Company fined £50k for 13 offences related to Hatfield house in multiple occupation
- Credit: Archant
A company has been fined almost £50,000 after pleading guilty to 13 offences relating to a house in multiple occupation (HMO) in Hatfield.
Assim Estates Ltd, which is registered in Essex and owns and manages two properties in Hatfield, was ordered by St Albans Magistrates’ Court to pay £45,500 in fines and full costs of £4,471 to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council as well as a victim surcharge of £120.
The company was charged with offences including no working fire detection to halls, stairs and landing, no interlinked fire detection in the house, no fire blanket, the hallway areas having no lighting, and various communal areas and bedroom windows missing handles.
The defendant argued in mitigation that they had almost sold the property in question and that they were not professional landlords.
Welwyn Hatfield Council executive member for housing and community Nick Pace said: “This is one of the largest fines we have seen for these types of offences, indicating the seriousness of this case.
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“It sends out a clear message – that we will always act to protect our residents from landlords who compromise the safety of their tenants.”
Council officers inspected the property, 1 Redhall Drive in Hatfield, in 2017 and found it to be occupied as an HMO.
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The owner told the council that he was going to either sell the property or let it as a single occupancy property.
The council carried out an unannounced inspection in May 2018 and found evidence the property was still a HMO, with five unrelated persons occupying the property.
Officers found there were no fire detectors or alarms in the communal hall, stairs or landing area – and no interlinked fire detection to the rest of the property.
There were also no fire doors to bedrooms, or satisfactory escape in the event of a fire.
As an interim measure, officers placed two battery smoke detectors in the hallway and landing areas.
Officers again issued a schedule of work which needed to be completed to improve the fire safety and condition of the property.
The council carried out further inspections in July 2018, where it was found that no work had been carried out to improve the fire safety or condition of the property.
Councillor Pace said: “I encourage landlords in the borough to join the council-run accreditation scheme, PAL, which makes it easier for landlords to understand and meet high standards of management practice.
“Residents looking for good quality accommodation to rent can also visit www.pal-online.org.uk to find a property from an accredited landlord or agent in the borough.”
New legislation introduced in October 2018 requires all HMOs with five or more tenants to be licensed.
It is a criminal offence to operate a licensable HMO without having made a valid application and penalties include an unlimited fine and criminal record.