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Landlord fines on the up

Now that councils have the power to issue civil penalties of up to £30,000, not to mention take you to court and issue banning orders, it’s vital you stay on the right side of the law. While many councils are hampered in their enforcement efforts by a lack of resources, those that are able to find and penalise rogue landlords are certainly doing so.

In April, a Birmingham-based landlord was found guilty of a whopping 35 HMO-related offences and fined a total of just over £182,000. It’s the largest fine of its kind seen in Birmingham and thought to be one of the biggest penalties ever for an individual landlord.

Leila Amjadi, of Sutton Coldfield, had failed to obtain licences for four separate HMOs and the council had also received numerous complaints from her tenants and local residents about poor maintenance of the properties. Officers carried out inspections and found a total of 31 breaches of the HMO Management Regulations, including missing fire doors and smoke detectors hanging loose from the ceilings. Amjadi was also found to have used delaying tactics with both tenants and the local council.

The district judge deemed her ‘an unscrupulous landlord who did not care for the health and safety of her tenants’ and fined her – personally - £85,000. She was also ordered to pay full costs to the council of almost £23,000 and compensation to 11 tenants, totalling £22,000. Her company, Vertu Capital Ltd, was fined £52,000 and is currently going through insolvency proceedings.

In March, Sheffield City Council published the details of all 18 landlords it prosecuted for various offences between 2016 and 2017. The fines totalled just over £39,000, with a landlord from Baslow in Derbyshire topping the list at £30,000, having been convicted of 58 housing offences altogether.

And in Leeds, a landlord was fined twice in two months for not undertaking safety works and failing to comply with Improvement Notices for hazards including mould growth, inadequate fire safety precautions, electrical safety and excess cold. He was found guilty with regard to one property in January and a second in February and ordered to pay a total of nearly £14,000 in fines and costs.

So, make sure you know your legal responsibilities, respond to any reports or complaints from tenants right away and make necessary repairs as soon as possible. And, rather than simply doing as much as you’re obliged to, try to go above and beyond, which will make it clear you’re committed to providing a safe and comfortable home for your tenants.

Top 5 tips on avoiding fines:

1. Although the minimum EPC rating for a legal let is now ‘E’, that’s something that may well tighten up again. If you can get it up above the average ‘D’, that will help make the property more attractive to tenants and protect you from having to undertake further works for the foreseeable future.
2. Carry out regular inspections on the property or employ an agent that does this as part of their service. Tenants don’t always report issues when they arise, so making your own checks every 3-6 months should help ensure you uncover any problems while they’re still minor. It will also demonstrate to your tenants that you/your agent care about them and the standard of their home.
3. Work with agents who focus on building a relationship and maintain a good line of communication with your tenants, or ensure you spend time doing this yourself. That will encourage them to come to you directly with any problems, rather than make official complaints.
4. Have a qualified agent and/or local fire safety officer inspect the property and carry out a risk assessment on periodic visits. While you can complete the assessment yourself, it’s advisable to have it done by an expert who knows exactly what the national and local requirements are.
5. Consider taking positive action by joining a local council housing department landlord initiative if they run one or talk to them and ask about the key things they tend to check/find in homes to be sub-standard, ensuring you make any changes required.

Because we play by the book we want to tell you that…

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