A Swindon HMO landlord has been fined more than £16,000 for cramming too many tenants into a converted guesthouse.
Javaid Lone, 59, pleaded guilty to 13 breaches of housing regulations at a hearing at Swindon Magistrates' Court last week.
The court heard Lone had allowed at least 15 tenants to rent rooms in his County View guest property, in County Road in Swindon. One tenant lived in a converted bathroom while Lone put up an illegal structure in the living room to provide another bedroom.
Lone had converted numbers 31 and 33 County Road into a single property with multiple bedsitting rooms and shared kitchens and bathrooms.
An inspection by Swindon Borough Council in 2014 uncovered a string of hazards in the property including failure to provide adequate fire exits, covered smoke alarms, dangerous electrical wiring and unhygienic communal spaces.
After the inspection Lone worked with the council to bring the property up to scratch. However, in June this year new breaches emerged such as tissue stuffed down toilets, rat droppings in the only usable kitchen and an outstanding £9,598 electricity bill which caused the supply to be cut to the property.
When the council attempted to contact Lone about the bill, it was discovered that he was in America. The council and his daughter were left to foot half of the bill.
Kirsty Real, prosecuting for the council, said Lone took advantage of the tenants’ naivety.
“These people were of multiple nationalities and in a visit one woman could not understand the council officer’s questions, and as a result were vulnerable due to this,” she told the court.
“The council inspector saw rat droppings in the kitchen, the kitchen was in a complete state of disrepair. He tried to cram in as many residents as possible and the effects of that were all around the property.
“There were tenants living in the rooms who also had another bed in the room, so there was subletting involved there. There was a significant fire and safety risk in this property and the tenants could have suffered serious harm in the event of a fire.”
Lone’s defence said the landlord had become “overwhelmed” with a flood of new tenants at a time when we he was working towards fixing the problems.
Chairman of the bench Paul Sample ordered Lone to pay £16,650 in fines and £1,500 court costs.
A spokesperson for Swindon Borough Council said: “We hope this case sends a strong message to rogue landlords, who fail to fulfil their legal obligations to tenants to make their properties fit, safe and healthy places to live.
"Tenants of larger houses of multiple occupation like this are particularly vulnerable because they may be less able to seek alternative accommodation and therefore endure squalid conditions. Our enforcement work focuses on this area, as such properties can be riddled with hazards, ranging from rat infestations to inadequate fire exits and faulty electrical installations.