Professional Landlord Heavily Fined Over Hazardous Property Defects

HousesSome professional landlords may view their primary role as the collection of rent, but they owe wide duties to ensure the safety and reasonable comfort of their tenants. One landlord who signally failed to match up to those obligations found himself on the receiving end of a substantial financial penalty.

The experienced landlord owned or controlled a number of tenanted properties. A local authority inspection of one of them revealed a number of hazards, including a lack of roof insulation, resulting in excessively cold rooms, a hole in the bath, which meant that the bathroom floor became sodden on each use, and electrical fittings that were either defective or in a dangerous state of disrepair.

The council issued him with an improvement notice, requiring the completion of remedial works by a certain date. After that deadline came and went without compliance, a £25,000 financial penalty was imposed. The landlord challenged his liability to pay that penalty, and its amount, before the Property Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal (FTT).

In ruling on the matter, the FTT found beyond reasonable doubt that, in failing to comply with the notice, the landlord had committed an offence under Section 30 of the Housing Act 2004. Although he was at the time suffering serious ill health, and personal and financial difficulties, that did not amount to a reasonable excuse.

As an experienced residential landlord, he could and should have taken steps to effectively manage the property after he fell ill. He claimed not to have been properly served with the notice, on the basis that it had not been sent to his home address, but the FTT was satisfied that he was throughout aware of the action being taken by the council.

In reducing the penalty to £10,000, however, the FTT noted that remedial works had since been completed and that the landlord had no previous record of offending. The gravity of some of the defects in the property and the level of his culpability had also to some extent been overestimated.