A landlord in Watford who earned around £27,000 a year in rent has been fined £30,000 after pleading guilty to cramming 12 tenants into a five-person flat. Some of the renters slept in storerooms.
Landlord Fined £30,000 for Cramming 12 Tenants into Five-Person Home
Zuo Jun He pleaded guilty to 11 offences against the Housing Act when he appeared at Watford Magistrates’ Court on Monday (2nd November 2015), including two of allowing more people to live in the property than were covered by his House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) license.
Officers from Watford Borough Council found 12 people living in the flat, situated above a Chinese restaurant. Some of the tenants were sleeping in rooms that were listed as storerooms on the HMO license.
The council reported that because there was no communal living space, tenants were in their rooms all of the time, despite there being no space to walk around. A family, including a seven-year-old child, shared one room.
The landlord was fined a total of £30,000 plus £5,326.54 in costs to the council, court costs of £150 and victim surcharge of £120. However, the maximum fines for the separate offences could have totalled £70,000.
The tenants only had one small kitchen, which was in a filthy state when inspected by the council, and the property’s fire exit was obstructed.
Zuo Jun He stated that he accepted £515 per week in rent for the property, equivalent to £26,780 a year.
The overcrowding was discovered when a tenant complained.
Dorothy Thornhill, the Mayor of Watford, comments: “Most landlords are excellent and we’ll always do our best to work with them, not against them. Those few landlords who flout the law and take advantage of vulnerable tenants out of greed will be targeted and we will take action against them.
“To help tackle this issue, I hope that magistrates will continue to make the penalties reflective of the money rogue landlords make out of abusing their position. As housing demand continues to increase, we’re going to see more of this across the UK – we need to act swiftly and decisively.”1
Recent data from the Environmental Health News reveals that between 2006-14, just 2,006 rogue landlords were convicted, resulting in total fines of £3m. However, many of those convicted were still operating as landlords.
The council ruled that Zuo Jun He can still work as a landlord, but will not receive a future HMO license. He has since evicted all of the tenants.