Doncaster Landlord gets Banning Order

18 Dec 2019

A landlord has been banned for two and half years after repeatedly putting tenants’ lives at risk by letting unsafe housing.

This landlord banning order – in Doncaster – is reportedly the first in the North of England and only the third achieved by a council since the order came into effect in April 2018.

Following a hearing in October the Property Tribunal Service banned Almas Rashid of Doncaster from letting any housing in England and engaging in English letting agency work or property management work for a period of two years and six months.

The ban takes effect from February 14 2020.

If the banning order is breached, penalties can include imprisonment for up to 51 weeks or a court fine – or both – or a civil financial penalty of up to £30,000.

The successful Doncaster council application to ban Rashid followed a string of prosecutions in January 2019 for constantly failing to comply with improvement notices, not obtaining a Houses in Multiple Occupation licence and breaches of the HMO Management Regulations in respect of two multiple occupied houses. 

Rashid pleaded guilty to seven offences under the Housing Act 2004 and was ordered to pay £400 per offence, £2,800 in total. He also had to pay costs of £2,579.73 and a £40 victim surcharge.

A council spokesman says: “The granting of this banning order sends out a clear message to all rogue landlords that our housing enforcement team are at the cutting edge of enforcement.  When tenants are put at risk through the actions or lack of action by a landlord, we will clamp down by using all the enforcement tools at our disposal.”

Link to original article

From our Barrister’s Desk: Civil Penalties, HMOs and The Housing Act – a Brief Guide

By Julian Hunt, Barrister at Law & specialist in HMOs and the Housing Acts

I have advised on many Housing Act Civil Penalty Notices (CPNs) since their inception.

There is no set format for these notices which arrive with that ominous thud on the doorstep.

I have seen notices vary from a few lines via which the recipient must discern the exact particulars of the offence, to detailed notices setting out at some length the relevant management regulation or Housing Act breaches.

In many ways it is quite extraordinary that Councils can now quite literally print out a couple of pieces of paper and have neatly laid out for your edification, penalties of up to £30000; once the Housing Officer has put a stamp on the envelope.

These penalties, if not challenged, are enforceable as a civil debt with Councils more than happy to bankrupt you or put a charge on your property with an order then forcing you to sell it.

The only relief is that they are not court fines which can be enforced via imprisonment if wilfully not paid.

If you do get a notice you do have some safeguards. You have 28 days to send in representations via yourself or better still a specialist lawyer. You can ask for this time to be extended. Some Councils will set up committees to look at the representations and assure the final notices are in accordance with any relevant Council guidelines. Councils should look carefully at well thought out representations and be willing to reduce the amount.

If the representations are ignored there is no statutory requirement to give reasons as to why. A final notice is simply issued at any time, after the 28 days for the receipt of the representations has expired. Of course, none of these formal steps stops ‘without prejudice’ correspondence being put forward to try and negotiate down the notices, if the amount does not seem right.

Should this part fail, the next stage is to appeal the matter formally to the First Tier Tribunal. You will have 28 days from the date of the final notice.
I have drafted many appeal grounds in such cases. There is a fee for the issue of any appeal. Following this, the First Tier Tribunal will issue directions. The timetable is often very tight in relation to the paperwork required for such matters.

Some tribunals offer a free mediation service. I always recommend it to clients and Councils will, in my experience, take part in it – with reasonable results, especially if the client is represented, and you have a good judge-mediator.

Some of the other consequences of a CPN include inclusion on the Rogue Landlords Register and the landlord being deemed not to be fit and proper to have a licence (depending on the Council’s policy).
In addition, for future licences there is often a box in the plethora of forms for these licences in which you need to admit if you have faced Housing Act proceedings in the past.

A CPN can also lead to the double whammy of a Rent Repayment Order being applied for.

The monies from these CPN’s go straight to the Council’s private sector team for enforcing housing standards. As CPN’s become more bedded into the Council armoury, with their third birthday just gone, I expect to see an ever growing number issued.

Whatever you do when you get one don’t do nowt!

