A Teignbridge landlord has been fined £4,000 for renting out an unsafe property.
Curtis Betteridge was prosecuted by Teignbridge District Council for failing to comply with an improvement notice to his property. He was asked to carry out works on a flat he rented out so it met fire and safety regulations.
It is the first time Teignbridge has taken court action against a landlord.
The case was heard before South Devon Magistrates, sitting in Torquay, on Tuesday December 2. Mr Betteridge did not attend and Teignbridge successfully applied for the case to be proved in his absence.
Mr Betteridge is the leaseholder of Flat 2, 2 Iddesleigh Terrace, Dawlish. The flat is in an older house that has been converted into flats classed as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).
There are extra management obligations for HMOs especially in terms of fire safety and how they are managed. Other properties in the building meet all the necessary regulations and are rented out separately. None of the others are owned by Mr Betteridge.
Under the Housing Act 2004, landlords should ensure any property provided for accommodation is free from any risk of harm to the health and safety of an actual or potential occupier of a dwelling.
The Act allows local authorities to take enforcement action if this is not being done. This can be a legal notice requiring the landlord/managing agent to remedy the defects within a certain amount of time.
Before it gets to that stage, authorities give landlords lots of opportunities to carry out the work and offer advice and assistance where needed. Teignbridge has good relationships with the vast majority of landlords and court action is not taken lightly.
Teignbridge wrote to Mr Betteridge in December 2011 following an inspection which highlighted fire risk issues. He was asked to carry out a number of works that would ensure the flat was safe and met standards suitable for potential tenants and everyone else living in the building.
He was asked to remove and replace a glazed panel from above an interior fire door (glass panels do not restrict the spread of fire meaning people can be put in greater danger if ever a fire breaks out in a building), link the fire alarm system to the rest of the building and deal with inadequate heating.
Further correspondence was sent during 2012 advising that notices could be served.
A notice was served on Mr Betteridge by Teignbridge late in 2012 and although it expired on 7 January 2013, he was given more time but did not comply.
On this rare occasion Teignbridge decided court action was appropriate.
The maximum fine for non-compliance of notices is £5,000. The court ordered that Mr Betteridge pay the Council’s costs of £917. A victim surcharge of £120 was applied. A collection order was made for the money to be paid within the next 28 days.
Some works have since been carried out to improve the property.
Cllr Philip Vogel, Teignbridge District Council’s Executive Spokesperson for Housing and Planning, said: “Many landlords manage their properties really well and do not need our help; others may be inexperienced and turn to us for help and advice and that is something we are more than happy to give.
“We run regular one day landlord training courses, covering all aspects of letting including how to set up, manage and end a tenancy. We would urge all landlords, prospective landlords and accidental landlords to take advantage of what we can do for them and their future tenants.
“It’s really important that properties are free from hazards and are safe for tenants to live in. Mr Betteridge had previously promised to carry out the works and we had hoped he would make good on this promise.
“Unfortunately we had to go to court in order to get this done. We welcome the Magistrates’ decision.
“We prefer to work together as it’s a lot more productive but where properties fall below minimum standards and are not safe, we will enforce the legal standards which apply.”
Teignbridge offers lots of help to landlords to help ensure their properties meet regulations and are worth letting. It holds an annual Landlord Open Evening aimed at experienced landlords and those considering letting.
For more information visit Teignbridge’s website: www.teignbridge.gov.uk/housing
(from a press release)