HMO landlord Cyril Thomas wins appeal over Colchester Council

by Cyril Thomas

12:01 PM, 19th September 2018
About 4 weeks ago

HMO landlord Cyril Thomas wins appeal over Colchester Council

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HMO landlord Cyril Thomas wins appeal over Colchester Council

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.



Comments

Jay James

14:46 PM, 19th September 2018
About 4 weeks ago

Blimey! I wonder why a few particular council staff members targeted you.

Larry Sweeney

14:58 PM, 19th September 2018
About 4 weeks ago

Firstly Cyril, congratulations and well done. I feel you have been far too generous however. You should have had all your costs awarded. Secondly have you sought legal advise on suing this rogue authority. You have been treated in the most apalling manner and your case goes to show the dangers faced by all responsible landlords in the face of this draconian legislation enforced by idiots. Once again very well done

Mark Alexander

15:59 PM, 19th September 2018
About 4 weeks ago

I'm really pleased that you have seen to it that justice was was eventually done Cyril and that your criminal convictions were quashed. What if any involvement in your case did the the Landlords Associations have in helping you to win your case?

You and I have met on several occasions and I know you are an extremely professional landlord. I cannot imagine how you must have felt to have had unjust 10 criminal convictions awarded to you, let alone the £20,000 fine.

Good on you for taking on this David and Goliath battle to overturn the Magistrates rulings, and more importantly for winning all 10 cases.

I agree with the other commentators above, your Council's rogue prosecutions besmirched your good name and character for a very long time and no doubt caused you a lot of personal anguish and suffering. I feel you really ought to seek advice from your barrister about seeking compensation for that.

Good luck to you my friend and thank you for sharing your story.

AA

16:18 PM, 19th September 2018
About 4 weeks ago

Check this out - renting out a Victorian tenement self contained flat. For some reason the distance from the floor to the bay window shelf was below by a few centimetres against some number the housing officer had in his little book and the risk I was told was someone could fall through the window so the room was not compliant. Now when you are faced with crazy like this you are best not to engage as you may get infected by crazy yourself.

The solution I kid you not was to screw in 2 Y shaped supports into the shelf that could balance a strip of wood (cane) , and that I was told would solve the problem. This made the room compliant and has forever prevented tenants jumping out of the window.

Now I stand corrected and must apologise if I thought the HO was a fruit and nut case. That piece of balanced wood circa diameter 1 cm carefully balanced has saved many a life. We should never jump to conclusions, rules are there for our benefit 🤷

Monty Bodkin

16:57 PM, 19th September 2018
About 4 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Jay James at 19/09/2018 - 14:46
My guess is because he was seen as an easy target.

Far easier to go after a respectable law abiding landlord on petty stuff than to go after the real criminals, who disappear, are very difficult to identify and to prosecute and no chance of them ever paying the fine even if successful.

Monty Bodkin

17:09 PM, 19th September 2018
About 4 weeks ago

your Council's rogue prosecutions besmirched your good name and character for a very long time and no doubt caused you a lot of personal anguish and suffering. I feel you really ought to seek advice from your barrister about seeking compensation for that.
I agree. I'd never heard of him before now so did a bit of searching online before commenting. It is plastered with linking bad things to his name because of the initial wrongful prosecution.
It is only with a bit of digging that it becomes obvious he is one of the good guys.
Disgusting treatment.

Robert Mellors

20:44 PM, 19th September 2018
About 4 weeks ago

Well done Cyril for fighting your corner and getting this excellent result. I used to work in Councils and I know that the vast majority of council officers are fair and reasonable people, battling to provide a good service even though very often corporate policies hinder them from doing so, but occasionally you do come across an officer who, for whatever reason, decides to cause as much difficulty as possible for a landlord.

It is my belief that private landlords can offer immense opportunities to councils to deal with their shortage of housing and their increasing levels of homelessness, but only if the landlord and the council can work in co-operation and fairness. Unfortunately, the bad council officers (or bad decisions of council officers), can seriously undermine the possibility for landlords to trust them, and this is to the detriment of all parties.

Monty Bodkin

21:29 PM, 19th September 2018
About 4 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Robert Mellors at 19/09/2018 - 20:44occasionally you do come across an officer who, for whatever reason, decides to cause as much difficulty as possible for a landlord.
It is certainly not "occasionally" in my experience.

Michael Holmes

12:51 PM, 20th September 2018
About 4 weeks ago

Another Tommy Robinson scenario I think, everybody would be wise to see some of Brian Gerrish's YouTube entries on Common Purpose just to get another perspective on these sort of fiascos!

Rob Crawford

19:11 PM, 20th September 2018
About 4 weeks ago

Well done for standing your ground. What were the nine charges? From the few already disclosed, they sound rather petty!

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