HMO landlord Cyril Thomas wins appeal over Colchester Council

by Cyril Thomas

12:01 PM, 19th September 2018
About 3 years 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

Mark Alexander

19:23 PM, 20th September 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Rob Crawford at 20/09/2018 - 19:11
Hi Rob

I’ve spoken to Cyril offline and they were all just as petty in my opinion. However, he has to continue to work with these people so naturally he’s following his barristers advice to deal with the matter behind closed doors, save for posts like this one on various form and a few Press Releases to show the World he’s not the criminal landlord that he was made out to be.

In my opinion the whole thing stinks of victimisation and possibly even racism and I hope he sues the Council to Kingdon come or at the very least gets a huge out of Court settlement deal to compensate him for his ordeal.

Monty Bodkin

20:08 PM, 20th September 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Rob Crawford at 20/09/2018 - 19:11
I believe I have found out all the 9 charges and fully agree they were equally petty. A slap on the wrist at most if proved true.
£20K fine and a criminal record is a complete abuse of council powers IMHO.

Cyril Thomas

20:46 PM, 20th September 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Mark Alexander at 19/09/2018 - 15:59
Thank you for all of the supportive comments. There is much that has been left out of this article for good reason. At present my focus needs to be on how to positively move forward and enable as many people as possible to learn and benefit from my experience.

I've been overwhelmed by the number of phone calls and emails that I've received from landlords who have experienced similar or simply appreciate me openly sharing my story. I'm still happy to speak to landlords who want to speak about my case in more detail.

Mark, thank you for your kind words. The Property118 platform is a valued asset in the property community and plays a vital role in giving landlords a voice.

My focus over the next few weeks will be on further developing our property management software systems and finalising our HMO applications ready for 1st October...

AA

16:19 PM, 21st September 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Monty Bodkin at 20/09/2018 - 20:08
Yes but where was the brain of the magistrate ? In his back side ?

Claire Bartley

13:59 PM, 22nd September 2018
About 3 years ago

So pleased Cyril cleared his name: he is the most professional landlord I know and didn't deserve any of this. I know that "discussions behind closed doors" is the best policy for him going forward and trust that he has managed to repair any damage to his reputation. Although, from what I know of him and his reputation locally, there probably weren't many people taking these petty allegations seriously - he is the best landlord and property manager in Colchester and remains highly respected.

Larry Sweeney

15:20 PM, 22nd September 2018
About 3 years ago

0Replying to point made by AA re the magistrate. A magistrate sitting alone is a stipendary magistrate legally qualified. I imagine in this case it was a bench of 3 magistrates. Cyril can confirm this. These magistrates are not legally qualified and always heavily biased towards the prosecution hence the term "police courts" in times gone by. The Mags always lean towards the prosecutorial authorities Police and Councils however the number of convictions tossed by the superior courts illustrate how badly many of these prosecutions are cobbled together

Anthony Endsor

22:48 PM, 22nd September 2018
About 3 years ago

As the song goes:
Nice one Cyril, nice one son, nice one Cyril, let's have another one 🙂

CyTiger

4:53 AM, 24th September 2018
About 3 years ago

Maybe its time for landlords to reciprocate government, council, tenants and the public abuse.
I suggest we collect data and develop a searchable database on:
Rogue Council Officers: who target landlords unfairly. Landlords should report their names and the relevant council.
Rogue Tenants: who damage property, play the system, are DSS but claim not to be, rent arrears, anti-social, violent & aggressive

Neil Patterson

9:18 AM, 24th September 2018
About 3 years ago

Unfortunately GDPR would have a field day with this.

Appalled Landlord

14:50 PM, 26th September 2018
About 3 years ago

According to Property Industry Eye:
A spokesperson for Colchester Council said: “The earlier decision by Colchester Magistrates’ Court to judge Mr Thomas, rather than his company Platinum Crown Investments, had a key bearing on the case and means no party has been convicted for the breaches identified.
“However, the appeal was upheld on the basis that Mr Thomas, in his capacity as landlord, was not the person responsible – not that violations did not exist – and we therefore maintain that it was right to take the action we did against serious breaches of the regulations.
“While we will continue to work closely with local landlords and letting agents to improve standards of accommodation in the private rented sector, we remain committed in our duty to pursue legal action whenever accommodation is not being responsibly managed.”
https://www.propertyindustryeye.com/property-manager-landlord-wins-appeal-against-nine-hmo-convictions/

To me the council spokesman seem to be implying that Mr Thomas’s company Platinum Crown Investments was guilty of serious breaches of the regulations. Is this slander, contempt of court, or both?

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