Unlicensed landlord fined by council

Posted on: 17 July 2018

A landlord from Lynton has been fined by the North and East Devon Magistrates’ Court for failing to hold a licence for the House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in Barnstaple, which he owns and manages.

Mr George Claydon pleaded guilty to the offence of failing to have a licence in place under the Housing Act 2004 in relation to 42 Sunflower Road, Barnstaple between June 2017 and April 2018.

On 3 July 2018, the court fined Mr Claydon the sum of £425 and ordered him to pay a victim’s surcharge of £42, as well as North Devon Council’s cost of £798.

The law requires landlords of HMO properties that have three or more storeys, which are occupied by five or more people forming two or more households, and have shared facilities or are converted into self contained flats without a building regulations approval, to have a mandatory licence.

Andrew Millie, Assistant to the Head of Service for Environmental Health and Housing at North Devon Council, says: “This is a very positive outcome for those in rented property across the district. The law is quite clear: landlords of large HMOs must have a licence from the local council. Failure to renew, apply for, or update a licence puts residents at risk, and constitutes a very serious failure in the trust given to landlords by the government, the council, the local community and, most importantly, their tenants.

“In recent years, events have demonstrated that people die and can be seriously injured as a result of fires in rented property. This is only one of a range of issues that concern this authority – others include unsatisfactory living conditions and standards of management – so we welcome the range of powers given to us by central government to crack down on irresponsible landlords.

“In this case, the total cost to the landlord was £1,265, plus his own legal costs and time. The current cost of a 5 year licence is £426. Landlords of HMOs will face a much higher cost than that of their licence by failing to hold one.”

Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, Councillor Brian Moores says: “This is a serious case with a positive outcome for the people of North Devon. We know that good landlords and agents provide a valuable service. However, government thinking has changed and they have introduced, and continue to introduce, new legislation and guidance in order that the failures of bad landlords can be appropriately addressed. Landlords and agents should be left in no doubt that they have a very important duty of care for the tenants who live in their properties; any breaches of legislation or guidance of licence conditions will be referred by the council for prosecution.”

In October 2018 the rules are further changing to remove the three-storey rule for HMOs requiring a mandatory licence. This means all HMOs that meet the criteria for inclusion, including single and two-storey properties, will require a licence. The council is looking at adopting powers that will enable them to issue ‘civil penalties’ of up to £30,000 and fixed penalty notices for the failure or absence of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

If you’re a landlord or agent and you’re unclear about your responsibilities please see the council’s website for advice. You can also apply for an HMO licence online. If you’re concerned about your landlord not meeting his or her responsibilities, report them online.

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