A Bristol man has been fined £1,173 and ordered to pay £1,407 in costs to the council, along with a victim surcharge of £117, after he was found guilty of failing to comply with an Improvement Notice under Section 30(1) of the Housing Act 2004.
Mr Liaqat Sher Ali, 54, of Henleaze in Bristol, was prosecuted by South Gloucestershire Council for failing to comply with the notice, which is connected to a first floor flat he rents out in Downend. The case was heard at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on 15 January.
Our Private Sector Housing team were first alerted to the Downend property in October 2018 when a colleague noticed the poor condition of the external metal steps at the rear of the flat. The property is located on the high street in Downend and is a two storey and mid-terraced building comprising a commercial premises on the ground floor and residential premises on the first floor. M Liaqat Sher Ali owns the leasehold for the entire premises, using the ground floor for his dry cleaning business whilst renting out the first floor flat privately to a family consisting of a couple and their two young children.
An inspection by the Private Sector Housing team found a number of defects including a lack of fixed heating (with portable heaters in use), no smoke detectors, dangerous modifications to the electrics, poorly constructed and unguarded steps at the rear, a badly fitted external door to the bathroom and cracked, single glazed windows.
It was also established that the landlord was expecting the tenants to use the rear entrance at the top of the metal steps which opens directly into the bathroom as the main entrance into the flat. The tenants had been told by the landlord that this is the entrance they should use for the flat even though there is a front entrance which is adjacent to the door to the dry cleaning business below. The landlord discouraged the tenants from using the front entrance to the flat as he did not want customers of their dry cleaning business to see them coming and going.
Following the involvement of the Private Sector Housing Team the tenants were permitted by the landlord to use the front entrance.
An assessment using the Housing, Health & Safety Rating System confirmed that there were Category 1 hazards relating to excess cold, structural collapse and falling elements, and falling between levels, along with Category 2 hazards relating to fire and electrical hazards.
An Improvement Notice was served requiring Mr Ali to carry out work to rectify the identified issues under sections 11 and 12 of the Housing Act 2004. However following service of the notice, the work was never satisfactorily completed and in the meantime the existing tenants moved out.
As a result, there remain significant issues in the flat giving rise to a number of Category 1 and Category 2 hazards which have the potential to cause serious health outcomes for the occupants. The Private Sector Housing Team continue to work on this case and will take action to ensure that the work is completed before Mr Ali is able to re-let the premises.
In court, Mr Ali was found guilty of failing to comply with the Improvement Notice and was ordered to pay a total of £2,697, comprising a £1,173 fine and £1,407 in costs awarded to the council, plus a victim surcharge of £117.
Cllr Steve Reade, Cabinet Member for Planning, Transport and the Strategic Environment, said: “South Gloucestershire has approximately 14,600 privately rented properties, and we will not tolerate landlords failing to meet their legal responsibilities in relation to the conditions of the homes they offer for rent. Our Private Sector Housing team always try to work with landlords to bring their properties up to standard, but where this informal approach fails, we will look to take enforcement action to ensure that tenants have a safe place to live.”
Tenants of privately rented properties in the South Gloucestershire area can report issues of disrepair that are not being addressed by their landlord by contacting the Private Sector Housing team via firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting their local One Stop Shop.