Tales of the private sector

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.

Nazia Bibi

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.

Pavol Danko

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.

About Giles Peaker

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts, and still is Nearly Legal on Google +.
Posted in Assured Shorthold tenancy, Disrepair, Housing law - All, Regulation and planning, Unlawful eviction and harassment and tagged , , , , .

16 Comments

  1. Im curious why there is almost no awards for the tenants… Is it because only the ‘criminal offence’ was looked at in these cases? (No civil remedy?)

    • Yes, criminal prosecutions with no option to make award to tenant. For illegal eviction/harassment there may be a civil claim for damages. For failure to licence, there may be a Rent Repayment Order sought.

  2. On the “No battered wives” point, while that might be unlawful sex discrimination, I don’t think (as odious as this is) that it amounts to unlawful discrimination on marital status as Pt 4 does not apply to marriage and civil partnership.

  3. It is all very well to criticise private landlords for wishing to exclude certain sub-sets of people. Go ahead and find a way to prosecute those who do so. All you will be doing is ensuring that yet more private landlords give up and the housing crisis gets worse.

    Why don’t landlords want DSS tenants? Sure, they can get the housing benefit paid directly to them, but if there is any query and it turns out to have been overpaid then the DSS wants it back from the landlord, not the tenant who has either skipped or has no money. If the tenant gets the housing benefit and uses it for something else then poor old landlord is in trouble again Two months arrears before court action to get the tenant out. Council won’t rehouse them unless they have been evicted (an example of legislation designed to protect individuals being used by public authorities for their own ends). Even tenants who are good fall foul of this one.

    Anyone who has allowed a tenant to have pets or children will know the horrible feeling when they go into a house that is trashed. Ever walked into a house where the tenant kept 80+ cats?

    Battered wives means a vengeful and violent partner out there somewhere. One who won’t hesitate to smash his way into the house. Up go the insurance premiums. Up go the complaints from neighbours. Down goes the value of the property.

    Private landlords are running a business, not social services, so stop expecting them to pick up society’s detritus.

    • Private landlords get to run a business in accordance with the law – like any other business. At least one on that that list looks like a clearly unlawful discrimination.

      As for the rest, fine, as long as landlords stop bleating about needing special treatment because they are providing the housing that is so badly needed. You seem to miss the point that you cannot simultaneously demand to run your businesses exactly how you like, no matter how unattractively, and at the very same time demand public sympathy for how the government is treating you.

      Mind you, I agree on the ‘council telling tenants to stay put until eviction’ issue. I did my best to get that changed in the Reducing Homelessness Bill, but DCLG and councils fought the issee very hard – and DCLG now in control of what goes in the Bill.

    • Of course there is a logic problem here. The Landlord does not provide a service he provides accommodation in accordance with the law.

      If the private landlord was not there the accommodation would still exist and would still be available to rent or buy. Maybe at a higher price maybe at a lower price, but the house would still exist.

      there’s an augment that as renting property is very profitable (regular income plus appreciation in asset value) that the private rented sector is taking properties out of circulation for people to buy. Thereby rising the overall market price, feeding into the need the profitability of rented accommodation.

      The failure at the end of the day rest with stupid government policies that simply fuel the increase in house prices by giving people more money to buy a limited supply.

  4. Of course private landlords expect to run their businesses in accordance with the law. What they don’t expect is for the law to punish them if they show any kindness by giving extra special rights to those they try to help.

    Don’t really understand your second paragraph because clearly landlords can not run the business in any way they like when the government is legislating to control how they do so.

    Over-regulation is forcing small landlords to accept that the cost of letting out a property is now greater than the income. Those who have no mortgage, especially in Wales, are letting their property lie empty or allowing a relative to live there while they decide whether to sell up or wait and see. There comes a point when it is just not worth going on. Can that really be the aim of the legislators? To leave the letting market in the hands of big business?

    • Then you will have noted that the point of the post of above was that at least one of that list would be very likely to amount to unlawful discrimination under Equality Act 2010.

      You rather miss my point. Consider it this way, landlords current (and perennial) defence to regulation and tax impositions is ‘we provide an essential service, what would the country do without us, where would people live?’. That does not sit well with an accompanying demand to be allowed to do whatever you like in your business decisions. Particularly when, as here, those decisions make clear that you aren’t providing an essential service for large segments of the population. This is no a legal interpretation, it is a PR lesson and one that landlords and agents have not, so far grasped.

      Are you serious that Welsh landlords are giving up because of the Wales licence fee? I am struggling to see what these additional regulatory costs are otherwise. Any landlord driven out of business by the cost of a smoke and carbon monoxide detector shouldn’t be in the business.

  5. Not just women who are battered by their other halves. Are you suggesting that the landlord in question would welcome battered men?

    Who is asking to be allowed to do whatever they want in terms of business decisions? Landlords certainly offer a service, but it is not their job to offer social services – that is a job for government. If there is to be a two month plus buffer zone for people whose benefits have been stopped then that buffer should be provided by government,not the private sector. If people who have difficulties need help to survive then that help needs to be provided by the state. They shouldn’t be chucked out into the world and left to struggle.

