A Southend property owner and the letting agent responsible for managing it have been handed a combined fine of over £100,000.
The fine follows an investigation by the council’s Regulatory Services and the Private Sector Housing teams into anti-social behaviour and the management of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).
In 2019, the council received various reports of anti-social behaviour from and associated with 40 Satanita Road, Westcliff-on-Sea. Following a site visit, officers found the property to be in poor condition and followed this up with a full inspection.
The council’s private sector housing team proceeded with action against the two operators of the HMO. The freeholder of the building – Mr Arise – was found guilty at Southend Magistrates Court on March 18, 2020 and was fined a total of £88,976 (including costs) following conviction for 17 failures under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006.
The freeholder then appealed against the sentence given by the Magistrates Court and on Friday January 8, the appeal was heard at Basildon Crown Court. The court upheld the original sentencing and dismissed the appeal, with the judge commenting that the house was in a shocking state and an insult to society that the landlord was allowing people to live there.
Mr Arise was given nine months to pay the £85,000 fine, £6,818.50 costs and a £181 victim surcharge, or face two years in prison if he fails to pay.
The second operator – the letting agent – originally sought and was granted an adjournment to enter a not guilty plea and a trial was set for Friday 26 June 2020. The pandemic delayed this trial, and on December 1 2020, Mr Jaiyesimi – the director which represented the letting company Bromwell UK Ltd – was also found guilty for failing to comply with 17 counts of HMO Management Regulations.
On Tuesday January 5, Bromwell UK Ltd were sentenced at Southend Magistrates Court to fines totalling £10,000, with council costs of £7,311 and victim surcharge of £181.
Combined costs for the freeholder and the letting agent total £109,491.
Some of the failures include:
- Failure to ensure all escape routes of the property were kept clear of obstruction – the kitchen and hallways were obstructed, and the manager had not maintained the 30-minute fire protected escape route
- The manager had failed to inspect and test the electrical installation, the test certificate being 12 months overdue
- The property had been poorly maintained, including damp external rendering, defective guttering, boarded up windows, window joints held together with tape, leaking pipes, uneven flooring and debris and litter on the kitchen floor and worktops
- Management had failed to ensure all outbuildings were maintained, with the rear shed collapsed, and ivy restricting access to the front door
- Failure to provide sufficient bins or other suitable provisions for refuse storage with no evidence of any waste/recycling arrangements
- Failure to display management contact details in a prominent position in the HMO
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council with a responsibility for housing, said: “This property was in quite frankly appalling condition. The property owner and letting agent were putting those that lived there in an incredibly dangerous position. The freeholder attempted to appeal the sentence originally given, and I am glad that the second judge concurred with the original fine handed out.
“This substantial fine is one of the largest we have seen for some time, and it emphasises the importance of providing good quality and safe housing for all of our residents. All landlords have a responsibility to their tenants. If anyone has concerns regarding the properties they rent, they should contact their landlords in the first instance. If nothing changes, I urge them to contact our Private Sector Housing team.”