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A ‘House Of Horrors’ Has Left A Property Firm Facing A Bill Of More Than £21,000.

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A ‘house of horrors’ has left a property firm facing a bill of more than £21,000.

When Leeds City Council officers made a routine visit to 61 Gathorne Terrace, Chapeltown, Leeds, in August they discovered a defective fire alarm system, seriously damaged fire doors, broken windows, exposed electrical wiring, staircases without handrails, broken glazing and damaged kitchen units.

Vital safety certificates were also absent, and tenants were left without heating when Southwind Developments Limited – which owns more than a dozen rental properties in the Leeds area – failed to pay a gas bill.

On Thursday at Leeds Magistrates Court, Southwind directors Saleem Aslam and Zulfiqar Ahmed pleaded guilty to nine breaches of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 regarding the conditions of the house – they were fined a total of £21,491.73 including £4,476.73 in costs awarded to the council.

The council’s HMO Licensing Team had made the routine visit to establish how many tenants were living in the property. The owner of a HMO has a duty to manage and maintain such properties in a way that is not prejudicial to the health and wellbeing of their tenants.

Not having a working fire alarm system meant that tenants would not receive early warning in the event of a fire. Damaged fire doors would then mean an undetected fire could spread unchecked onto escape routes potentially trapping people inside the building.

After notifying Southwind Developments about the dangerous conditions at the property and requesting they provide current gas safety and electrical certificates, council officers returned only to find the property was found to be in the same perilous condition. Tenants reported that they had been left without heating and hot water after Southwind had failed to pay their gas bill.

In court, Southwind Developments legal representative blamed the condition of the property on the tenants but magistrates said that it was the responsibility of the owners to maintain it.

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for housing, said:

“We have a very large rental sector in Leeds and vast majority of landlords ensure that their properties are well maintained and their tenants safe. But when we find a landlord that has failed to do so we must take action.

“Blaming tenants is not an answer – it is a landlord’s responsibility to look after their property.

“I hope the size of this fine sends out a very clear message that conditions such as these are simply unacceptable.”

The specific offences and fines were as follows:

Failed to ensure that fire alarms were maintained in good working order – £3,000

Failed to ensure that all means of escape in the HMO were maintained in good order and repair – £3,000

Failed to provide local authority with latest Gas Safety Record – £3,000

Failed to provide local authority with latest Electrical Installation Test Certificate – £3,000

Did cause the tenants gas supply to be interrupted – £1,000

Failed to maintain living accommodation (broken glazing in bedroom skylight) – £1,000

Failed to maintain common parts of the HMO (damaged kitchen unit & worktops in shared kitchen) - £1,000

Failed to maintain common parts (exposed wiring from a light pendant on landing) – £1,000

Failed to maintain common parts (handrail missing on staircase) – £1,000.

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They can declare an individual unfit to be a company director after, for example, a conviction for fraud (sensible).

We are all presumed unfit to work with children by default (guilty until proven innocent).

So what provisions are there for declaring someone like this unfit to be a landlord?

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