You have to try and engage, as it is hard to appeal ‘out of time’ even if your matter has merit.
I should finally add that excuses such as being too busy, unclear Council guidance on the phone, ignorance of regulations or not knowing that you were now in a Selective Licensing area are not really going to wash as substantive defences.

Get in touch with me to see if I can assist you should you face the dread of a CPN. Use the contact form here

Julian Hunt
Chambers of Julian Hunt, London
Julian Hunt is the Barrister for
Landlord Licensing and Defence clients

1) i.e Breaches of the catch-all The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Additional Provisions) (England) Regulations 2007 at Accessed 12th December 2019
2) Housing Act 2004 Section 249A(4)
3) Housing Act 2004 Schedule 13A para. 11
4) i.e Southwark’s CPN Policy at para 10 Accessed 12th December 2019
5) DCLG Guidance on Civil Penalties at para 8.1 accessed 12th December 2019

Tribunal Tells Coventry City Council that £31,499 Landlord Penalty is ’not in any way reasonable’ and slashes it to £3,300

24 Oct 2019

In the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) the Landlord Mr Tan Sandhu appealed against a fixed penalty of £24,649 (initially £31,499) imposed by Coventry City Council for breaches of the Housing Act 2004.

Reviewing the Tribunal’s decision, Phil Turtle, compliance consultant with Landlord Licensing and Defence said “Whilst we cannot condone a landlord not knowing and / or failing to comply with the HMO Management Regulations, this case is a clear example of a Council mis-applying the legislation for their own purposes. 

“Coventry City Council had originally tried to extract £31,499 from this landlord when in fact, as the Tribunal determined on , they were only entitled to fine the landlord a total of £3,300.  An attempted over-charge of £28,199. 

“Whilst there is no actual proof of causality in this case, it is however interesting that whereas Court Fines go to central government, Councils get to keep these landlord fines as an income stream which may affect their objectivity.”

The property, a semi-detached house in Walsall Street, Coventry came to the Council’s attention as part of a campaign of inspections to improve the quality of HMO housing around Warwick University.

The Council found that the landlord of this particular property had failed to comply with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 in four breaches:

  1. Failed Duty of Manager to provide information to occupier(s)
  2. Failed Duty of Manager to take safety measures
  3. Failed Duty of Manager to supply and maintain gas and electricity
  4. Failed Duty of Manager to maintain common parts, fixtures, fittings and appliances.

In particular, the Council’s inspector noted that keys were needed to exit individual rooms (risk to life in case of fire).  Rear door was insecure (risk of entry by intruders).  There was also no notice displayed giving name, address and telephone number of the manager as required by the Regulations.

On the fire-safety font, the smoke / heat detector in the kitchen had been removed and no fire blanket had been provided.

After giving the landlord notice of the breaches on 20th November 2018, the Council re-inspected on 14th March 2019 *having therefore given the landlord four months to rectify the breaches) but found that several of the breaches had not yet been rectified, in particular the rear door in the kitchen, the need for keys to escape in case of fire and the notice of managers detail lthough contractors were on site.

The Council decided to impose a penalty of £2,100 in relation to the missing manager’s details notice and £29.399 in relation to breaches under regulation 4 (duty to take safety measures).  A total of £31,499.  After receiving ‘representations’ from the landlord, Coventry City Council reduced the total to £24,649.

The landlord appealed that the penalty charges were excessive and not in line with the Council’s own policies nor government guidelines.  He also appealed that his financial circumstances had not been taken into account.

The landlord admitted that the breaches had been committed but also claimed to the tribunal that once made aware of these he worked to correct them – though it seems somewhat tardily, in that works were still underway on the second Council inspection four months later when contractors were only just attending to the fire alarm system and other works had not been done.

Now to the Tribunal’s findings:

There was no disagreement the breaches had been committed.  However, the Tribunal was scathing about Coventry City Council’s over-zealous financial penalty calculations and claims.

In relation to the Manager Details Notice for which the Council fine was originally £2,100, the Tribunal found that a fair and reasonable amount taking into account the landlord’s financial circumstances, and that it was a ‘first offence’ should be £200 though the Tribunal then added +10% to this because as an estate agent / mortgage broker, “He should have known better”.

