Landlords who either choose to ignore the law or are unaware of regulations continue to make headline news. In two recent cases, one has been jailed, while another has been handed a hefty fine.
In the first instance, Watford landlord, Lemuel Browne, was handed a six-week prison sentence for illegally evicting his tenant. He admitted multiple charges at St Alban’s Magistrates’ Court, including illegal eviction, failing to maintain the fire alarm and failure to ensure electrical installations were in a safe condition. When environmental health officers inspected the property in Gladstone Road, they found several issues which could be unsafe for the tenants. Following a dispute with one of the tenants, Browne illegally evicted him. Although officers tried to work with the landlord, he would not hand over documents they needed as part of their investigation, such as tenancy agreements, rent records or property inspection reports.
Over at Brighton Magistrates’ court, landlord Muharrem Kartal was found guilty of over-crowding rooms he let in Hove. It was said 12 people were found living in ‘slum-like conditions’ in the maisonette, which was licensed for nine occupants at most. Magistrates ordered him to pay more than £45,000 for this and other offences. Kartel had admitted failing to make sure that fire escapes were maintained, and that fire equipment and alarms were in good working order. Altogether he was fined £43,680 – which is equal to one year’s rental income – ordered to pay £1,800 in costs to the local authority and pay a £1,700 victim surcharge. Following the Brighton case, Councillor Anne Meadows said she would urge all rental property owners and agents to make sure they are meeting any legal requirements and completing a sufficient property inspection report. She said the council will carry on protecting residents by taking action against anyone whose properties are not up to standard.
Whilst such cases like these are rare, they are headline news and they highlight the need for tenants to be aware of their rights. They should always rent from reputable landlords or letting agents. This would mean they would sign contracts and inventories, so they would be more aware of their rights and the requirements of a landlord. Likewise, these cases also show how vigilant all landlords need to be when letting their properties. All paperwork needs to be in good order, such as rental contracts, rental payments, inventories, check-ins and check-outs, along with inspections. That way, landlords are covered if there should be a dispute. Landlords can find software and apps to help with all these back office duties, to free up their time for marketing their property or finding new tenants, if a property becomes vacant. These apps are valuable reminder tools as well. They can alert landlords to the fact that a contract is up for renewal, a payment is overdue, gas certificates must be renewed or an inspection is coming up. This paperwork, together with any photos or video evidence, can be shown to environmental health officers if they decide to hold an property inspection.
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