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Multiple fire risks lead to London HMO landlord’s prosecution

20 November 2023

A LANDLORD and a property management company have been found guilty of putting tenants at risk after a Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council investigation and prosecution process.

Back in 2021, and in the wake of a complaint made by a tenant the previous year, Council officers enacted a dawn raid at the 22-bedroom House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) located at 36 Hyde Park Gate, whereupon they discovered multiple fire safety and damp-related risks.

It emerged that the landlord, Mohamed Ali Rasool, was unlicensed to operate the HMO. Despite repeated warnings, he failed to apply for a licence and the Council officials eventually visited the premises in tandem with officers from the Metropolitan Police Service and the London Fire Brigade.

They found defective and damaged fire doors, inadequate fire separation between bedrooms and protection in the boiler room or lobby, covered fire alarms and burned out and loose electrical sockets. Tenants were cooking in their rooms using camping-style facilities without proper kitchen facilities.

Further, there was rising damp and mould growth throughout the property and single-glazed windows complete with rotten frames, draughts and broken sashes. The inside of the property was so damp that mushrooms were growing in the upper floors.

Substantial fines

On 1 November, Blackstone Properties Management Limited and its director Mohamed Ali Rasool were fined a total of £480,000 plus costs at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Councillor Cem Kemahli, lead member for planning and public realm at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council, asserted: “Let this judgement be a clear lesson to other landlords and agents. If you are offering poor quality accommodation, we will find you and we will come after you.”

Kemahli added: “We want the best homes in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Our landlord licensing schemes are seeking out the bad operators to ensure safer homes for everyone and a fairer market for good operators.”

In conclusion, Kemahli noted: “Privately rented homes form a crucial part of our housing mix, but they must be up to scratch. Our teams stand by to help and assist landlords in answering their concerns or to offer suggestions about how to improve their properties.”

Legal requirement

It’s a national legal requirement for HMO landlords to have a licence for homes with five or more tenants. In the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the Council has recently introduced an additional licence for HMO landlords operating house and flat-shares with three and four tenants in order to improve standards in HMOs of all sizes.

Since June this year, 400 landlords have applied for the new additional licence.