A lettings agent that claimed that it was unaware a property was a house in multiple occupation (HMO) has lost its appeal over a £20,000 fine.

In January this year Altavon property management ltd and the landlord of the property, Adrian Simion, 30, had been found guilty at Luton Magistrates court of a series of management regulations breaches relating to the safety and running of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

Neither defendant had attended the initial hearing and had both been convicted in their absence. Altavon was fined £20,000 and Simion was fined £7,000.

Altavon appealed against both conviction and sentence, but this was dismissed at the Crown Court.

Luton Council reported that Recorder Bridge had stated that anyone taking money for renting properties must comply with the law.

He also said that whilst Altavon had made requests to inspect the property, when these were deflected by the occupants, the company made inadequate attempts to exercise their responsibilities and insist upon access.

As for Altavon’s claim that they were unaware that it was an HMO as they had let it out to a single person, Recorder Bridge found that this was no excuse as it was their responsibility, as agents, to be aware of what was going on at the property.

The appeal was dismissed and the fine remained in place. Luton’s application for costs of £932.07 was granted in full.

Patrick Odling-Smee, Director of Housing at Luton Council, said: “We are delighted the Recorder has upheld the original decision and dismissed the appeal. This was a significant case for the council. Not only was the accommodation being run as an unlicensed HMO, with all the attendant safety concerns, but in this instance there were particular concerns around the vulnerability of tenants.

“The findings of the appeal court send out a strong message to everyone that, together with our partners, we will do all we can to uphold the law and protect anyone who is exploited when it is not adhered to. The old adage that, to be ignorant of the law is no defence, has been justifiably proven to be the case in this instance.”

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