South London letting agent prosecuted for HMO licensing offence
A landlord and their letting agent have both been fined for a number of offences relating to an illegally established house of multiple occupation in Woolwich, South East London.
The case acts as a stark reminder that both the landlord and letting agent share responsibility for ensuring that a rented property has been correctly licensed and is being properly managed.
At a Bexley Magistrates’ Court hearing on 18 April 2016, Mr Oner Arslanboga, the owner of the property in Frances Street and Mr Kawsar representing the letting agent – South East Residentials Limited – were both found guilty of failing to license a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and failing to comply with Management of Houses of Multiple Occupations (England) Regulations 2006.
The property first came to the attention of the Royal Borough of Greenwich in 2013 when Environmental Health Officers suspected it was an unlicensed HMO. Officers quickly served an Improvement Notice after an inspection. The owner claimed that it was not an HMO and applied for a time-limited temporary exemption notice so that the premises did not need to be licensed.
The premises came to the attention of the Royal Borough again in June 2015 as a result of being contacted by a tenant about poor living conditions, indicating it was once again being used as an HMO.
On 18 August 2015 Environmental Health Officers re-inspected the premises. Three tenants were present during the inspection and they all confirmed that they paid rent to Mr Arslanboga. The inspection revealed that all five rooms were occupied by at least one person unrelated to the occupants of the other rooms. Most of the rooms failed to comply with even basic housing regulations with missing smoke detectors and widespread use of socket adaptors.
Mr Kawsar, representing South East Residentials Limited, previously claimed that, as the managing agent, they were not informed of the council inspection by the owner. He also claimed that he had informed the owner of the works that needed to be carried out, but Mr Arslanboga refused to pay for the HMO licence and works as it was ‘expensive’.
The Court fined Mr Arslanboga £5,600 and ordered him to pay prosecution costs of £750 as well as a victim’s surcharge of £120. South East Residentials Limited were fined £1,750, prosecution costs totalling £375 and a victim surcharge of £120.
Councillor Jackie Smith, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Environment said:
“The Royal Borough of Greenwich is sending a clear message that rogue landlords will absolutely not be tolerated in this borough. We are taking a proactive approach across the council to tackle this issue and are increasingly honing in on this minority of landlords who think that they are above the law.“
Further information about HMO licensing in Greenwich can be found at www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk/greenwich or by visiting the Council’s website. London Property Licensing can also offer consultancy advice to landlords and letting agents unsure about their responsibilities. Contact us for more information.