A collation of cases and stories from the private sector, and a series of reminders that a database of rogue landlords, and indeed banning orders, can’t come soon enough.
In Sheffield, John Cashin was convicted of 56 offences involving HMO management, failure to provide information, failure to licence and property conditions:
- Five properties, on Abbeydale Road, Violet Bank Road, Vincent Road, Fieldhead Road and Glover Road, were all badly managed by Cashin with failure to maintain means of escape and fire alarm systems in all properties and failure to provide copies of Gas Safety and electrical condition reports. Other problems included broken windows, badly fitting external doors and safety defects.
- All but Vincent Road should have been licensed as a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) but no applications were ever received.
- The council served many notices to Mr Cashin requiring information and documents but they were all ignored.
John Cashin was ordered to pay £29,220 in fines and costs. He had previously been convicted of 27 housing offences and ordered to pay £7,200, so that is now a total of 83 offences.
It appears that Mr Cashin was operating ‘rent to rent’ sublet deals, but failing to licence, or indeed maintain the properties. The property owners were lucky not to face prosecution themselves.
This looks like a poster case for the new Housing and Planing Act powers when they come into force.
Meanwhile, in Birmingham, Zahid Khan was convicted of causing acts likely to interfere with his tenants’ peace and comfort under Section 1(3A) of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, failure to obtain an HMO licence and breaching HMO Management Regulations.
Khan intimidated tenants to leave, and threatened to change the locks. The unlicensed property, also had sparking electrical socket and holes in the ceiling.
Fine of £2000 and costs of £5,070.93
Now back to Sheffield for a trilogy of illegal eviction/harassment cases.
Landlord to Mr Majidi. Mrs Bibi’s husband and brother tell Mr Majidi he has to go. There was then a text message to Mr M saying that the locks had been changed. Mr M returned to find Mrs Bibi in the house. Police attended and Mr M signed a note saying he will leave. The council then contacted Mrs Bibi and told her she has to follow correct procedure.
5 days later, Mr M returned home to find his belongings outside and Mrs Bibi and family members in the house. Despite a phone call from the council, Mrs Bibi refused to give Mr M re-entry.
Mrs Bibi pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. Sentence: 200 hours unpaid work in the community, Full costs of £1140 and £60 victim surcharge
Global Property Management Limited
The directors are of Global Property Management Ltd were Mohammed Ali Suleman, Merban Younis, and Zulfiqar Ali Khan. This was a letting agent/management firm.
Mrs Zahida Rashid was a tenant at a Sheffield property managed by GPM from December 2012. In February 2014 her husband went to Pakistan leaving her with the 3 children, one of them a baby and no means of paying the rent.
On 21 November 2014, a representative from Global Property Management Limited went to the address and threatened to throw her and the children and all their possessions out of the property by force.
Mrs Rashid went to the Council for advice and the Council investigated and spoke to the company. At first Mr Younis, director, denied that the incident had happened and on 2 previous court appearances, Mr Suleman, another director, entered not guilty pleas on behalf of the company.
There was then a guilty plea.
The ‘minimum’ fine of £1500 was imposed on the basis that the company was making minimal profits and should not be driven out of business, and was still paying a previous penalty of £3481 for not licensing properties in the Council’s Selective licensing area. (!). Costs of £1500.
On Saturday 7th February 2015, the tenant Lee Mathewman, was at his girlfriend’s house when he received a text message from Pavol Danko telling him he had changed the key code (thereby locking the tenant out). The text said that Mr Mathewman should contact him if he wanted to pick up his belongings but that Mr Mathewman was not allowed to the property without permission.
Mr Danko agreed that he sent this text but that the text was sent to encourage Mr Mathewman to contact him. Mr Danko’s account was that he later did change the key code but only after he had come to the conclusion that Mr Mathewman had left.
Mr Danko refused to readmit Mr Mathewman despite the tenant’s right to continue to occupy the premises being made clear to him by a Council Officer.
After a guilty plea to illegal eviction, the sentence was: 12 month conditional discharge, £3434 full costs and £15 victim surcharge.
And then there is this, from Kent, involving a well-known large-scale landlord and convicted criminal. I’m not going to mention his name, because he likes it. It emerges that this landlord has given agents a set of ‘letting criteria’ for the new year. Here they are.
As far as I can see, this means that only childless and petless couples with a higher income who aren’t plumbers would be acceptable.
But there is, of course, a more serious point here, or rather, a couple.
The first point is that this illustrates just how ridiculous it is for government to rely on the private sector to be an adequate housing provider for the general population when a landlord can (and mostly legally) set exclusions based upon their own prejudices (no plumbers) and wishes, and there is no market penalty for doing so – because housing crisis.
The second point is that while this list of exclusions mostly avoids overt discrimination against protected characteristics, it doesn’t entirely. ‘Battered wives’ looks like discrimination on the basis of gender
and of marital status (Not marital status. Doesn’t apply to Part 4 Equality Act 2010 – Premises). There are, of course, arguments over indirect discrimination in some of the other exclusions.
But, assuming that this is an arguable breach of Equality Act 2010, who is going to – or can – do something about it?
The same problem is apparent with discrimination arising from Right to Rent requirements. DCLG might have put out ‘guidance’ to landlord/agents telling them not to discriminate, but without realistic prospects of enforcement, any belief that the guidance will make a difference is but a pipe dream.