A buy-to-let landlord has been ordered to pay almost £6,000 after the council was unable to determine if his property in Ashford, Kent, was occupied by multiple tenants.
Officers from Ashford Borough Council in Kent suspected that the house on Canterbury Road, TN24, may have qualified for a Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) license, with five or more people comprising of two or more family units requiring a licence to operate. But the local authority could not clarify this information due to a lack of co-operation from the owner of the property.
The lawyers acting for Ashford Borough Council told magistrates that local councils have a duty to protect tenants in HMOs from poor conditions, and are therefore responsible for monitoring and regulating the quality of the accommodation and ensuring that there are not too many people living in the property.
Magistrates were told that enquiries by council officers suggested that the house in Canterbury Road had more than five occupants but unless this could be confirmed by the owner, the council was unable to issue a licence nor take enforcement action.
But the owner of the property, Josh Basharat Ahmad, ignored several written requests from the council to provide information about the property, leaving Ashford Borough Council with no option but to take legal action.
The charge was that the landlord failed to comply with a requirement of a notice served on him in pursuance of section 16 (1) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
Ahmed was found guilty in his absense and hit with a fine of £5,000. He was also ordered to pay £650 towards the council’s legal costs, along with a victim surcharge of £170.
Sharon Williams, head of housing at Ashford Borough Council, commented: “We have a responsibility to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our residents. We will not hesitate to take legal action against the owners of properties who flout the rules designed to safeguard their tenants.
“Landlords of Houses in Multiple Occupation who fail to hold an appropriate licence or breach the terms of the licence, could face serious penalties, including hefty fines and criminal prosecution. I would urge all landlords to ensure they comply with the legislation.”