A Coventry landlord who was fined £31,499 for breaches of the housing act has had the “excessive” figure cut to just £3,300 following a tribunal.
In the First Tier Tribunal a Landlord, Mr Tan Sandhu, who is described as an estate agent in the proceedings, appealed against a financial penalty fine of £24,649 (initially £31,499) imposed by Coventry City Council for breaches of the Housing Act 2004.
The property, a semi-detached house in Walsall Street, Coventry came to the Council’s attention as part of a campaign of inspections to improve the quality of HMO housing around Warwick University.
The Council found that Sandhu had failed to comply with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 in four breaches:
- Failed Duty of Manager to provide information to occupier(s)
- Failed Duty of Manager to take safety measures
- Failed Duty of Manager to supply and maintain gas and electricity
- Failed Duty of Manager to maintain common parts, fixtures, fittings and appliances.
The Council decided to impose a penalty of £2,100 in relation to the missing manager’s details notice and £29.399 in relation to breaches under regulation. A total of £31,499. After receiving ‘representations’ from the landlord, Coventry City Council reduced the total to £24,649.
There was no disagreement the breaches had been committed. However, the Tribunal was “scathing” about Coventry City Council’s “over-zealous” financial penalty calculations and claims.
In relation to the Manager Details Notice for which the Council fine was originally £2,100, the Tribunal found that a “fair and reasonable” amount taking into account the landlord’s financial circumstances, and that it was a ‘first offence’ should be £200 though the Tribunal then added +10% to this because as an estate agent/mortgage broker, “He should have known better”.
In relation to the safety issues the Council’s starting fine had been £29,399 including various add-ons for the property being “above the Coventry average value”, and that the landlord’s breaches were “motivated by financial gain” both of which the Tribunal found to be incorrect.
The Tribunal calculated that the “fair” financial penalty for the safety related issues should be £5,000 less 50% for a ‘first offence’ but then plus 10% because the landlord’s profession.
Reviewing the decision, Phil Turtle, compliance consultant with Landlord Licensing and Defence, said: “Whilst we cannot condone a landlord not knowing and/or failing to comply with the HMO Management Regulations, this case is a clear example of a Council mis-applying the legislation for their own purposes.
“Coventry City Council had originally tried to extract £31,499 from this landlord when in fact, as the Tribunal determined, they were only entitled to fine the landlord a total of £3,300. An attempted over-charge of £28,199.”
He added: “Whilst there is no actual proof of causality in this case, it is however interesting that whereas Court Fines go to central government, Councils get to keep these landlord fines as an income stream which may affect their objectivity.”