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

by Readers Question

10:31 AM, 10th October 2017
About 3 years 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

Robert Mellors

22:27 PM, 10th October 2017
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Mark Crampton Smith at 10/10/2017 - 21:10
According to Sheffield City Council, if convicted at a magistrates court then it is now an unlimited fine for each HMO regulation contravened.

Mark Crampton Smith

9:58 AM, 11th October 2017
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Robert Mellors at 10/10/2017 - 22:27
Sorry, the 30k can be demanded by the local authority without going to court...... as a sort of levy following a kangaroo hearing?

James Barnes

13:52 PM, 11th October 2017
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Mark Crampton Smith at 11/10/2017 - 09:58
Indeed the fines can be levied without going to court but I understand they can still be appealed at the First Tier Tribunal. Local Authorities will probably also need to have the same level of confidence in being able to successfully prosecute in court when they chose to issue a fine instead.
In addition the Local Authority needs to have written and implemented a policy on fines. As this is relatively new legislation few local authorities will have this in place at the moment.

Kate Mellor

19:08 PM, 11th October 2017
About 3 years ago

I agree with Mark. Yes, new powers have now come in, (sorry my bad), but a) What Mark said & b) fines will be levied relative to the severity of the offence. I really can't see that you are quite up there in the 'landlords from hell' scale. So, yes, you need to take this seriously, but no, you shouldn't panic. Get proof that you've put things completely right and get professional help and advice. That's all you can do to mitigate things at this point.

reader

20:39 PM, 12th October 2017
About 3 years ago

Having once spent 20 years dealing with criminal law you really do need to appreciate the advice of a specialist criminal law solicitor please do not rely on the Duty Solicitor. They will be qualified, but might not be of the requisite standard or specialist knowledge. A PACE interview is a potential means to trap you however if wisely played by the defence it can bolster your defence.
Do be seriously worried about the powers of a council to now issue a penalty and then make you appeal against their finding of your guilt by way of one of these new fixed penalities. Not attending a PACE interview may generate the next step in the proceedings and one of these penalties. The world is cruel place at times.

Penny

13:35 PM, 13th October 2017
About 3 years ago

Hello all. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my post.
The property is a townhouse comprising of 3 storeys in Brentwood. According to the council website I need a license if the following applies:

Yes, if the building comprises three or more storeys AND it is occupied by five or more persons AND it is occupied by persons living in two or more single households. A group of friends sharing a house will not be classed as a single ‘household’ for licensing purposes.

Is my understanding that 4 people under 2 tenancies doesn't require a license but still constitutes a HMO correct?

I was told by the CAB that the council would be concerned about having to rehouse the tenants and a reclaim any housing benefit that may have been paid but as my guests have gone and they were not in receipt of housing benefit, this would go in my favour. The house is being taken over by a letting agent now because I can't deal with the stress of it all.

I can't attend the interview and I have informed the council of this and requested further details of the information they require.

I have forwarded the details of this issue to a solicitor and I'm awaiting a response.

Thank you for all advice!

Penny

14:00 PM, 13th October 2017
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Peter Tanczos at 10/10/2017 - 11:56
My gut feeling is to not attend and send a letter instead but then I start worrying. Flipping tenants, flipping council!!!

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