South Norwood owner to pay £ 18,500 fine after eight people found living in unlicensed house
A South Norwood owner has been fined £ 18,500 for renting unlicensed property in Herne Hill to eight people.
Fernando Brown, known as Fred, was discovered to operate an unauthorized multiple-occupancy (HMO) home on Fawnbrake Avenue with eight tenants living in the six-bedroom property.
The tenants said Mr Brown often collected the rent money in person and always in cash.
They also revealed that Mr Brown often failed to provide rent receipts, did not have a written rental agreement with any of the occupants, and did not protect their deposits as required by law.
An investigation by Lambeth Council’s Environmental Health Team found Mr Brown had violated the 2004 Housing Act by not registering as an HMO.
An HMO license costs £ 1,674 for five years.
An inspection in October 2019 found eight people living in the house and another inspection in February 2020 found that the situation had not changed.
A notice of intention to issue a notice of civil sanction was sent to Mr Brown on March 2, 2020 with a proposed fine of £ 24,999.
Mr Brown appealed the fine to the property chamber of the first-level court which heard the case last month.
The court upheld the original decision, but the financial penalty was reduced after mitigation by Mr Brown’s legal representatives.
During court, Mr Brown testified and claimed he signed a rental agreement with three people in 2015 and believed they still lived in the property.
He claimed he was misled and demanded possession of the property when he discovered there were eight tenants, and none were on the 2015 agreement.
He also claimed that anyone else seen on site during his visits could have been “tenants, guests or squatters” and had not interviewed them.
It was accepted by all parties that the property was not licensed as an HMO, the court heard.
Cllr Maria Kay, Lambeth Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness, said: “Unscrupulous landlords who put profit above the safety and well-being of their tenants will not be tolerated in our borough.
“I am pleased that the court recognized the seriousness of the violation committed by Mr. Brown and agreed that his actions were serious enough to warrant a substantial penalty.
“It is important to recognize the tireless work of the board teams to ensure this has been discovered. “This case shows that Lambeth Council takes unlicensed HMOs very seriously and will prosecute offenders to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our residents.”
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