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HMO landlord fined over £45k

05 June 2019

A COMPANY that owns and manages two properties in Hatfield has been ordered to pay nearly £50,000, after pleading guilty to 13 offences relating to a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

St Albans Magistrates' Court ordered Assim Estates Ltd, registered in Essex, to pay £45,500 in fines and full costs of £4,471 to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and a victim surcharge of £120.

Council officers carried out an initial inspection of the property, 1 Redhall Drive in Hatfield, in 2017, and found it to be occupied as an HMO. The owner then informed the council that he was going to either sell the property or let it as a single occupancy property.

The council carried out an unannounced inspection in May 2018 and found evidence that the property was still being occupied as an HMO, with five unrelated persons occupying the property. Officers found that there were no fire detectors or alarms in the communal hall, stairs or landing area - and no interlinked fire detection to the rest of the property. There were also no fire doors to bedrooms, or satisfactory escape in the event of a fire. As an interim measure, officers placed two battery smoke detectors in the hallway and landing areas. Officers again issued a schedule of work which needed to be completed to improve the fire safety and condition of the property.

The council carried out further inspections in July 2018, where it was found that no work had been carried out to improve the fire safety or condition of the property.

The defendant was charged with 13 offences, including no working fire detection to halls, stairs and landing, no interlinked fire detection in the house, no fire blanket, the hallway areas having no lighting, and various communal areas and bedroom windows missing handles.

The defendant company argued in mitigation that they had almost sold the property in question and that they were not professional landlords.

Councillor Nick Pace, Executive Member for Housing and Community, said: "This is one of the largest fines we have seen for these types of offences, indicating the seriousness of this case. It sends out a clear message - that we will always act to protect our residents from landlords who compromise the safety of their tenants.

"I encourage landlords in the borough to join the council-run accreditation scheme, PAL, which makes it easier for landlords to understand and meet high standards of management practice.

"Residents looking for good quality accommodation to rent can also visit www.pal-online.org.uk to find a property from an accredited landlord or agent in the borough."

New legislation introduced in October 2018 requires all HMOs with five or more tenants to be licensed. It is a criminal offence to operate a licensable HMO without having made a valid application, and penalties include an unlimited fine and criminal record.