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Landlord fined for having wrong licence

1 March 2016 in Housing
A landlord who failed to licence her  poorly managed rental property as a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) has been fined almost £40,000.
Judith Korkar Odompleh, 64, of Sunningdale Avenue, Barking, pleaded guilty to 14 offences under the Housing Act 2004 and Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006 at Thames Magistrates’ Court.

In June 2015, Newham Council’s private rented sector licensing team wrote to Odompleh asking her to provide documentation about her three-bedroom rental property in Durham Road, Manor Park. She failed to respond to the request to provide copies of tenancy agreements, safety certificates and logs on landlord inspection visits, breaching the conditions on her licence.

In September the team visited the property, which held a licence to house one family. But during the inspection the officers found four households living inside, including a mother and her 14-year-old daughter living in the downstairs front and middle rooms; a couple in their 40s living in the master bedroom upstairs and two single men living in the other bedrooms upstairs.

In November the council wrote to the landlord informing her she had failed to comply with licensing regulations by not providing the documentation requested by the council and had breached her licence by over-occupying the house. She was also informed that as there were four households living in the property she had the wrong licence and needed to licence her property as a HMO and manage the property according to regulations.

A HMO requires additional safety and management measures to protect tenants. For example, the property must have a fireproof kitchen door and fire alarms wired into the property’s electrics to ensure they do not fail in an emergency. Landlords of HMOs are also responsible for managing and keeping clean the common areas of the house, such as the kitchens and bathrooms and ensuring the property is in good repair.

Odompleh failed to reply to the council’s letters and was summoned to Thames Magistrates’ Court to answer 16 charges related to these offences on Thursday 4 February 2016. There she pleaded guilty to 14 offences and was ordered to pay fines totalling £39,240, as well as council costs of £256.41 and a victim surcharge of £120.

Councillor Andrew Baikie, mayoral advisor for housing, said: “Our licensing scheme is designed to protect tenants from landlords like Odompleh who overcrowd their properties in a bid to maximise their profits. This large fine sends a stern warning to other landlords that magistrates are seeing through their stories and have little patience for those who disrespect the law and the council.

“Landlords can try to ignore us but we will not rest until we find out what is happening at their properties and making sure that they are behaving responsibly towards their tenants and their neighbours.”

Newham Council was the first council in the country to introduce private rented sector licensing across the whole borough in January 2013 to tackle poor housing standards and anti-social behaviour. Since then more than 24,000 landlords have registered and licensed more than 35,000 properties in the borough. The council has prosecuted more than 1,000 landlords for failing to licence their properties correctly or keep them in good condition. The council has also banned 28 landlords who have multiple housing convictions from managing their property portfolio in the borough.