Date Published 31 July 2012
A letting agent has been fined £20,000 over offences relating to a House in Multiple Occupation. The landlord has also been fined.
Jarvis Properties managed a property in Reading, Berkshire, for landlord Abdul Sheikh. The three-storey property was issued with an HMO licence by Reading Borough Council, on July 17, 2009, limiting the number of occupants to seven. Following a complaint from one of the residents regarding poor conditions and disrepair in May 2011, the council carried out an investigation.
The property was found to be overcrowded, with 11 people living at the property. The fire alarm system was not working, and other fire safety provisions such as fire doors, emergency lights were not being maintained. Fire safety notices were incorrectly positioned and did not direct occupiers to exit via a safe route.
An internal shower room extractor fan was not working and electrical wires were exposed.
The investigation also found that the shower and the toilet in the top-floor shower room blocked up due to a failed macerator unit resulting in foul water filling up both the shower tray and toilet and leaking through to the ceiling below and landing on the banister to the communal stairs and hallway below.
A court found the agent had failed to manage the HMO properly or comply with health and safety conditions on the HMO licence, and failed to provide information when asked.
The landlord was fined £500 and has been ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £15, as well as legal costs of £200 – a total of £715 – after pleading guilty to failing to provide requested information.
District Judge Lynne Matthews said that she considered the offences to be serious, and that when the defendant became aware of the failures they failed to do anything about it for some considerable time. She said the tenants deserved to have better living accommodation and were entitled to working sanitary facilities.
Reading Council’s assistant lead councillor for neighbourhood and housing, Richard Davies, said: `This is a fantastic result for the council’s housing and environmental protection team – and more importantly, this is a great result for tenants across the borough.
`Raising the standards of housing across all tenures is a top priority for the council, including rental properties in the private sector, and this case should act as a deterrent to a minority of irresponsible landlords, as well as letting agents.`
But Jarvis Properties accused the council of being `more interested in court fines than co-operating to get works done in adequate timeframes`.
In a statement, the company said: `More help should be given to landlords across the borough to raise standards if this is indeed the intention of the council. Many landlords and investors have already left the HMO market and we fear many more will do so in the future due to excessive red tape.`