    Landlords provide a service in the same way as your local garage or plumber provide a service. It is essential for society to continue to function but none of those services are going to happen if you don’t pay for them. Would you give me free legal advice? How many times before you pulled the plug?

    Landlords in Wales told the Welsh Assembly that they did not want to be on databases. Some that I know have certainly not renewed tenancies because of the licence requirement. Just as some of us no longer use hospitals in Wales i we can avoid it due to the presumption of willingness to donate organs. Databases you have to opt out of are not acceptable. Amusingly hospitals in England are finding Welsh trusts to be some of the worst payers for services.

    Why is anyone paying for smoke and CO detectors? They are free from the fire brigade. In England as well as in Wales

    • Oh, landlords just don’t want to be on a database despite it being the law in Wales? Well, lots of reasons why that might be the case that spring to mind. Mind you, all of those reasons are either unprofessional or unlawful. I can’t think of a single responsible or lawful reason.

      And you are barking up the wrong tree about being asked to provide social services. On the contrary, you apparently (collectively) can’t even be trusted to make practical economic decisions. (A very large landlord banning plumbers from being tenants? Because he thinks he was overcharged by a plumber? Are you willing to describe that as, well, economically sane?).

      You have your rights under contract and the law to be paid for your service. It is a remarkable and deluded element of landlord special pleading that they seem to think that them complying with the law amounts to denying that. The issue is not terminating tenancies where there is a breach. And, currently at least, nobody is restricting your rent levels and increases.

      Now, that list – yes, he says battered wives and explains this is because he is worried about the husbands/boyfriends coming round to break in and damage the property. Are you seriously suggesting that he thought for even for one moment about male domestic violence victims and the wives coming round to break in and smash up the property?

      Single people, as a whole category, regardless of income?

      No families or single parents with children under 18? Regardless of income? On the farcical and wholly fabricated grounds that it takes so many months longer to get a possession order against them? (Max of an extra 28 days on possession, due to exceptional circumstances).

      And I know the smoke detectors etc are free. I was trying to figure out what these ‘extra costs of regulation” were that you said were making letting uneconomic. You haven’t said.

    • And also, how did you miss this bit of the post?

      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.

      Or is that any criticism of a private landlord whatsoever must be met with a lot of hot air about how hard done by you all are?

  6. Good blog – thank you for collating a widespread list of appalling actions by rogue landlords. One of the things That I think this list proves is that the law is not doing what it is supposed to do. There should be a a way that landlords are given a 3 strikes law in that if they are in court on 3 separate occasions for breach of the law then they forfeit their right to own and let property and/or are banned from managing/ being a director of a property or gaining pecuniary benefit from association with letting (ie spouse owns/manages same property) – making use of rogue landlord legislation.
    Councils also need to be given the authority and power to issue & keep fixed penalty notices for minor transgressions such as gas check/ smoke alarm/ EPC violations so that councils can self fund staff to prosecute the plethora of laws that already exist

    • There will be changes when the relevant bits of the Housing and Planning Act come into force, including banning orders and a database of banned landlord and agents.

      Similarly, there will be potential penalty fines for breach of Improvement Notice, licensing or HMO regulations and unlawful eviction, as well as more widespread rent repayment orders, not requiring a conviction in court.

      These are the only good bits of the HPA.

  7. No good reason to wish to avoid being on a government database? How about serious privacy concerns? Or lack of faith in the ability o government to keep their data safe from hackers? There are a range of human rights groups fighting against these things.

    One large landlord deciding he does not like plumbers is hardly evidence that landlords are collectively unable to make practical or sane economic decisions. Taking an extreme case and extrapolating back to apply it to a whole group simply does not work. Clearly if landlords all made bad economic decisions they would be out of business.

    Looking at your link the landlord in question says that he is excluding those classifications of people who either default or cause damage. Seems quite sensible to me. You want government to regulate a whole class of businessmen on the grounds that one in particular and a few in general have misbehaved. What is the difference?

    The government can, quite reasonably, rely on the private rented sector to provide for most of the population. For every landlord who excludes plumbers or whoever there are another dozen out there only too willing to let to plumbers. The real problem is that few landlords are willing to risk letting to the growing class of vulnerable people at the bottom of the heap simply because the risks and costs involved overwhelm the potential profits of so doing.

    I note that you did not say how much free legal advice you would offer me? Or how many times you would do so before pulling the plug? Perhaps legal people don’t work for free? Only landlords are supposed to do so?

    • You are not on HMRC database? Or council tax? Or DVLA? Or NHS? No passport? Etc. Etc. That is an extremely poor argument.

      One large landlord is an example of the kind of decision that PRS landlords can and do make. And you go on to make my point. You see most of the exclusions as ‘quite sensible’, then, in a glorious self-contradiction, immediately go on to say ‘The government can, quite reasonably, rely on the private rented sector to provide for most of the population’.

      You are not selling widgets, you are providing homes. In those circumstances, regulation is not only a good idea, but as history has shown, absolutely necessary.

      And as previously pointed out, no-one is expecting you to ‘work’ for free.

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