06 Jun 2022

Despite announcing in 2018 that they were now pursuing landlords  for failure to licence HMOs and breaches of HMO Management Regulations under the civil penalty regime, (see £16,000 fine given for non-licence HMO”) the local authority has instead taken this “Rogue” landlord to court where there was only a small £4,808 fine.

Said Phil Turtle, compliance director with Landlord Licensing & Defence, “what we are probably seeing is the strategy increasingly being used by Local Authorities to take a landlord out of the market and which we are using them use increasingly.”

Here’s how the strategy works

  1. The council finds a property without a HMO licence. This they treat as a crime far more heinous than murder.
  2. They will issue Civil Penalty fines of usually £12,000 to £20,000 for failure to licence.
  3. If the landlord has other properties, they will then ‘rinse and repeat’ on all the landlords other properties
  4. If the landlord has multiple properties they will then issue civil financial penalty fines of around £28,000 for fire regulation failures and another £20,000 to £30,000 for other breaches of the HMO Management regulations. (That’s Per Property by the way, except for one property.)
  5. Then, having maximised their revenue, they go for the kill and take one property to court instead of fines. For a very good reason.

Turtle explains, “by taking the landlord to court after they’ve helped themselves to all his or her funds, councils will take the landlord to court to gain a criminal conviction which then gives them the ability to claim that the landlord is Not Fit and Proper (because any housing related criminal offence makes you not fit and proper). They will then refuse to grant a licence and revoke all the landlord’s other licenses and finally apply to the First Tier Tribunal for a Banning Order.”

“And then they’ve got everything they wanted: a very large slice of the landlord’s equity into their revenue stream and then the landlord completely destroyed and out of the market,” Turtle concluded.

You can read the “official version” of the press release below.

A rogue landlord that put tenants at risk has been fined for £4,808 for breaking housing regulations on a property in Wolverhampton.

The local council prosecuted Maciej Piotr Zaremba for breaching Management Regulations for a house of multiple occupation.

In September 2021, officers from the council gained a warrant to enter a property on after receiving complaints of intensive occupation and ill treatment from the landlord.  They discovered a number of occupants residing inside the property who all had separate contracts, locks on their rooms and shared facilities, despite the premises not being a licensed HMO. 

Upon inspection, officers determined that the building had significant fire risks, inadequate fire detection equipment and that means of escape in the event of a fire were inadequate.

Officers also discovered an extra fuse board, wiring and banks of electrical equipment in the loft of the property, which posed a significant risk of overheating and causing a fire.

In October 2021, a letter addressed to the defendant was delivered to the premises inviting him for a Police and Criminal Evidence Act interview under caution to which council received no response.

In February 2022, an additional warrant was secured to ascertain if housing regulations had been complied with. However, officers discovered that no improvements had been made to ensure the safety of the tenants within the property and that additional tenants had been taken on.

Dudley Magistrates court issued Zaremba with a £2,700 fine for the offence and he was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,838 and a victim surcharge of £270.

Councillor Bhupinder Gakhal, Cabinet Member for City Assets and Housing, says: “The council takes a strong stance on HMO licensing to ensure the safety of tenants and I hope this case will serve as a stark reminder to private sector landlords that they must comply with the HMO rules.”

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