A landlord in Swindon has been fined more than £16,000 for breaching House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) regulations.
Javaid Lone, 59, pleaded guilty to 13 breaches at a hearing at Swindon Magistrates’ Court last week.
The court was told that Lone allowed at least 15 tenants to rent rooms in a converted guesthouse on County Road, Swindon. One tenant was living in a converted bathroom and Lone had erected an illegal structure in the living room to form another bedroom.
Landlord in Swindon Fined £16,000 for HMO Breaches
The landlord had converted numbers 31 and 33 County Road into a single property with multiple bedsits and shared kitchens and bathrooms.
In 2014, Swindon Borough Council discovered a series of hazards in the property, including a lack of fire exits, covered smoke alarms, dangerous electrical wiring and unhygienic communal areas.
After the inspection, Lone worked alongside the council to improve the property. However, in June 2015, new breaches were uncovered, such as tissue stuffed down toilets, rat droppings in the only usable kitchen and an outstanding £9,598 electricity bill, which led to the supply being cut from the home.
When the council tried to contact Lone regarding the bill, it found that he was in America. The council and Lone’s daughter were then left to pay half of the bill.
Kirsty Real, prosecuting for Swindon Borough Council, said that Lone took advantage of the tenants’ naivety.
She told the court: “These people were of multiple nationalities and in a visit, one woman could not understand the council officer’s questions, and as a result, were vulnerable due to this.
“The council inspector saw rat droppings in the kitchen, the kitchen was in a complete state of disrepair. He tried to cram in as many residents as possible and the effects of that were all around the property.
“There were tenants living in the rooms who also had another bed in the room, so there was subletting involved there. There was a significant fire and safety risk in this property and the tenants could have suffered serious harm in the event of a fire.”1
Lone’s defence claimed that the landlord had become “overwhelmed”1 with new tenants at a time when he was trying to fix the problems.
Paul Sample, the Bench Chairman, ordered Lone to pay £16,650 in fines and £1,500 court costs.
A council spokesperson comments: “We hope this case sends a strong message to rogue landlords, who fail to fulfil their legal obligations to tenants to make their properties fit, safe and healthy places to live.
“Tenants of larger HMOs like this are particularly vulnerable because they may be less able to seek alternative accommodation and therefore endure squalid conditions.
“Our enforcement work focuses on this area, as such properties can be riddled with hazards, ranging from rat infestations to inadequate fire exits and faulty electrical installations.”1