Council waives civil financial penalty in pursuit of restraining order
Although they announced in 2018 that they were now prosecuting owners for failure to license HMOs and breaches of HMO management regulations under the civil penalties scheme (see the £16,000 fine imposed for non-HMO license), the local authority instead took this ‘Rogue’ homeowner to court where there was only a small fine of £4,808.
What we are probably seeing is the strategy increasingly used by local authorities to remove a landlord from the market.
Here’s how the strategy works:
1) The council finds a property without an HMO license. What they treat as a crime.
2) They will impose civil fines usually ranging from £12,000 to £20,000 for failing to license.
3) If the owner has other properties, it will then “flush and repeat” all the other properties of the owners
4) If the owner owns more than one property, then they will impose civil fines of around £28,000 for breaches of fire regulations and an additional £20,000 to £30,000 for other breaches of HMO management regulations. (By the way, it’s per property, except for one property.)
5) Then, after maximizing their income, they go on the offensive and take a property to court instead of fines. For a very good reason.
By dragging the owner to court after he has used up all of his funds, councils will take the owner to court for a criminal conviction, which then gives them the opportunity to claim that the owner is unfit and suitable (because any criminal offense related to housing makes you unsuitable for suitable housing). They will then refuse to grant a license and revoke all other licenses from the owner and finally apply to the first level court for a restraining order.
And then they have everything they wanted: a very large chunk of the owner’s equity in their revenue stream, and then the owner is completely destroyed and out of the market.
You can read the “official version” of the press release below.
A rogue landlord who put tenants at risk has been fined £4,808 for breaking housing regulations on a property in Wolverhampton.
The local council sued Maciej Piotr Zaremba for breaching the rules for running a multi-occupancy house.
In September 2021, council officers obtained a warrant to enter a property after receiving complaints of heavy occupation and mistreatment by the landlord.
They discovered a number of occupants residing inside the property who all had separate contracts, locks on their rooms and shared facilities, despite the premises not being a licensed HMO.
Upon inspection, officers determined that the building presented significant fire hazards, inadequate fire detection equipment, and inadequate means of escape in the event of a fire.
Officers also discovered an additional fuse panel, wiring and groups of electrical equipment in the attic of the property, which posed a significant risk of overheating and causing a fire.
In October 2021, a letter addressed to the accused was delivered to the premises inviting him to an interview with the police and the Bail Criminal Evidence Act to which counsel received no response.
In February 2022, an additional mandate was obtained to check whether housing regulations had been complied with. However, officers discovered that no improvements had been made to keep tenants safe within the property and additional tenants had been hired.
Dudley Magistrates court fined Zaremba £2,700 for the offense and he was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,838 and a victim fine surcharge of £270.
Councilor Bhupinder Gakhal, Cabinet Member for City Assets and Housing, said: “Council is taking a strong stance on HMO licensing to keep tenants safe and I hope this case serves as a stark reminder to private sector owners that they must respect. HMO rules.
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