Epping Forest District Council successfully prosecuted and fined Mr Veli Bunul £21,575, when found operating an unlicensed house in multiple occupation (HMO) and breaching legislation designed to protect tenants.
The Council was called to inspect a three storey family town house in Tillingham Court Waltham Abbey, found to be occupied by three separate families, each with young children, all sharing one kitchen and two bathrooms.
Housing 11 occupants, the property was overcrowded, had inadequate fire precautions or a safe means of escape in event of an emergency.
Basildon Magistrates court was particularly concerned about these failings which could have potentially led to lives being at risk and tragic circumstances.
The Court heard that Mr Bunul of Chase Side, London E14 had ignored all of Epping Forest District Council’s warnings about his responsibilities to licence the property and his obligation to make it safe.
He alleged he was unaware that the property was being occupied by several families, claiming someone else collected the rent on his behalf. The court did not find this a reasonable excuse and so carried his conviction alongside a hefty fine.
Housing Portfolio Holder, Councillor Syd Stavrou said, “Councillor Syd Stavrou, Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: “We will not tolerate landlords who rent properties which fail to meet standards. The Council has a commitment to ensure that private landlords in the Epping Forest district do not take financial advantage of vulnerable tenants and put their lives at risk. We will not hesitate to prosecute landlords who show a disregard for the law and their responsibilities towards occupants”.
New licensing rules
The Government are bringing in an extension to the current licensing regime. From 1 April 2018, any property with five or more people from two or more households will require a licence regardless of how many floors there are in the property.
Landlords must comply with licence conditions to ensure properties are safe for the amount of people occupying them. In addition, minimum space requirements are to be imposed to prevent exploitation by overcrowding.
Advice to Landlords
Landlords that currently operate a licensable HMO in Epping Forest District (3 or more storeys, occupied by 5 or more people living as 2 or more households) but do not currently hold a licence should contact the Council’s Private Sector Housing Team immediately to avoid prosecution.
Anyone operating such an HMO without the appropriate licence is committing an offence, risks a criminal record and an unlimited fine on summary conviction.
Other landlords operating or thinking of operating an HMO that will fall under the new licensing regime from 1 April 2018 are encouraged to contact the Private Sector Housing Team for further information and advice.
Advice to tenants
If you think you may be living in a property that requires a licence and one is not displayed in the property, or you are concerned about the property conditions, please contact the Private Sector Housing team on the details below.