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ASSIM ESTATES Ltd was fined nearly £50,000 after pleading guilty to 13 offences relating to a house in multiple occupation (HMO), with many of the offences related to fire safety breaches.
Welwyn Hatfield Times reported on the prosecution of Assim Estates Ltd, after council officers inspected its property in Hatfield in 2017, finding it occupied as an HMO. The owner told the council that the property was either going to be sold or let as a single occupancy property, and in May 2018 the council made an unannounced inspection. During this visit, it found evidence that it was still an HMO with five unrelated tenants occupying the property.
They also found that there were no fire detectors or alarms in the communal hall, stairs or landing area, while there was also no interlinked fire detection in the rest of the property. Additionally, there were no fire doors to bedrooms and no 'satisfactory escape' in the event of a fire, with officers placing two battery powered smoke detectors in the hallway and landing areas 'as an interim measure'.
Other breaches included no fire blanket, no lighting in the hallway areas, and missing window handles in 'various' communal areas as well as bedrooms. Council officers issued the company with a schedule of work to be completed to improve fire safety and the overall condition of the property, though follow up inspections in July 2018 found that 'no work had been carried out to improve' the property on either point.
At St Albans Magistrates' Court, the company pleaded guilty to 13 offences, and was ordered to pay £45,500 in fines and full costs of £4,471 to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council alongside a victim surcharge of £120. It had argued in mitigation that they had 'almost sold the property' and that those in charge of the organisation were 'not professional landlords'.
Nick Pace, executive member for housing and community at the council, commented: 'This is one of the largest fines we have seen for these types of offences, indicating the seriousness of this case. It sends out a clear message - that we will always act to protect our residents from landlords who compromise the safety of their tenants.
'I encourage landlords in the borough to join the council-run accreditation scheme, PAL, which makes it easier for landlords to understand and meet high standards of management practice. Residents looking for good quality accommodation to rent can also visit www.pal-online.org.uk to find a property from an accredited landlord or agent in the borough.