Shelter’s Income and expenditure figures highlighted13:57 PM, 4th February 2019
About 3 weeks ago 35
We are all used to reading headlines about rogue landlords, but never feel that we could ever be labelled as one. Many of us believe that because we do our best to provide a high level of service to our tenants, pay our taxes, and give back to our local communities, we could never be placed in the same category as those troublesome intentionally rogue landlords. Unfortunately, in today’s society, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s important to understand that being a HMO landlord is a risky business that should not be taken lightly as alleged failures could leave you with hefty fines and a criminal record. Whilst this case highlights some of the concerns about a few officers in Colchester Borough Council it must be stated that the vast majority of housing officers that I have come across have been a pleasure to work with and continue to be so. Although I am looking forward to continuing the positive relationship I have with Council, there are a few concerns that need to be addressed.
The media stated “In December 2017, Colchester Borough Council originally secured nine housing convictions against Cyril Thomas at Colchester Magistrates Court but Cyril Thomas vowed to fight back and clear his name. On Friday 17th August 2018, Cyril Thomas, Director of Platinum Crown Investments Limited was acquitted of all nine housing charges brought by Colchester Borough Council in relation to a HMO property above his letting agency in Colchester”.
I have been investing and managing HMO properties through my company for over a decade. Being one of the largest providers of HMO rooms in Colchester, I am well known to the council and have enjoyed a healthy relationship with them up until the time of the alleged offences. I am also highly active within the local community and have been a director on several housing/asset related boards including Colchester Borough Council’s very own property management company.
In this post, we won’t delve into the politics or failings on the part of a few officers within Colchester Borough Council (CBC) that led to the injustice of me being targeted and convicted but we will look at some of the lessons learnt from my ordeal. This post will also seek to address some of the issues surrounding the case and what you could do increase your chances of not finding yourself in the same situation. All over the UK, Council’s powers to fine and penalise landlords are increasing. When these powers are used correctly, they can have a positive effect on local communities and help raise the standard of UK housing stock.
What has disturbed many about this case was the way in which low-level alleged offences were able to be upheld against me at the lower courts and if unchallenged, would have left me with a criminal record in my personal name along with a £20,000 fine. The Courts ordered that I be reimbursed the full amount of the fine in addition to a proportion of my legal costs when I won my appeal.
Naturally I’m delighted that Chelmsford Crown Court has decided to dismiss all 9 charges brought against me by a few individuals within CBC. It has been a costly, emotionally draining, and time consuming process for all involved. The judge stated that all charges were to be dismissed due to insufficient evidence from CBC.
My Defence Barrister Archie Maddan pointed out several issues with CBC’s case. Some of the issues included the fact that one of the alleged charges failed to state what I was actually being convicted for. Several of the alleged charges did not occur on the date that Environmental Health Officer Torben Wood initially claimed that they occurred on.
Mr Maddan identified that at least three of the charges were actually due to tenant negligence. Such negligence included tenants allegedly removing light bulbs from communal areas to place them in their bedrooms and leaving bicycles in communal fire escapes despite written warnings from Platinum Crown.
We’re pleased to have continued positive relations with majority of CBC’s Environmental Health officers. Over the last decade I have had constructive relationships with them and aim to continue to do so. Private sector landlords and Councils need to work together to address the housing issues present in today’s society but this can only be achieved if there is trust between both parties.
Whilst we don’t claim to be perfect, Platinum Crown understands that being one of the leading providers of HMO rooms in Colchester places extra responsibility on us to be a positive example to other landlords and property businesses in the area. This experience has helped make the business stronger and we’re already helping a number of similar businesses with their business structures and IT systems to help reduce the chances of others having to go through the struggles that we have had to endure. I’m grateful for the considerable amount of support we’ve received during these difficult years from the local community, friends, and family.
Several factors contributed to me being able to successfully challenges including bespoke systems and business structures.
As a result of this experience, I have expanded on a number of my existing services to help other landlords who may need assistance with HMO related matters. If this is of interest, please get in touch.
I can be contacted using the ‘Request a callback’ form at https://platinumcrown.co.uk/properties/hmo/
It would be interesting to know of other landlords experiences with local councils and what people’s thought’s are about this case.
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