By D
07/11/2010

HMO Prosecutions Round-Up

Staying with the prosecution theme, LACORS, or (somewhat less snappily) Local Government Regulation as it is now called, has published a round-up of recent HMO related prosecutions.

It makes for fairly grim reading.

The maximum fine for failure to have an HMO licence or for overcrowding a property is £20,000. From the round-up it seems that the average fine is now more commonly £2,000 per property. This continues a downward trend in fine levels that has been apparent in previous prosecution summaries produced by LACORS (I am staying with the old but shorter name). In fact, the fine level now seems around the same as the costs awarded to the prosecution which have been slowly rising.

Breach of a fine condition or a breach of the management regulations, both offences which carry a maximum fine of £5,000 per offence now seem to regularly generate fines of around £1,000. These include fines for serious breaches such as failure to obtain a gas safety certificate and even a case where a fire had broken out during which an occupant died of smoke inhalation and it later transpired that the smoke alarms were non-functional only merited a fine of £2,500.

There is also information regarding breaches of improvement notices and prohibition orders under the HHSRS. Fines for failing to comply with these orders seem to be settling at around £2,000.

Naturally, we do not know the full mitigating circumstances around each case. However, it cannot be right that fine levels as low as 10% of the maximum are consistently being levied for what are potentially serious breaches of the law. If the benefit cuts go ahead then there is a widespread expectation that more HMOs will be needed to provide the extra low-cost accommodation required. That being the case the objective should be to levy high levels of fine to ensure that landlords operating this type of accommodation are of the very highest standard.

D is a solicitor specialising in landlord and tenant matters with a London firm.

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