Two agencies have been hit with a total bill of over £42,000 after being found guilty of managing three unsafe flats that required a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence but were not licensed.
One of the agents argued that as it only took tenants’ deposits and the first month’s rent, it was not managing the properties, but the court decided otherwise.
The ruling could have implications for other letting agents.
The prosecution was brought by Camden Council in London, with the case heard last Friday at Highbury Magistrates Court.
The local authority prosecuted the managing agent Leycam and the letting agent Citydeal Estates (London) for 12 charges arising from offences relating to the failure to license as HMOs three flats in the same building in Fortress Road, London, and nine other offences under the HMO Management regulations relating to the condition of the flats.
Together they received a fine of £25,050 for failing to have a licence while Leycam received a further £6,975 for breaching regulations. Costs and victim surcharges brought the total bill up to over £42,000.
Council officers were first alerted to the properties last summer when tenants complained about a rat infestation and poor housing conditions, including rotting windows, dampness and fire safety issues. The tenants had to place saucepans in a bedroom of one of the flats to catch leaking bathwater.
Despite the agents being aware of the council’s HMO licensing scheme, they ignored tenant requests for issues to be resolved, says Camden Council on its website. It adds that Citydeal Estates (London) had argued that they were not responsible as they only received the tenancy deposits and the first month’s rent.
However Judge Newton ruled they were managing the property.
Cllr Meric Apak, cabinet member at Lambeth Council for better homes, said the authority would not hesitate to take legal action when there is sufficient evidence.