Huge fine for property firms over “serious fire safety issues”
Two property companies which failed to follow a local council’s lettings sector licensing scheme have been fined a combined £32,000.
Owners of private rented properties in Croydon must apply to the council for a licence under the borough’s landlord licensing scheme.
However, in 2017 AA Homes and its managing agency Anabow Services Ltd did not apply for a licence for 36 flats at a block in central Croydon. The council decided to impose financial penalties over the failure to license one of these flats.
AA Homes and Anabow appealed, but now the decision to impose financial penalties on the companies has been upheld by the First-Tier Tribunal Property Chamber.
At the tribunal hearing London Fire Brigade officers told the judge-led panel that LFB had alerted Croydon council after finding fire safety breaches at the five-storey private residential block.
LFB watch manager Daniel Rosling said the seriousness of the conditions found at their visit in September 2017 had been a “10 out of 10”, citing a locked fire escape, poor ventilation and defective fire doors.
He said that as a result of the LFB issuing an enforcement notice, all matters identified in the notice had since been resolved.
When council officers investigated, they found 36 of the 52 private rented flats had no landlord licence. One of them, which became the subject of the financial penalty, had had a tenant since 1 April 2017 who did not know the building’s fire evacuation procedures. This would have been a condition if the property had been licensed.
It took building owner AA Homes and Housing and Anabow Services until March 2018 to submit all 36 fully correct and paid-for landlord licence applications.
Citing a “glaring omission” in AA Homes’s failure to license and that it should have been well aware of the need to license, the tribunal judge said: “There were serious fire safety issues in the property and accordingly there was serious harm or potential harm to the tenants in failure to license. We agree that there had been a wholesale failure to license as many as 36 flats out of a total 52 [which] is a relevant factor to be weighed against the applicants.”
“Private landlords have a duty to keep all their tenants safe, and the council’s landlord licensing scheme makes sure they do” says Croydon council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for homes, Councillor Alison Butler.
“This landlord knew they had to license all their rented properties but failed to meet this responsibility until council officers took action. Most Croydon landlords do the right thing, and this case shows that any landlord who does flout the rules risks a hefty fine.”