Two local landlords, who were taken to court by City of Lincoln Council, have been found guilty and fined over £17,000 for letting out dangerous Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in Lincoln.
Mr Vijya Paul Reddy Thumma of St Andrews Street, Lincoln, was responsible for a HMO at 52 Ripon Street, Lincoln, which was deemed dangerous by a district judge for failing to comply with a number of safety breaches under the Housing Act 2004.
Thumma, who rents out 12 properties in the city, pleaded guilty to six offences under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006.
It was heard that six out of seven fire alarms tested in the property did not work, including those in the hall, landing, kitchen and in four of the bedrooms.
None of the bedroom doors were 30 minute fire resistant doors as required by minimum HMO standards, the kitchen fire door did not have an automatic closing device to ensure it would remain closed, the rear kitchen door was not fitted with a keyless exit lock to ensure ease of escape in the event of a fire, and was fitted with two slip bolts to the top and bottom, which would reduce the ease of escape.
The toilet compartment on the first floor had no windows and no natural or mechanical means of ventilation.
In addition, on inspection, the toilet was blocked, was filthy, stank and the only other toilet in the property was downstairs at the furthest part of house away from the bedrooms.
Thumma was fined £10,000 reduced from £15,000 for an early guilty plea; plus a Victim Surcharge of £170; plus costs of £2,595.81, totalling £12,765.81 at the hearing on 18 November, 2019.
In passing sentence, the judge said Thumma had ‘put lives in danger’ and that he had abused ‘vulnerable people [Romanian migrants], who did not have a clue how to defend themselves.’
The risk to tenants fell under category ‘A’ = Death.
Mr Baiju Varghese of Mons Road, Lincoln, who manages 10 properties in the city, was responsible for a HMO at 31 Ripon Street, Lincoln, and was fined over £5,000 by the court for failing to comply with a number of safety breaches under the Housing Act 2004.
The court found Varghese had failed to comply with Regulation 4(4) of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006, in which he failed to take all such measures as are reasonably required to protect the occupiers of the HMO from injury.
It was heard that the gas meter cupboard in the ground floor corridor of the property was not enclosed in a fire resistant cupboard and there were polystyrene tiles on the ceiling of the first floor bedroom that would release toxic fumes in the event of a fire.
There were also significant gaps of approximately 10mm over the top of the first floor left bedroom door and at the top and sides of the first floor middle bedroom door that would allow smoke and fumes into the escape route.
Varghese was fined £4,000, reduced from £6,000 for an early guilty plea; plus a Victim Surcharge of £170, plus costs of £1,408.71, totalling £5,578.71 at a hearing on 31 January, 2020.
The council’s applications for the full costs of bringing these prosecutions were granted.
In passing sentence, the district judge said: “Regulations are here for a reason - to keep tenants safe.
“If HMOs are not run properly, there is a risk of death. The council’s job is to enforce these regulations.”
The judge said of both defendants that the financial statements they had provided were in his view works of fiction, that he did not believe them to be true and that he was unable to sentence them on the basis of the low incomes they had stated to the court.
Cllr Donald Nannestad, Portfolio Holder for Quality Housing at City of Lincoln Council, said: “These prosecutions send out a clear signal that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated in our city.
“I would like to thank the Legal and Private Housing teams at City of Lincoln Council for all of their hard work on this case and in ensuring such a significant outcome.
“We take the safety of our residents very seriously, and this court ruling shows that there’s no place to hide for rogue landlords in Lincoln.
“Lincoln has a reputation as a city that is safe and welcoming for its residents and the council will continue to do everything it can to ensure all landlords are meeting the high standards that both we and the tenants expect.”