Court imposes substantial fine on two Waltham Forest landlords
Two Waltham Forest landlords have been given fines totalling £135,000, excluding additional costs and surcharges, for failing to maintain their privately rented homes and failing to license their properties.
At a hearing at Thames Magistrates’ Court on Monday 1 February 2021, Mr Mohammed Bhatti, aka Mohammed Muqeem Amin, 70, sole Director of agents Property Ladder London Ltd, pleaded guilty to 12 charges in relation to breaches of management regulations at a number of properties on High Road, Leyton, as well as failing to license one of the homes.
During inspections of the properties Council officers discovered a wide range of serious issues including a lack of fire alarms, dangerous sockets and blocked drains. Showers and sinks were cracked and filthy and access to the top-floor flat was only possible via a dangerous staircase. Inspectors described it as one of the worst examples they had come across.
The Judge expressed particular concern about the lack of fire alarms and fire doors, highlighting concerns by the London Fire Brigade which led to the initial inspection and imposed £55,0000 in fines for the breach of management regs and failure to provide documents, based on £5,000 per offence. An additional fine of £20,000 for the failure to license the top-floor flat, added to £6,949.51 in prosecution costs with a £190 victim surcharge, means Mr Bhatti must pay a total of £82,139.51 within six months.
At a separate hearing on the same day, Mr Balmick Seegolam, 61, of St Georges Road Leyton, pleaded guilty to three charges in relation to failing to license Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in Canterbury Road and North Birkbeck Road. After being refused planning permission for an extension at the Canterbury Road address, Mr Seegolam applied for a licence and revealed he already had tenants living there despite it being, in his own words, “small and not in great condition”.
After blaming a previous management agent for the North Birkbeck Road HMOs not being correctly licensed, Mr Seegolam also suggested tenants were at fault for dangerously unhygienic conditions and blocked hallways that could have posed a risk to life in an emergency.
Taking on board Mr Seegolam’s guilty plea, the Court fined him £60,000 – £20,000 for each one of the charges – with costs of £3,366 and a victim surcharge of £190 making a total of £63,556 to be paid by Mr Seegolam within three months.
Summing up in Mr Seegolam’s case, the Judge said: “You fell well below the expected standard of a reasonable landlord. This is your full-time job; it is therefore imperative that you should be fully aware of the regulations and the licensing regime that you operate under [‚Ä¶] You had a previous contact from the local authority which resulted in a civil penalty. You were not ignorant of the regime.“
Cllr Louise Mitchell, Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness Prevention, said:
“Waltham Forest has again demonstrated that we are serious about ensuring tenants in the private rented sector have a safe, decent roof over their head that is correctly licensed. Most landlords are responsible and consider the safety and comfort of their tenants. However, there are a minority who put profit before people’s safety and we make no apologies for taking action against these unscrupulous few.
“If you are offering a property for rent in Waltham Forest, you must find out if you need a license. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.“
The Council operates a selective property licensing scheme in 18 out of 20 wards that covers most rental properties. The five year scheme requires landlords to properly manage and maintain rented homes and carry out basic safety checks including ensuring that the home has working smoke alarms. The licensing scheme runs in tandem with mandatory HMO licensing for properties occupied by five or more unrelated people where amenities are shared.
A free guide containing more information about property licensing in the London Borough of Waltham Forest is available here.
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