Friday, 6 August 2010


A Thanet landlord has been fined £2,000 for failing to comply with the terms of a licence he held to run a house in multiple occupation. (HMOs)

HMOs are properties occupied by more than one family, such as those used for bedsits or shared houses. Since April 2006, HMOs that are three or more storeys and are occupied by five or more persons must be licensed. These laws were introduced to improve the physical conditions and management standards of HMOs. Licences include conditions which the licence holder must comply with. Failing to comply with them without reasonable excuse is an offence.

In November 2009, the Council's Housing Improvement Team discovered that 29 Albion Road in Ramsgate, which was then a licensed HMO, was operating in contravention of licence conditions. During the routine inspection, officers found various rooms not being used in accordance with the licence. As many were small, a communal lounge was required to be made available, but one had not.

Some toilet and bathroom facilities had been screwed shut and one man was living in an undersized room. Two additional kitchens, which were required to cater for the number of potential residents, had not been installed. The gas central heating system had not worked since the previous summer and the council had not been provided with any valid gas safety certificates.

Following the discovery, the co-owner and licence holder of the premises, Michael Harnett, 49, of West Cliff Road, Broadstairs, was interviewed under caution at the council offices. In the council’s opinion, he did not provide a reasonable excuse for failing to maintain and improve the property, as required by the conditions of his licence. As a result, he was prosecuted for the offence.

In a case heard at Thanet Magistrates Court, Mr. Harnett pleaded guilty to failing to comply with his licence and was fined £2,000, to which was a £15 victim surcharge was added. He was also ordered to pay a contribution of £100 towards the council's prosecution costs.

Cllr. Chris Wells, Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: "HMOs are often linked to bad management and anti-social behaviour. This is why HMO licensing is so important, as it helps us to ensure that tenants are kept safe and neighbours are not unduly disturbed. This case should be a reminder to landlords that simply obtaining a licence is not good enough. Licence conditions must be complied with, or the council will take the necessary enforcement action. In this case, most of the licence conditions had been ignored, which is completely unacceptable. All landlords need to understand that we will not tolerate the creation and maintenance of slum conditions, and will pursue those who disregard their responsibilities with every power at our disposal.”

If you think you own or are renting a room or property which should be licensed as an HMO, you can contact the Housing Improvement Team on 01843 577437 for further information.


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