“I hope this sends a clear message – we want to clamp down on unacceptable living conditions.”

A landlord has been fined for his failure to have a licence in place for the House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in Barnstaple which he owns and manages.

Mr Franco Capocci was found guilty on 31 July at North and East Devon Magistrates Court of failing to obtain a licence in relation to The Gables at 4 Albert Villas, New Road, Barnstaple from June 2017 until July 2018.

The court fined Mr Capocci £500 and ordered him to pay a victim’s surcharge of £50, as well as North Devon Council’s cost of £624.

The Housing Act 2004 requires landlords of HMO properties that have three or more storeys, which are occupied by five or more people forming two or more households, and have shared facilities or are converted into self-contained flats without a building regulations approval, to have a mandatory licence.

Andrew Millie, Assistant to the Head of Service for Environmental Health and Housing at North Devon Council, said: “I hope this latest fine will send a clear message to landlords and agents of HMOs: applying for a licence to operate a defined HMO is a mandatory legal requirement and failing to do so will cost you far more in the long-run.

“If you don’t renew, apply for or update a licence you are not only putting your tenants and other residents at risk, you are also breaking the law.

“We as a council are taking advantage of a new range of powers given to us by central government to crack down on irresponsible landlords.

“We want to clamp down on unacceptable living conditions and standards of management, and ensure that those who rent HMOs live in safe and healthy homes.”

The council’s executive member for health and wellbeing, Councillor Brian Moores, said: “This is a very positive outcome for those who rent in North Devon.

“New legislation and guidance has been introduced by the government to ensure tenants’ safety and wellbeing, and landlords and agents of HMOs must obtain a licence from the council to ensure they are meeting their duty of care for their tenants.

“Failure to do so will be taken very seriously by the council and any breaches of this legislation and guidance will be referred by us for prosecution.”

In October 2018 the rules are further changing to remove the three-storey rule for HMOs requiring a mandatory licence. This means all HMOs that meet the criteria for inclusion, including single and two-storey properties, will require a licence.

The council is looking at adopting powers that will enable them to issue ‘civil penalties’ of up to £30,000 and fixed penalty notices for the failure or absence of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

If you’re a landlord or agent and you’re unclear about your responsibilities please see the council’s website for advice. You can also apply for an HMO licence online . If you’re concerned about your landlord not meeting his or her responsibilities, report them online .

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