Published Tuesday, 19th January 2021

A Horley property company has been fined over £16,000 for failing to comply with Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) legislation aimed at protecting tenants.

Reigate and Banstead Borough Council successfully took action against a private property management company for breaching the fire safety and overcrowding terms of its HMO licence for a two-storey property in Redhill.

The level of penalty took account that the company tried to conceal its offending. The fines were issued by the Council as an alternative to prosecution through the courts, using powers under Section 249A of The Housing Act 2004.

The Council takes licence breaches very seriously for the safety of residents living in private rented accommodation.

Commenting on the prosecution, Cllr Mrs Natalie Bramhall, Executive Member for Neighbourhood Services, said: “Reigate & Banstead Borough Council works closely with landlords to provide advice and guidance to ensure the properties they manage are properly maintained and safe for residents. However, when serious breaches occur and offences are committed, we will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action.

“We would fully expect a portfolio management company to be organised and compliant. They are wholly responsible for inspecting the property and ensuring that it is safe. By not carrying out regular inspections, especially in this instance for fire safety, they were not able to demonstrate due diligence which is reflected in the level of the fine.

“The company representative also tried to hide the fact that there were more people occupying the property than allowed by the licence. Whilst one additional person may seem insignificant, the offence was a breach of the Licence and providing false information is fraud, both of which the Council takes seriously.

“Please be assured that, while our ways of working may be slightly different to usual due to the current Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the Government, we are still working. Some allowances may be made but it is still every landlord’s responsibility to ensure that their property is safe and compliant.”

From 1 October 2018, any property that has five or more tenants requires a mandatory HMO licence. Operating a property without a licence is punishable on summary conviction with an unlimited fine or the imposition of a civil penalty of up to £30,000.

While a property is unlicensed, no rents are a payable. Irrespective of whether the Council takes enforcement action, tenants and ex-tenants can apply for a Rent Repayment Order for rent paid during the unlicensed period.

For further information about HMO licences, including the requirements and how to apply for a licence, please visit our website.