Landlord, Mr Tan Sandhu was originally fined £31,499 by Coventry City Council for breaches of the Housing Act 2004, but this was reduced to £24,649 before being appealed in the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) and reduced to £3,300.
The property, a semi-detached house, converted to an HMO on Walsall Street, Coventry was first identified as part of the council’s campaign to improve HMOs across the city.
On inspection, the council found that keys were needed to exit individual rooms, which was a clear breach of fire evacuation rules. Plus the rear door was at risk of being breached by intruders. There was also no displayed notice giving the contact details of the manager as required by the regulations.
In regards to fire safety, the smoke/heat detector in the kitchen had been removed and no fire blanket had been provided.
The council gave the landlord notice of the issues on 20th November 2018, but four months later, found that most of the breaches had yet to be rectified.
Believing that ample time had been provided to improve the HMO, the council decided to impose a penalty of £2,100 in relation to the missing manager’s details notice and £29.399 in relation to breaches under regulation 4 (duty to take safety measures). A total of £31,499, but this was later reduced to £24,649 after the landlord challenged the charges.
The landlord appealed based on the grounds of excessive charges, not in line with the council’s own policies, or government guidelines. In the end, it was determined that £3,300 was a ‘fair’ amount.
On the tribunal’s decision, Phil Turtle, compliance consultant with Landlord Licensing and Defence Ltd said, “Whilst we cannot condone a landlord not knowing and / or failing to comply with the HMO Management Regulations, this case is a clear example of a Council misapplying the legislation for their own purposes.
“Coventry City Council had originally tried to extract £31,499 from this landlord when in fact, as the Tribunal determined, they were only entitled to fine the landlord a total of £3,300. An attempted over-charge of £28,199.
“Whilst there is no actual proof of causality, in this case, it is, however, interesting that whereas Court Fines go to central government, Councils get to keep these landlord fines as an income stream which may affect their objectivity.”