HMOs’ are licensed under the “Additional Licensing Scheme”. Under the scheme, HMOs in these wards that have two or more storeys and are occupied by three or more tenants from two or more different families must be licensed. This is in addition to the national mandatory HMO licensing scheme, which requires all HMOs with three or more storeys and five or more tenants from two or more different families to be licensed wherever they are situated.
Mr Antony Paul Martin, from Coulsdon, Surrey, pleaded guilty to charges under the Housing Act 2004 and the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 at Eastbourne Magistrates Court. Namely, managing a HMO without the required licence and failing to ensure that ‘All means of escape in case of fire were kept free from obstruction and maintained in good repair.’
Officers who visited the premises found that the property was in generally poor condition, including tiles hanging off the kitchen ceiling, holes in a bedroom ceiling, means of escape obstructed, worn stair carpet which was causing a trip hazard, items dumped in the rear yard, filthy living conditions and poorly maintained shared kitchen and bathrooms, no working fixed heating and no fire alarm system.
On 5th December 2014 Mr Martin was fined £2,000 for the failure to licence the HMO and £1,000 for each of the four management offences, totalling £6,000. In addition Mr Martin was ordered to pay costs to sum of £600 and £120 victim surcharge.
Councillor Bill Randall, chair of the Brighton and Hove City Council housing committee, said: “Residents living in the private rented sector shouldn’t have to languish in filthy properties that don’t have adequate fire alarms or escape routes.”
“This prosecution underlines the need for licensing of HMOs which generally pose the biggest fire risks so that properties are inspected to protect the health and safety of residents. We will work with landlords to help them meet basic standards but if landlords fail to cooperate with us we will prosecute them. So far more than 1,803 HMOs have been licensed under our successful additional licensing scheme.”
Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a “suitable and sufficient” fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
If the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.