Hatfield landlady banned from managing properties

PUBLISHED: 14:52 30 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:52 30 July 2018

The White House in Hatfield. 
Picture: Welwyn Hatfield Council

The White House in Hatfield. Picture: Welwyn Hatfield Council

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A Hatfield landlady has been prevented from managing properties in England and Wales for 10 years after reaching an out of court settlement.

A small room in use as a bedroom at the property in Hatfield. 
Picture: Welwyn Hatfield CouncilA small room in use as a bedroom at the property in Hatfield. Picture: Welwyn Hatfield Council

Ms Sarah Goldsmith, 45, of London Road, Nantwich, Cheshire, was charged with eight offences relating to a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) received a complaint from one of the tenants of the White House, 5 West View, in Hatfield in October 2016, claiming that it was overcrowded and that the loft was being used as a bedroom which was being accessed via a ladder.

When officers inspected the property they found six people were staying in one room, and a further three people were also living in two rooms in the loft which had no smoke alarms, fire doors or satisfactory means of escape in the event of a fire.

Due to issues with payments of utility bills and problems with the central heating system, portable electrical heaters were being used in overcrowded rooms which increased the risk of a fire.

An overcrowded bedroom at the property in Hatfield. 
Picture: Welwyn Hatfield Council An overcrowded bedroom at the property in Hatfield. Picture: Welwyn Hatfield Council

One person was also found to be living in a room that was not much larger than a single bed, which meant that the door could not open fully. Ms Goldsmith had previously informed the council that she intended to make this room a toilet room.

Following the inspection, Herts Fire and Rescue who served a prohibition notice which prohibited the use of the loft rooms sleeping with immediate effect.

The council received a further complaint in December 2016 from a tenant, and it was found that during alteration works to the property a large hole had been made in the wall between the tenant’s room, which she shared with her two children, and that of a neighbouring tenant.

The tenant had positioned a wardrobe over the hole to retain some privacy. The hole was found to be a breach of fire safety regulations because the 30 minutes fire separation between bedrooms had been compromised.

The defendant argued that she was suffering from mental health issues and had significant financial debts, so the council decided it was not in the public’s interest to proceed with the prosecution.

An out of court settlement was agreed, and Ms Goldsmith is not to engage in the management of any rented property in England or Wales for a period of ten calendar years.

Councillor Tony Kingsbury, executive member for housing and community, said: “I hope that this case sends a clear message that we will not tolerate landlords who comprise the safety of their tenants.

“These offences were serious breaches of the law and could have led to severe injury or worse.

“I encourage anyone renting to look out for PAL accreditation when looking for a place to live.

“The scheme ensures landlords and agents are fully compliant with their legal obligations. To find out more about the scheme, visit: www.pal-online.org.uk.”

Paul Macdonald, Group Commander at Herts Fire and Rescue Service, said: “This case was a serious breach of fire safety guidance.

“If a fire had occurred in this property, there was no means of alerting the people sleeping in the loft rooms and no adequate means of escape from the building, anyone in the loft rooms would have been trapped up there, and probably died from smoke inhalation.”

Ms Goldsmith was previously prosecuted under similar offences in July 2014, where total fines and costs amounted to £32,723.

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