We have long argued that penalising landlords for the failings of the agents they employ in good faith is wrong, so it was pleasing to see that not only did PCC fine Kings Estates for operating an HMO without a licence, but when Kings Estates appealed the decision on the basis that they were only the agent and the owner was the licence holder, the 1st Tier Housing Tribunal not only ruled in favour of PCC but decided that PCC had been too lenient and doubled the fine to £12,000.
Extracts from the tribunal report:
1. The Applicant appeals against financial penalty notice dated 9 April 2019 made under section 249A of the Housing Act 2004 imposing a civil penalty of £6,000.00 for an offence of being in control of an HMO without a licence.
2. The property known as Cabmans Rest 1 Plymouth Street Portsmouth was a former public house which had been converted to a two storey residential dwelling with 12 bedrooms. The property is owned by a Jaspal Singh Ojla and Raswinder Kaur Ojla. The Applicant managed the property for Mr Ojla and found tenants for him from 1 July 2019. In December 2019 an occupier of the property informed Portsmouth City Council ("the Council") that 12 unrelated individuals were living there and the property had no HMO Licence.
3. The Council formed the view that the Applicant was in control of the property because it was in receipt of rents from the tenants as agent, and that Mr Ojla managed the property by virtue of being the owner of the freehold. The Council decided that the Applicant and Mr Ojla had committed the offence of being in control or managing an HMO without a licence contrary to section 72(1) of the 2004 Act.
4. The Council decided to impose a civil penalty as an alternative to prosecution on both Mr Ojla and the Applicant. On 14 February 2020 the Council gave Notice of Intention to issue a civil penalty in the sum of £7,500.00 against each of them but this was reduced to £6,000.00 following representations.
5. The Applicant and Mr Ojla made separate Appeals against the financial penalty. Mr Ojla withdrew his Appeal on 6 July 2020.
6. The Applicant's grounds of Appeal were that it disagreed with the decision to impose financial penalty and the amount of the financial penalty. The Applicant made no substantive challenge about whether it had committed the offence. The Applicant's grievance appeared to be that the Council was not consistent in its approach in dealing with 3 unlicensed properties and had singled it out for a financial penalty. Also the Applicant requested a reduction in the penalty to reflect its current financial difficulties. The Council contended that it had already given the Applicant the maximum deduction permitted under its Enforcement Policy for undue hardship.
The full tribunal findings can be read here:https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5f7c9114d3bf7f2d4eec26f5/Cabmans_Rest_1_Plymouth_Street_Decision___addendum.pdf
Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.