Mr Hazan turned a blind eye to this behaviour. He was irresponsible, negligent and continued in the manner which he did because he could make the most money.

“Now he has been hit where it hurts the most – his pocket. This is a fantastic result and sends a clear message to landlords in our region that this type of behaviour won’t be tolerated.”

Regev Hazan, who is based in London, owns 26 properties in Gateshead, is the sole director of Eagleton Ltd which has ten further properties, and manages a number of other properties on behalf of family and friends.

The Selective Licensing Scheme is a Government initiative aimed at improving areas with high concentrations of private rented homes that have fallen into decline due to high levels of ASB, crime, empty properties, high tenant turnover and a lack of effective management.

Licensing allows councils to target these areas and require private landlords to apply for a licence permitting them to rent out their properties. The licence effectively requires the landlord to be vetted, with only fit and proper landlords being permitted to rent out properties in these areas.

Landlords are also required to ensure that their property meets certain safety and management standards, and that all prospective tenants are carefully vetted to safeguard against anti-social behaviour.

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Record £20,000 fine for unlicensed landlord with 62 properties

Local man Charles Baker is to pay fine and costs after failing to gain relevant licences from Rent Smart Wales.

A Welsh landlord with 62 apartments within 16 rented properties has been fined a record £20,000 for failing to obtain a licence from Rent Smart Wales to operate them.

Charles Baker of Cyncoed Road, Cyncoed, Cardiff was found guilty at the city’s Magistrates Court and will now have to pay the fine plus costs of £741.

Baker, who didn’t attend the hearing, was found guilty of both failing to obtain a licence to carry out lettings and management activities for his properties, which are in the Roath area of the city.

“Rent Smart Wales was introduced to drive up standards in the private rented sector and to help professionalise the role of a landlord for the benefit of themselves and their tenants.,” says Councillor Lynda Thorne (left), Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities at Cardiff Council, the single licensing authority for Rent Smart Wales.

“It’s quite shocking that a landlord with so many properties in the city has sought to evade compliance.

“However, it really doesn’t matter if you are a landlord with 60 properties or just the one because all self-managing landlords must be licensed with Rent Smart Wales to operate legally.

“We are prosecuting landlords for non-compliance across Wales and will continue to do so to root out the minority who are foolish enough to believe the law doesn’t apply to them.”

Landlords who let and manage their own properties are required under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 to be registered and licensed with Rent Smart Wales.

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Slum landlord family must pay £250k under crime proceeds act

Harsha, Chandni and Sanjay Shah crammed 31 tenants into four-bedroom Wembley house

A family of slum landlords who crammed 31 people into a suburban four-bedroom house has been ordered to pay back almost £250,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The landlords were earning more than £100,000 a year from the enterprise, which involved squeezing tenants on “sleeping shifts” into rooms fitted with up to four beds each in a house in Wembley, north London. Some tenants were made to sleep in an improvised shed built in the back garden made from wood offcuts, pallets and tarpaulin.

A judge at Harrow crown court ordered Harsha Shah and her daughter, Chandni Shah, to pay £116,000 in a confiscation order. Jaydipkumar Valand, who was acting as their agent and rent collector at the Napier Road property, was subjected to a £5,000 order.

Sanjay Shah, Harsha Shah’s brother, was sentenced with his sister and niece to pay £41,000 in fines. All the defendants were ordered to pay £82,367 in costs.

The property was ruled to be an illegal house of multiple occupation after a 2016 raid by a London Borough of Brent housing enforcement officer. They were found guilty of breaching landlord licensing rules in May 2017.

“We will use every legal power we have to come down hard on landlords and agents who exploit tenants in Brent,” said councillor Eleanor Southwood, the cabinet member for housing and welfare reform. “Every house in multiple occupation needs a licence, which helps to create decent living standards in the borough. We will track down landlords who do not licence their properties and rip off tenants by housing them in miserable conditions.”

Vispasp Sarkari, 56, another landlord in the area, was fined last year for squeezing 27 people into a four-bedroom semi-detached house that had been converted into seven tiny flats. He was ordered last month to pay a record £1.5m penalty for breaking planning laws on that and other properties which he had illegally converted into bedsits. One of the properties where families were found paying £650 a month was infested with cockroaches, rats and damp.

The government has estimated that there are more than 10,000 rogue landlords operating nationwide, many of whom own England’s 500,000 houses of multiple occupation.

The government announced new rules last year under which rooms slept in by one adult will have to be no smaller than 6.5 square metres (70 square feet), and those slept in by two adults 10.2 square metres. Rooms slept in by children of 10 years and younger will have to be no smaller than 4.6 square metres.

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