A landlord who squeezed 11 tenants into a property only equipped for seven has been ordered to pay over £29,000 at Leeds Magistrates’ Court following a prosecution brought by Leeds City Council.
Matthew Corrie from Edinburgh not only attempted to profiteer from breaking rules on overcrowding at his property on High Cliffe, Headingley, Leeds 6, but also failed to ensure that tenants were kept safe.
The prosecution is part of Leeds City Council’s work with landlords of shared houses or HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) to ensure tenants are safe and being provided with good quality accommodation through the HMO licencing scheme.
Cllr Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council Executive Member for Communities, said:
“We are addressing the huge demand for housing in the city and overcrowding issues by working with landlords to make sure they know what is safe and reasonable, and our recently launched Leeds Rental Standard encourages self-regulation in the sector raising the standards of accommodation and inspiring tenant confidence.
“We want landlords to do the right thing, and I’m delighted that the vast majority do. However, where we hear that the rules are being broken and landlords are putting tenants at risk we will look to prosecute and make sure the safety of tenants is paramount.
“I would ask landlords and agents to check their HMO Licences to ensure they comply with licence conditions and to ensure their licence has not expired.”
Leeds issues the largest number of mandatory HMO licences in England and these licences have conditions which are meant to keep occupants safe and include fire safety requirements, amenity levels for cooking, washing, and general maintenance as well as controlling the number of tenants that each property can safely house.
It is a criminal offence for landlords and agents to operate a licensable HMO without holding a licence or to breach their licence conditions. Each licence lasts for up to five years and Leeds City Council is currently renewing licences for the 2,800 licensable HMOs across Leeds.
The prosecution case brought by the council saw Matthew Corrie issued with a £25,000 fine, as well as £4,000 costs and a £175 victim surcharge. The £25,000 fine was split between £10,000 for over-occupancy and £15,000 for breaching licence conditions. Health and safety offences included badly fitted fire doors and smoke alarms that were not fit for purpose, as well as insufficient plug sockets in the kitchen, meaning extension cables were being overloaded by high power appliances posing more risk of fire.
Mr Corrie was given 14 days to pay. He was not present in court.
Further information for landlords, agents and tenants can be found on the Leeds City Council website: Mandatory Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)