Three items relating to PRS licensing/HMO regulations and property management enforcement, with some added harassment of tenants thrown in.
London Borough of Waltham Forest v Tuitt 11 November 2016
Mr T owns the freehold of a mid terrace house, converted into 4 self contained flats. The house was in an area of selective licensing under Waltham Forest’s scheme under Housing Act 2004. Mr T had no licence or licences.
WF prosecuted Mr T for three offences under section 95(1) of the 2004 Act, alleging that he required three licences under Part 3 of the Act – one for each of the occupied flats in the house – and had none, contrary to section 85 of the 2004 Act.
Mr T defended on the basis that the s.85 requirement was that ” Every Part 3 house must be licensed under this Part (…)” and therefore the information laid against him was wrong in law. He only required one licence for the whole house, not each flat.
‘House’ is defined at s.99 HA 2004 as “a building or part of a building consisting of one or more dwellings”.
The magistrates held that Mr T’s interpretation of s.99 imperilled the policy objective of part 3 HA 2004.
In particular, given that s.79(2) provided that
(2) This Part applies to a house if—
(a) it is in an area that is for the time being designated under section 80 as subject to selective licensing, and
(b) the whole of it is occupied either—
(i) under a single tenancy or licence that is not an exempt tenancy or licence under subsection (3) or (4), or
(ii) under two or more tenancies or licences in respect of different dwellings contained in it, none of which is an exempt tenancy or licence under subsection (3) or (4).
but s.97(3) provided that a tenancy or licence was exempt if it was granted to a registered provider of social housing, Mr T’s interpretation would mean that a block of 20 flats would not need to be licensed if just one flat was leased to a RPSH to let to a tenant.
Mr T’s other submission, that the extent of the ‘house’ varied from time to time according to its occupied parts was also rejected.
Mr T was found guilty and sentenced to a fine of £4000 for each offence and ordered to pay costs exceeding £12,000.
An appeal to the High Court is anticipated.
Birmingham City Council v Khan, 14 November 2016, Birmingham Magistrates Court
This was Birmingham’s prosecution of Mr Zahid Khan for failure to obtain an HMO licence, breaching HMO management regulations and acts likely to interfere with his tenants’ peace and comfort under Section 1(3A) of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
The magistrates found Mr Khan guilty on finding that he intimidated his tenants on 28 December 2015 together with an accomplice to make them leave the property and threatened to change the locks if they did not leave. The property was unlicensed between 13 December 2014 and 28 December 2015 and breached HMO Management Regulations including insufficient smoke alarms, a tripping hazard on the stairs and general disrepair including a sparking electrical socket and holes in the ceilings.
Mr Khan was sentenced to 150 hours of community service, fined £2,000, with full costs of £5,070.93 and a victim surcharge
Bristol City Council v Alternative Housing. 2 November 2016, Bristol Magistrates Court
Alternative Housing is a property management company that arrange lets and manage properties on behalf of private landlords in Bristol. The company is a registered charity and is responsible for housing some very vulnerable tenants.
After Bristol City Council’s inspection of 3 properties in December 2014, all HMOs, breaches of the HMO management regulations were found in all three. These were successfully prosecuted in January 2016. An Emergency Remedial Action notice and a Building Act notice were also served in respect of one of the properties.
Follow up inspections of that property in December 2015 and February 2016 found conditions had worsened.
with the drains blocked discharging sewage into the back yard. The waste pipe to the kitchen sink was disconnected so the waste was pouring into a bucket. In addition there were other items of poor repair, missing smoke detectors, dampness in the bedrooms and no gas available to provide heating and hot water.
Warnings produced no action and Bristol prosecuted again, with resulting fines and costs totalling £16,000. Alternative Housing did not attend.