A landlord who failed to apply for a house in multiple occupation (HMO) licence has been fined £3,000 and ordered to pay Harlow Council over £2,700 in costs.
Mr. Lee Hahn, of Goffs Oak, pleaded guilty by post at a hearing held at Chelmsford Magistrates Court on 14 December 2017. Mr. Hahn failed to apply for an HMO licence between 20 May 2017 and 2 August 2017. The Council’s Environmental Health Team took action after receiving complaints about Mr. Hahn’s two storey property in Berecroft being an HMO.
Action against Mr. Hahn had been taken on two previous occasions which resulted in the property being emptied for a short period of time before being re-let again as an HMO. Following the last complaint, an unannounced visit to the property was made in May 2017 with a Magistrates’ warrant. At this time there were eight people living in the property. Mr. Hahn was asked to apply for an HMO licence again but failed to apply.
When council officers revisited in August 2017, the house had been emptied again. The Council decided to prosecute Mr. Hahn because Environmental Health officers had found the property to be in HMO use on three separate occasions. This situation could not be allowed to continue.
Mr. Hahn was originally fined £4,500 but it was reduced to £3,000 for an early guilty plea. He was ordered to pay £2,768.54 in costs to the Council and also a victim surcharge of £170. This conviction also means that Mr. Hahn is not a ‘fit and proper person’ to hold an HMO licence anywhere in the country.
As well as the mandatory HMO licensing scheme in Harlow there is an additional licensing scheme. HMOs in Harlow are rental properties that are occupied by more than two people who form separate households and share basic facilities such as the kitchen or bathroom. All housing, whether rented or otherwise, has to be free of major health and safety hazards, but HMOs are recognised as posing some extra risks and have to go that bit further, especially relating to fire safety and management of the property for the number of persons present. If there are seven or more occupiers, the HMO will also require planning permission for a change of use
Councillor Danny Purton, Portfolio Holder for Environment, said:
“I would like to congratulate our Environmental Health and Legal Teams for bringing forward this prosecution. In Harlow, we take the licensing of HMOs very seriously and in addition to the mandatory scheme, we have an additional licensing scheme to protect everyone living in HMOs in Harlow. If you are a landlord and you don’t have an HMO licence, you are potentially putting the safety of those living in your property at risk. A licensed property ensures that checks are carried out and that very important fire safety requirements are met.
“This prosecution will send out a clear warning to landlords: If you have an HMO in Harlow and don’t follow the rules, we will take action, which could result in a huge fine or, as in Mr. Hahn’s case, affect your chances of holding an HMO licence anywhere in the country.”
The Council publishes public registers of HMO licences in the town which can be viewed online at www.harlow.gov.uk/hmo