In relation to the safety issues the Council’s starting fine had been £29,399 including various add-ons for the property being “above the Coventry average value”, and that the landlord’s breaches were “motivated by financial gain” both of which the Tribunal found to be nonsense, stating “in this case The Tribunal is not persuaded by the Respondent’s (Coventry City Council) submission in respect of all the additional add-on amounts of the penalty.  Neither is it persuaded that the amounts demanded are in any way reasonable or reflect the actual failures of the applicant (landlord).”

The Tribunal then proceeded to calculate that the ‘fair’ financial penalty for the safety related issues should be £5,000 less 50% for a ‘first offence’ but then plus 10% because the landlord’s profession meant that “He should have known better”.

Concluded Turtle, “landlords in receipt of ‘Notice to Impose Financial Penalty’ from Councils would be well advised to take immediate professional advice to defend against these unwarranted Council excesses and hold them to account.”

Read the full Tribunal decision

Essex ‘Accidental Landlord’ stung with £3,500 rent repayment order

05 Dec 2019

Assisted by a no-win, no-fee organisation the tenant, a former acquaintance of the landlord’s daughter – to whom the accidental landlord had let the property on reduced rent-terms as a favour because of their acquaintanceship as teachers who worked together.

In his finding regarding the property in Chadwell Heath, Romford, Judge Nichols of the First Tier Tribunal (property chamber) stated “Becoming a landlord is a serious undertaking and a significant responsibility.  The way Ms Thomson tells it, she did her very best to be an attentive and conscientious landlord, but she was clearly unaware of her obligations in law and made no effort to acquaint herself with them.”

Said Phil Turtle, Compliance Consultant with Landlord Licensing & Defence, “Of course, like so many accidental and amateur landlords, Ms Thomson was unaware of the need to have a Selective Licence in Romford, Essex as well as the myriad of legislation and regulation that she needed to be aware of for the health and safety of her tenant.”

Like many accidental landlords, Ms T’s defence was that she hadn’t intended to become a landlord and was thus unaware of any legal requirements.  Replying to this Judge Nichol stated that while there is a defence in the Housing Act 2004 s95(4) of having a reasonable excuse “Ms T’s excuse does not come close to being one!”

Ms T admitted that she had let out the property without the required licence.

“Although the judge referred to her as an ‘accidental landlord’, in fact there is no such thing,” said Turtle. “There are only competent landlords and incompetent landlords.”

Ms T pointed out at length that the tenant, Ms B, had been a far from ideal tenant, had mental problems and indeed had attempted suicide.  The Judge in return, stated that the landlord was obviously unaware of her obligations under the Equality Act 2010 s15 and s35 to do everything possible to make allowances for such a disability.

The landlord claimed that the tenant had failed to maintain the garden or house, bothered her with endless minor maintenance requests and had left the property in a poor state.

The tenant claimed that the landlord had harassed her family, failed to do maintenance or replace locks following a burglary.  She also stated the landlord had failed to give her a written tenancy agreement despite repeated requests.

Such claims and counterclaims are unfortunately a common symptom of letting to friends or acquaintances by amateur or incompetent accidental landlords.  The Judge dismissed these as irrelevant to the Rent Repayment Order legislation and indeed the normal incidents of landlord and tenant relationship [when the relationship is not well managed].

Turtle explained, “a point in many readers’ minds will be: surely if Ms B was a nightmare tenant, she shouldn’t be entitled to her rent being refunded? However, Judge Nichol pointed out that the actual purpose of a Rent Repayment Order is not to compensate the tenant but to be ‘a penal sum’ to punish the landlord.”

Summing up, the Tribunal stated “Ms T is an accidental landlord, but she fell seriously short in her responsibilities in not making at least some effort to find out what obligations come with that position.  The lack of a written agreement and possible non-compliance with gas safety regulations over examples of the matters she consequently missed, despite her best intentions.  The Applicant may well have been a difficult tenant in some respects, but Ms T appears to have made no allowances for her disability until it reached the extreme of attempted suicide”.

Noting that it could make a Rent Repayment Order of up to £5,400 being 12 months’ rent, the Tribunal set the penalty at £3.500 in the circumstances.

