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.