Landlords of fire damaged HMO in Erith prosecuted for breaching prohibition order
A husband and wife must pay joint fines, penalties and costs totalling over £8,000 after being successfully prosecuted for contravening an overcrowding notice and prohibition order served on them by Bexley Council.
Bexley Magistrates heard that the rented property in Pembroke Road, Erith was owned by Mr Abul Azad and his wife, Ashrafi, who live in a different property in the same street. The property had attracted a number of complaints about overcrowding, noise and the generation of rubbish since 2014.
When a fire broke out at the property in September 2016 and a tenant had to jump from a first floor window to escape the fire (but was uninjured), it was reported to the Council as a possible house of multiple occupation (HMO) by London Fire Brigade.
An overcrowding notice had already been served on the property on 16 September 2016 following an inspection the previous month when it was found to be housing 17 beds, some of which were located in the roof space.
At the time Mr Azad was provided with a schedule setting out the maximum number of 8 people allowed in the whole of the property. The Council had also advised Mr Azad not to re-let the property without notifying the Council first.
Following the fire, officers from Bexley Council visited the property on 30 September 2016 and found 4 people living there, despite extensive damage caused by the fire, making the staircase unsafe and the house uninhabitable. As a result, a prohibition order was served to prevent the property being used for sleeping and living accommodation.
Mr Azad did not appeal the prohibition order. He agreed that he would not re-let the property again until all necessary remedial works had been carried out.
Despite this, when an unannounced visit was made by Council officers on 12 April 2017, they found it occupied by 9 people, allegedly from one family. However, a female living at the property was unable to name the other tenants and five of the family names were different.
The Council advised Mr and Mrs Azad that it would be prosecuting for breach of the prohibition order.
A further inspection was made on 5 April 2018. This time Council officers found 15 bed spaces. Three of these were in the living room and included a double mattress under the staircase. The majority of works required by the prohibition order had not been completed, although the staircase had been replaced. The evidence seen by the Council officers throughout the property suggested the occupants were from separate households.
In court, the Azads both pleaded guilty to charges of contravening the still active overcrowding notice and prohibition order. On 18 February 2019 Mr Azad was fined £1,660 for contravening the overcrowding notice and £3,300 for contravening the prohibition order. He was ordered to pay £200 legal costs and £890.44 investigative costs. He has since also been ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £170.
On 4 March 2019, Mrs Azad, who did not attend court, was fined £1,000 for contravening the prohibition order and ordered to pay £200 legal costs; £890.44 investigative costs and a victim surcharge of £100. There was no separate penalty for the first charge of contravening the notice.
After the case, Councillor Peter Craske, Cabinet Member for Places, Bexley Council said:
“I am delighted with this successful prosecution. Bexley has no hesitation in prosecuting greedy landlords who have complete disregard for the health and safety of their tenants. These two ignored advice and guidance by our officers aimed at helping them rent their property legally and safely – and then went on to flagrantly flout the Over-Crowding Notice and Prohibition Order which were rightly issued.
“They are very lucky that they weren’t facing far more serious charges, which they would have been had anyone been killed or injured due to their total negligence.“
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