‘Substantial penalty’ for unlicensed HMO landlord

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Lambeth Landlord Fernando Brown has been fined £18,500 for running an unlicensed HMO.

Council officers were first alerted to a possible breach of HMO regulations when bailiffs turned up at his six-bedroom property to demand council tax arrears from Brown’s son Andrew.

A Lambeth Council investigation soon discovered that Brown had eight tenants living in the Herne Hill property and that the landlord was ‘Fred Brown’ who would often collect rent money in person and always in cash. Further questioning revealed Brown often failed to provide rent receipts, had no written tenancy agreements with occupants, nor did he protect their deposits as required by law.

During a council inspection, housing defects were logged including a lack of fire precautions.

A Notice of Intent to Issue a Civil Penalty Notice was sent to Brown in 2020 along with a proposed penalty fine of £24,999, an amount that the council said reflected  the seriousness of the offences.

It said Brown when failing to register as an HMO landlord he had been motivated by financial greed. He had wanted to avoid the £1,674 five-year HMO license fee.

Brown appealed the proposed fine to the first-tier tribunal property. The case was heard the case last month.

The tribunal upheld the council’s original decision but reduced the financial penalty after hearing mitigation from Brown’s legal representatives.

Brown claimed he had signed a tenancy agreement with three people in 2015 and had subsequently been misled into thinking it was these people who still lived in the house. Anyone else seen at the property during his visits might have been ‘tenants, guests or squatters’, he suggested.

‘Unscrupulous landlords who put profit ahead of their tenants’ safety and wellbeing will not be tolerated in our borough’, said councillor Maria Kay, Lambeth Cabinet member for Housing and Homelessness.

‘I am pleased that the tribunal recognised the gravity of the breach Mr Brown committed and agreed his actions were serious enough to warrant a substantial penalty’.

  • Salisbury landlord Siddika Begum has been fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £1,224 costs after pleading guilty to charges related to operating an HMO without a licence, falsifying information requested by the council, and failing to provide gas, electrical and fire safety certificates. 

The property, a mid-terrace, three storey house, in a residential Close, was continually occupied from March 2019 to September 2020 by up to 20 Romanian adults and their children. Many of the adults occupying the property were local shift workers. 

During the course of an investigation by Wiltshire Council Begum denied that the property was being used as an HMO and claimed she lived there with friends.

‘Because the property was overcrowded and unregulated, not only did it pose a potential health and safety risk to the occupants, the neighbours were impacted by significant levels of anti-social behaviour, large amounts of domestic waste causing rats, together with fly tipping and various motor offences including a large number of unpaid parking fines’, said Councillor  Phil Alford, Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Housing.