We hear a lot about the lack of prosecutions by Councils against bad landlords, so this post looks at some cases where landlords WERE prosecuted. With serious consequences for them.
Manchester CC v Javaid
Manchester Magistrates Court, 6 July 2011
This case involved Mr Mohammed Javaid, of Winchester Road, Hale, who pleaded guilty in Manchester Magistrates Court, to 20 offences relating to defective private rented property that he let to tenants in Ardwick (a suburb of Manchester).
The prosecution was brought by the local authority and the fire services authority as the council’s environmental health inspectors had discovered a serious fire risk and numerous other defects within the property.
- dangerous electrical wiring
- a missing fire door
- cables dangling from the ceiling where smoke alarms should have been.
- missing spindles on banisters – meaning there were gaps large enough for a person to fall through down to the floor below
- broken windows
- no working heating system in the properties, and
- no working lights in the basement
- an exposed hole in the unlit back yard leading to a 2m drop into the basement.
One of the tenants told the Council Officers that she had to regularly visit the cellar, walking past live electric cables at shoulder height, to flick fuses back on.
The property was so bad that an Emergency Prohibition Order was served after the first inspection. However it seems that not only did the landlord completely ignore this, he also moved new tenants in!
Needless to say, the landlord was found guilty, fined a whopping £33,750 and ordered to pay costs of £8,500.
R v Chyna Gray and Others
Croydon Crown Court, 21 June 2011
My next case is even worse and involves violent physical assault.
The three defendants, Chyna Gray, 23, her brother Spencer, 24 and Omar Parchment, 24 were the landlords of a young couple, a 20 year old woman and her 23 year old boyfriend.
The story starts when they were were moving out to escape their violent and abusive landlords. Here is the rest of the tale as told by the Croydon Guardian:
As they packed their belongings into a car, the jury heard they were attacked by Chyna Gray. The next day, when the 20-year-old returned to collect the rest of her belongings, she was tied up and assaulted by the trio who threatened to kill her unless she took them to where her boyfriend was.
She was driven to a home on Norbury Court Road where the thugs launched a violent assault on her boyfriend. Spencer Gray stabbed him in the back with a scalpel after the trio kicked him in the head and beat him with bottles.
The trio were found guilty at Croydon Crown Court and received prison sentences totalling more than eight years.
Bristol CC v Digs (Bristol) Ltd
Bristol Magistrates Court, 22 June 2011
My third and final case (reported by Letting Agent News here) is less dramatic but still serious. In this case more serious for the landlord than for the tenants.
It involves Digs (Bristol) Ltd, one of the largest student landlords in Bristol, who were prosecuted for letting an HMO without a license.
The directors and company were fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £1,560 costs by Bristol Magistrates Court. However that was not all.
As a result of this the Bristol City Council is banning the firm and directors from holding any HMO licences, as they are no longer considered ‘fit and proper persons’. Meaning that they will now have to employ someone else to perform this function for them.
Finally the Council has informed tenants they can reclaim rent for up to 12 months up to the court date by taking the firm to a Rents Tribunal. So a bad day all round for Digs (Bristol) Ltd.
The moral of the story being that you MUST ensure that your HMO properties are licensed, or the Council (Bristol Council anyway) are coming to get you.