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An Ilford landlord has successfully overturned a £2,500 fine from Redbridge Council for letting her flat without a licence.
Irene Ekweozoh owns a flat in Axon Place, Ilford town centre, but began renting it out in 2007 when she moved to Canada to study for a doctorate degree.
On July 13, 2017, Redbridge Council introduced a selective licensing scheme for her area of Ilford, which meant all landlords needed to apply for a five-year licence.
Ekweozoh had not given the council her new address, meaning letters warning her to apply were sent to her Ilford home and only came to her attention in November 2018.
She successfully applied for a £616 licence later that month but in May 2019, almost six months later, received a £2,500 fine for the period she had rented without it.
On July 29, Judge Martin Rodger QC granted Ekweozoh’s appeal to scrap the fine, arguing she had only “committed an offence of moderate seriousness” and should be given a warning.
He wrote: “The basic facts of this case are that a landlord with a single property… was unaware of the need for a licence, having been absent from the country for ten years.
“When the officer inspected the flat… they found it to be well maintained and in good condition. A licence was granted without a requirement for any work to be done.
“The appellant’s non-compliance with the licensing requirement did not, therefore, cause a significant risk (or any risk) to the occupants or to the public as a whole.
“The appellant in this case has no past history with the local authority, which indicates that informal action would not be expected to achieve full compliance.
“Full compliance had been achieved months before the [fine] and there is no suggestion that any other problem has since been brought to the respondent’s attention.
“This seems to me to be a case in which the appropriate disposal, in accordance with the respondent’s policy, is to deal with the matter informally.”
A Redbridge Council spokesperson said the council was “disappointed with the outcome” but accepted its findings.
They added: “The scheme helps the council to protect the health and safety of private renters and improve the quality of privately rented homes in the borough.”