Council's successful prosecution of local landlord
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has been successful in prosecuting a local landlord for safety breaches which put his tenants at potential risk of harm.
Mr Beej Patel and his company Hatfield Lettings LTD (Trading as Moving Places) were taken to court under the Breaches of HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) Management Legislation 2006.
St Albans Magistrates Court imposed fines on both the defendant and company for each of the six breaches of the HMO regulations. This included obstructions to the fire escape route at the property, loose stair carpet causing a tripping hazard, and failure to maintain the credit to both the gas and electric meters, causing there to be a lack of lighting, heating and hot water. The fine encompassed a victim surcharge and court costs, which totalled over £15,000.
The court considered that the lettings within the property were to vulnerable students who were not in a position to pursue their landlord in respect of breaches of the HMO regulations which had potentially serious consequences, and this was reflected in the severity of the fine.
Mr Patel, who attended the hearing with his solicitor, said in mitigation that he had a 'rent to rent' agreement with another agent. But the court still found Mr Patel guilty under the legislation.
The council's Private Sector Housing team brought the action, with the assistance of Cornerstone Barristers.
Cllr Fiona Thomson, Executive Member, Housing, added, "This result sends a clear message that landlords cutting corners in their responsibilities with houses in multiple occupation will face legal consequences.
"The court served a substantial fine for our borough, rightly reflecting the seriousness of Mr Patel and his company's negligence, potentially putting people's lives at risk. A big thank you to our partners at the University of Hertfordshire and Trading Standards for all their support during this lengthy process."
Local landlords are encouraged to join the council-run accreditation scheme, PAL (Partnership Accreditation for Landlords) which offers support for landlords to understand their responsibilities.
More information and support for private tenants can be found on the council's website.