News

Southwark property agent barred from holding property licences after wilfully putting tenants at risk

Friday, August 2, 2019 - Southwark Council

Southwark Council’s investigation into a persistent offender’s nine properties in the Rotherhithe area found them all to be lacking essential fire safety equipment. In addition, eight of the properties were unlicensed Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), whereas all HMOs in Southwark have required licensing since 2016.

According to the council, all nine HMOs looked very nice from the outside. They were all town houses or flats built since the 1980s, with some occupants paying £950 per month, and one with views over the water.

Southwark Council housing prosecution 2019

However, on the inside the council found the properties lacked adequate fire alarm systems, an absence of fire doors and protected fire escape routes which are needed to alert the occupants to a fire and enable them to escape.

The defendant, Omar Patel, who is the sole director of Letshare Ltd and Live Work Study London Ltd, had previous convictions in Newham, making it clear he knowingly endangered the lives of his tenants. His previous company with an almost identical name, Let Share Ltd, was dissolved in 2016.

On 15 May 2019 at Camberwell Green Magistrate’s Court, Patel was sentenced to costs and fines of £18,117 for offences involving seven properties. The offences included:

  • Marcia Road – HMO management regulation offences including failure to display contact details of the manager, failure to provide an adequate fire detection system and failure to keep the fire escape routes clear.
  • Rotherhithe Street – HMO licensing offence of over occupying the property in contravention of the HMO licence conditions (there were 6 occupiers instead of 4); and HMO management regulation offences including failure to provide an adequate fire detection system and a protected escape route - fire doors were not compliant and bedroom doors had key operated locks which could cause occupants to become trapped in the event of a fire.
  • Plough Way – offence of managing an unlicensed HMO; HMO management regulation offences including not providing a protected escape route, disrepair to the garden decking and disrepair to bedroom windows.
  • Rope Street – offence of managing an unlicensed HMO; HMO management regulation offences including failure to provide an adequate fire detection system, failure to keep the fire exits clear from obstruction and disrepair to the banister of a staircase.
  • Rope Street – offence of managing an unlicensed HMO; HMO management regulation offences including failure to provide an adequate fire detection system, failure to keep the fire exits clear from obstruction and failure to provide a protected escape route.
  • Rossetti Road – offence of managing an unlicensed HMO and the HMO management regulation offence of failing to provide adequate lighting in the hallway.
  • Rossetti Road – offence of managing an unlicensed HMO and the HMO management regulation offence of having key operated locks to some of the doors on the escape route.

Offences relating to a further two properties were heard at the same court on 29 July 2019 where Patel was sentenced to additional costs and fines of £19,162. The offences included:

  • Gunwhale Close - offence of managing an unlicensed HMO, failing to ensure that all fire alarms are present and in good working order and insufficient fire doors.
  • Collette Court, Eleanor Close – failure to obtain an HMO licence and ensure that all means of escape from fire in the HMO were kept free from obstruction.

At the second hearing, District Judge Ezzat expressed disbelief at the scale of negligent profiteering from the property agent. This explains the significant costs for Patel.  The total costs and fines for Patel’s nine properties come to £37,279.

Cllr Victoria Mills, Cabinet Member for Finance, Performance and Brexit, Southwark Council said:

The council takes fire safety extremely seriously and our council homes are fire risk assessed and maintained to the highest standard. We hold all landlords and property managers in Southwark accountable to the same high degree.

I hope that this result ensures that all landlords make sure that their properties are properly maintained and that all fire protection equipment is present and functioning. I would also encourage anyone who lives in an HMO, to let us know if they suspect that fire protection isn’t up to scratch.

Southwark Council have said they consider Omar Patel to be a rogue landlord and will enter his details on London’s public rogue landlord database (here). He will also be barred from holding licences in the borough as the council do not consider him to be a fit and property person.

A free guide containing more detailed information about property licensing in the London Borough of Southwark is available here.

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