Council intention of prosecuting for an unlicensed HMO…but it’s not!!!

by Readers Question

10:31 AM, 10th October 2017
About A year ago

Council intention of prosecuting for an unlicensed HMO…but it’s not!!!

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Council intention of prosecuting for an unlicensed HMO…but it’s not!!!

I have received an invitation from my local council to attend a PACE interview regarding an allegation of running an unlicensed HMO.

A few weeks ago, there was an ‘inspection’ but I would call it a raid conducted by the police, immigration authorities, and environmental health officer at my property. Several doors were kicked in and the occupants there at the time were all interviewed and fingerprinted

At the time of the ‘inspection’ it was reported that 6 people were there.

I understand the rules about HMOs and I don’t believe my property is one based on the fact that I let the house out to a family of 2 brothers and their dad, and 1 single person. There are 2 kitchens, 2 bathrooms and 2 reception rooms that they share and then they each have their own bedrooms. Out of the 6 people that were interviewed, only one was my tenant and the other 5 were apparently friends of my family of tenants who as it transpires have gone away and decided to let their mates stay in their place.

I have since removed the 5 ‘guests’ by asking them kindly to leave as they do not have my permission to live there. Thankfully they left with minimal fuss and so I am now left with 1 tenant and the car of the family that have left (rent up to date until 2 weeks ago) on the drive.

I am sick with worry because although it seems easy to clear up, I’m scared that I will be prosecuted. I have copies of the 2 tenancy agreements for the family and single person. I have had complaints from the neighbours about the number of people in and out of the house and I have visited each time to sort it out. The answer I always got was that it was just friends visiting and each time I clearly said there can’t be more than 4 tenants staying at the house.

It’s my word against the findings of the police and I really think I’ll tie myself up in knots if I attend the interview.

Can anyone advise me if it’s possible to just forward an explanation or statement via email with copies of the tenancy agreements instead of attending the voluntary interview or perhaps advise on how best to deal with the situation please?

I’m really worried!

Penny



Comments

Mark Smith (Barrister-At-Law)

11:15 AM, 10th October 2017
About A year ago

You must seek local legal advice from a criminal duty solicitor. They will attend the interview with you, and advise you on your rights.

Chris Harris

11:18 AM, 10th October 2017
About A year ago

Hi Penny

Sounds like a very unpleasant position to be in. Whilst I have no experience of such an interview, I think if I were in your shoes I would want a solicitor present if I were to attend.

You would need to be sure the solicitor is

a) Fully briefed as to the events
b) Knowledgeable of, and experienced in, the relevant legislation.

It might sound like an expensive option, but to my mind it is likely a worthwhile investment.

Good luck

Mark Smith (Barrister-At-Law)

11:20 AM, 10th October 2017
About A year ago

A duty solicitor, I believe, will attend on legal aid. If Penny can say the area she is from I will try to give a personal introduction.

Paul Kaye

11:27 AM, 10th October 2017
About A year ago

Hi
I had a similar situation.
I had a complaint from my council (seems a neighbour reported 20 people were living in my property!)
This was not true,the family it seems on the tenancy agreement had sublet without permission.
I went round to see them and asked the 4 extra people leave(they did)
I then asked the tenants on the tenancy to pay me extra rent to cover the subletting or leave.
They decided to leave,I kept the deposit to cover the subletting and damages.
I then relet (I always use a letting agent) and manage the propert myself.
You have acted asap and I suggest you write to the council,clearly stating all facts and the action you have taken.
Tell the council you are happy to evict the tenants who allowed this(subletting)
and ,as they will be homeless,that you expect the council to rehouse them!
I would decline to meeting and email your letter and ask what they want you to do.
Do not worry,I think it will come out in the wash,the council will not wish to shoot themselves in the foot.Good luck
Paul

Mark Crampton Smith

11:29 AM, 10th October 2017
About A year ago

Penny, your agreement does indeed make the property an HMO (three or more occupants comprising two or more "households")
It would only require a license if your local authority has additional or selective licensing. You must seek legal representation.... ideally with a solicitor who knows the PACE rules and a working knowledge of the housing act!

Peter Tanczos

11:56 AM, 10th October 2017
About A year ago

Hi Penny, first of all, DO NOT attend the PACE interview. Unless your legal advisor says any different (which would be unusual), there is absolutely no reason why you should accept the invitation (and plenty why you shouldn't). I used to conduct PACE interviews for HSE. I would write a "Without prejudice" letter to the council, setting out your side of the story etc. And see whether they wish to pursue this any further.

Robert Mellors

13:47 PM, 10th October 2017
About A year ago

It appears that your property was a HMO, as stated by Mark Crampton Smith.
You do not have to attend the interview, but I would strongly suggest that you do seek specialist legal advise as to how best to proceed, and this could prove to be very expensive (but not getting the right advice could be even more costly). I am aware of a direct access barrister called Julian Hunt who claims to specialise in defending such cases, but I cannot vouch for him or recommend him, I am simply aware of him. It may be that Mark Smith may be able to advise on other specialist solicitors or barristers in your area.

David Atkins

16:46 PM, 10th October 2017
About A year ago

Hi Penny,

Who is the local authority?

Dave

Kate Mellor

19:28 PM, 10th October 2017
About A year ago

As others have said, your property is indeed a HMO & as has also been said, only requires licensing if it is in an area which requires Additional Licencing. What I would add is that even if your property is NOT in an area which has Additional Licencing in place you still MUST comply with the other HMO regulations, so it is important that you familiarise yourself with what these are and implement them at your property. There are hefty fines for non-compliance, so now you've been targeted it's particularly important to get it right. I suspect if you've fully rectified any breaches you'll be much better positioned to avoid prosecution and certainly to minimise any fines as the amount can vary up to maximum of £5000 per contravention. Good professional advice is going to be CHEAP compared to going it alone & getting it wrong.

Mark Crampton Smith

21:10 PM, 10th October 2017
About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Kate Mellor at 10/10/2017 - 19:28
Actually now, local authorities can demand up to £30,000 for non compliance with license conditions.... Penny needs to let us know which local authority her Property is in. Then we would know if additional licensing has been introduced?

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