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Two Brighton & Hove landlords of shared houses have been prosecuted for failing to license their properties as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) with one facing an unprecedented £20,000 fine.

Both were prosecuted under the Housing Act 2004 at Eastbourne Magistrates Court. Neither defendant appeared at the hearing this week and neither was represented.

Sarah Jordan, who is the landlord of 32 Stroudley Road, in St Peter’s & North Laine ward, was fined a city record £20,000 for an unlicensed HMO with £750 costs.

After multiple attempts to avoid licensing, Gagandeep Sethi, who owns 50 Carlyle Avenue, which is in the ward of Moulsecoomb & Bevendean, was prosecuted and fined £14,000 with £750 costs. Mr Sethi submitted a plea of guilty by post although no mitigation was submitted.

Both were ordered to pay a Criminal Courts Charge of £150 and £120 Victim Surcharge.

On 5 November 2012 Brighton & Hove City Council introduced an Additional Licensing Scheme to license smaller houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in the wards of Hanover & Elm Grove, Queen’s Park, Hollingdean & Stanmer, Moulsecoomb & Bevendean and St Peter’s & North Laine. A new scheme covering seven further wards – Brunswick & Adelaide, Central Hove, East Brighton, Goldsmid, Preston Park, Regency and Westbourne – was introduced on 2 November this year.

The HMOs covered by these Additional Licensing Schemes are those in the 12 wards which, while not large enough to be covered under the national licensing criteria, have two or more storeys and three or more occupiers.

Cllr Anne Meadows, Chair of Housing & New Homes Committee, said:

“This sends out a strong message that landlords of shared homes or houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) should licence their properties where a licence is required. The worst HMOs are some of the most dangerous properties so it’s right that we take action to protect our residents.

“Under HMO licensing we have seen hundreds of HMOs fitted with fire alarms, made safer generally and better managed. As part of the licensing process we inspect the houses and that allows us to ensure that they are safe.

“I am pleased that in imposing this level of fines the court has reflected the importance of licensing and that owners should not seek to avoid applying. We will continue to take action against those who do not apply so I would urge all owners and agents to ensure that they and their properties meet legal requirements.”

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