Durham County Council's first selective licensing prosecution sees PRS landlord ordered to pay £15,743 in fines and costs

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The landlord was convicted of 4 Housing Act offences at Peterlee Magistrates, including failure to apply for licences to operate 2 rental properties in the Horden area.

Concerns about the welfare of tenants at the two properties had been raised with the council in November 2022 regarding the first property and in April 2023 regarding the second (the council's current selective licensing scheme went live in April 2022 and runs until March 2027). In both cases, the properties were in a poor state of repair.

An inspection of the first property found that there was no heating or hot water, damp and mould were present and there was a partially collapsed ceiling in the bedroom. In addition, the toilet cistern was cracked and broken, there were no carbon monoxide or smoke alarms and the stair way bannister was too low.

The council's investigation led them to the Birmingham based company owned by the landlord and of which he was the sole director. He had recently purchased the property but had not provided any name or contact details to the tenant.

Although the council carried out emergency repairs to get the heating and hot water up and running, a subsequent follow up inspection found that none of the other disrepair issues had been dealt with by the landlord. An improvement notice was served but the landlord didn't respond to it or fulfil its requirements.

The tenant of the second property contacted the council in April 2023 and it turned out that this property had also been recently purchased with the new landlord, again, not providing any name or contact details. The council's investigation in this case then led them to the same company in Birmingham owned by the same landlord who had purchased the first property. In this second home the council also found damp and mould issues with a large damp patch in the kitchen which was located underneath the bathroom. The council says it is obtaining quotes to carry out repair works at this property.

As well as writing to the landlord about disrepair issues at both properties and serving an improvement notice, the council had written to him about the requirement to obtain selective licences for both properties but he didn't respond to these communication efforts and no licence applications were received.

The landlord was convicted in his absence and fined £12,600 with £1,343 costs and a victim surcharge of £2000.

Whilst pointing out that the "vast majority of landlords in County Durham look after their properties and their tenants" Lynn Hall, the council's Strategic Housing Manager said "We are pleased at the high financial penalty imposed in this case which represents our first selective licensing prosecution .... [the landlord] failed to respond to legal orders to carry out work or to get a licence in respect of either property and we hope the sentence imposed will act as a reminder to both him and other landlords of the consequences of not doing so."

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