Read the full Tribunal decision

£10,000 Civil Penalty Fine – Landlord loses appeal

29 Nov 2019

The First Tier Property Tribunal has thrown out an appeal by Islington Landlord Iqbal Ahmad.

The property, a flat in Holloway Road London N7 was inspects as part of the licence application process and he accepted a licence with conditions pertaining to amongst other things not having adequate fire protection measures. 

When the council re-inspected the property in April 2019 – twelve months later – they found that the landlord had not undertaken nor even planned to undertake the remedial works. This of course left the occupants at risk to life in the event of a fire.

In May 2019, the council issued a Final Notice and issued a Civil Financial Penalty ‘fine’ of £10,000

The landlord admitted that he had been at fault but nonetheless decided to appeal against the amount of the council’s fine and took the matter to the First Tier Property Tribunal.

The Council told the Tribunal that they took the view that the severity of the offence was determined to be serious and as such would fall within Band 3 of their Financial Penalty Charging Policy as a serious offence. For example, fire safely works had not been carried out nor indeed planned. 

The council stated that there were actually five “ breaches” and that each breach could incur a penalty of £10,000 meaning that had they so decided, they could have adopted a figure of £50,000 rather than the £10,000 actually charged. 

The Council said they however set the penalty of £10,000 in view of the nature and circumstances of the offence and its ramifications. 

The Tribunal noted that this property had been licensed and that as such the Respondent knew that as an HMO it needed to be licensed and that he had complied with the requirement to licence. 

The problem was he had not complied with the conditions of the licence and that this put occupants at risk especially as a result of the missing fire safety equipment. 

Mr Iqbal confirmed to the Tribunal that he did not dispute the facts of the case but thought that the penalty should not be so high. He said in his evidence to the Tribunal, “I was always aware I was at fault.”  

Summing up, the Tribunal said that Mr Iqbal had plenty of time to carry out the works required. Unfortunately, he chose a different solution. He decided to seek to revoke the HMO licence and to reduce the number of occupants in the property. This did not address the issues that were already in play. The works were necessary and would not go away because of his decision. 

The Tribunal has decided the Financial Penalty in the sum of £10,000 is proportionate and that the appropriate penalty is therefore £10,000.00 

The full Tribunal decision is here

Rent Repayment Order £8,975 against Landlord who failed to have Selective Licence

March 2016, Case summary by Phil Turtle Landlord Licensing and Defence

By ignoring Selective Licensing, this landlord lost £13,000 and gained a criminal record.

Local Authority, the London Borough of Newham (LA), applied for and won a Rent Repayment Order against Ms P. relating to a property in Malvern Road, East Ham, London E6.

The Local Authority has introduced a Selective Licensing scheme three years earlier, in January 2013. Being swift off the mark, the Local Authority wrote to the Landlord in September 2013 telling her of her responsibility to apply for a licence. They wrote again in late September.

Seemingly ignored by the Landlord, on 31st October a Council Officer was despatched to the property and spoke with the Tenant.

Still being ignored by the Landlord, one surmises, the Local Authority issued her with a “Notice of intended prosecution” in January 2014. Finally the Landlord woke up to the reality of her misdemeanour and signed a legal “Caution” (giving her a criminal record) and finally in February made a Selective Licence application. Using a cheque that bounced!

After a further “Notice of intended prosecution” in December 2014, Ms P. was hauled into court in September 2015 and fined £4,220 including costs.

The Local Authority also gave her notice of its intention to make an application for a Rent Repayment Order in relation to Housing Benefit it had given to the tenant in relation to the tenancy at Ms P.’s property and which was the subject of the First Tier tribunal case.

Not surprisingly given the forgoing, particularly said the Judge, “the failure of Ms P. to engage with the Local Authority relating to Selective Licensing”  the Tribunal foud in favour of the Local Authority (Housing Benefits) and gave them back one years’ rent.

Whether or not landlords like the idea of Selective Licensing, and many would consider it just another tax, it is not optional. This landlord’s recalcitrance has cost her over £13,000 and given her a criminal record.

You can read the full First Tier Tribunal decision (if you like wading through legal stuff) here

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