On 1 February 2017, a landlord who failed to comply with an Improvement Notice and carry out essential repairs to his property was ordered to pay fines and costs of more than £6,000 following an investigation by Bristol City Council.
Following a complaint received to the private housing department, environmental health officers carried out an inspection of the property.
The property was let as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) where up to three tenants shared the bathrooms with the resident landlord Mr Iqbal.
Following an inspection on the 3 August 2016, environmental health officers found the property to be in a filthy condition and in very poor repair. The conditions were so poor, a formal Improvement Notice was served requiring Mr Iqbal to carry out numerous works in the property to eliminate the hazards and improve the safety and conditions.
These works required included the installation of a fire alarm system; provision of hot and cold water and heating; treating the mouse infestation and repairing the leak to the roof.
Mr Iqbal failed to complete these works to improve the living conditions within the time allowed by the notice.
Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet Member for Homes and Communities, said: “The council will not tolerate landlords failing to meet their legal responsibilities in relation to the conditions and safety of their properties.
“This is an issue we take very seriously, and we will continue to take action where necessary to improve people’s living conditions.
"We urge landlords to cooperate with our officers to avoid court cases and fines which are much more expensive than undertaking the improvements. The vast majority of landlords do this and working together we can improve housing conditions within the city."
This is the second time Mr Iqbal has been prosecuted for failing to complete works required of him in an Improvement Notice. At the previous hearing in August 2015 he was also found guilty and ordered to pay a total of £6,284 in fines and costs.
The works remain incomplete and Bristol City Council is now considering carrying out the improvements in his default which will result in the landlord having to repay these costs.
The case for using an ARLA agent
Cases like this go to highlight the benefits for tenants and landlords of using an ARLA Licensed agent who uphold the highest professional standards, are qualified, bound by a code of practice, offer Client Money Protection, and regularly complete CPD to keep up to date with legislation and regulation. They will also usually be experienced in dealing with HMOs and the additional measures needed to ensure landlords comply with licensing requirements.
Non-compliance with HMO regulation and licensing isn't always deliberate and landlords who employ the services of an ARLA agent find that much of the strain and the worry of keeping up with changing legislation and local selective licensing schemes is taken away from them. Landlords could actually end up saving money in the long-term and avoid unintended consequences, including hefty fines such as in the Iqbal case above.
What is a HMO?
A house in multiple occupation is a property rented out by at least three people who are not from one ‘household’ (e.g. a family) but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen. It’s sometimes called a ‘house share’.
You must have a licence if you’re renting out a large HMO. Your property is defined as a large HMO if all of the following apply:
- it’s rented to five or more people who form more than one household
- it’s at least three storeys high
- tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities
For more information on HMOs in England, download the Government's guide - Licensing of houses in multiple occupation in England: a guide for landlords and managers
Proposed changes to HMOs
In October 2016 the Government made proposals for extending the mandatory licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation for which we submitted a detailed response.
The consultation sought views on the government’s proposals which included:
- Remove the storey rule so all houses (regardless of how many floors) with 5 or more people from 2 or more households are in scope – this will further enable local authorities to tackle poor standards, migration and the problems being seen in high risk smaller properties as the sector has grown;
- Extend mandatory licensing to flats above and below business premises (regardless of the number of storeys) - as the evidence shows more problems in these properties; and
- Set a minimum room size of 6.52sq-m in line with the existing overcrowding standard (Housing Act 1985) to close a loophole recently created by an upper-tier tribunal ruling which is enabling some landlords to let rooms far too small for an adult to legally occupy.
The Government intends to implement the changes through Secondary Legislation, which means that they can make changes to the law using powers from an existing Act of Parliament.
DCLG are currently analysing the results of the consultation and Ministers will be making an announcement shortly. We understand that legislation is likely to be implemented at some point this year.