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Property companies fined for fire breaches

05 November 2018

TWO PRIVATE property companies which failed to follow Croydon Council’s landlord licensing scheme have been fined a combined £32,000.

All owners of private rented properties in Croydon must by law apply to the council for a licence under the borough’s landlord licensing scheme, which was set up in 2015 to protect private tenants and raise housing standards.

In 2017, AA Homes and Housing (5 Sydenham Road) Limited and its managing agent Anabow Services Ltd did not apply for a licence for 36 flats at a block called 5 Sydenham Road in central Croydon. The council decided to impose financial penalties over the failure to license one of these flats.

AA Homes and Anabow appealed, but last week the decision to impose financial penalties on the companies was upheld by the First-Tier Tribunal Property Chamber led by Judge Mrs Sonya O’Sullivan.

As a result of this case, since the landlord licensing scheme began the council has issued a total of 16 financial penalty notices, as well as:

  • Serving over 800 improvement notices requiring landlords to put right poor housing conditions
  • Prosecuting two landlords for renting dangerous properties
  • Issuing more than 30,000 licences

At the hearing in September, London Fire Brigade officers (LFB) told the judge-led panel that LFB had alerted Croydon Council after finding fire safety breaches at the five-storey private residential block. LFB watch manager Daniel Rosling said the seriousness of the conditions found at their visit in September 2017 had been a “10 out of 10”, citing a locked fire escape, poor ventilation and defective fire doors. He said that as a result of the LFB issuing an enforcement notice, all matters identified in the notice had since been resolved.

When council officers investigated, they found 36 of the 52 private rented flats had no landlord licence. One of them, which became the subject of the financial penalty, had had a tenant since 1 April 2017 who did not know the building’s fire evacuation procedures. This would have been a condition if the property had been licensed.

It took building owner AA Homes and Housing and Anabow Services until March 2018 to submit all 36 fully correct and paid-for landlord licence applications.

Citing a “glaring omission” in AA Homes’s failure to license and that it should have been well aware of the need to license, Judge O’Sullivan’s written judgement said: “There were serious fire safety issues in the property and accordingly there was serious harm or potential harm to the tenants in failure to license.”

She added, “We agree that there had been a wholesale failure to license as many as 36 flats out of a total 52 [which] is a relevant factor to be weighed against the Applicants.”

“Private landlords have a duty to keep all their tenants safe, and the council’s landlord licensing scheme makes sure they do.

“This landlord knew they had to license all their rented properties but failed to meet this responsibility until council officers took action. Most Croydon landlords do the right thing, and this case shows that any landlord who does flout the rules risks a hefty fine.”

Announcing the ruling, Judge O’Sullivan reduced AA Homes’s original financial penalty from £26,000 but ordered it to pay £20,000, while Anabow’s appeal was dismissed and the panel upheld its original £12,000 financial penalty.