A Worthing landlord has been fined £4,864 for ignoring a prohibition order issued by Worthing Borough Council's private sector housing team.
Kaher Zaman, a local restaurateur, appeared at Worthing Magistrates Court last week.
In March 2014 officers from the council found that a flat owned by Zaman, registered as empty for council tax purposes, was being used by at least four people.
There were no cooking or drinking water facilities within the flat and the rooms were overcrowded. There was also inadequate means of escape in the case of fire.
Zaman did not respond to any communication from Worthing Borough Council and a prohibition order was served in July 2014 under the Housing Act 2004 which prevented the flat from being used for any purpose not approved by the council.
However, when officers revisited the flat in September 2014, they found that there were still people using the flat, and that no improvements had been carried out to make the property safe or to allow the order to be lifted.
Although discussions were held with Zaman and his surveyor in an attempt to improve conditions, a further inspection in May 2015 revealed that the flat was still occupied. A rudimentary kitchen had been installed but in the fire escape route. This added an increased risk to the occupants and the case was referred to the council's legal section for prosecution.
On 17 November 2015 Zaman pleaded guilty at Worthing Magistrates Court to breaching the prohibition order. The court noted that failing to comply with the order was a very serious matter and that by failing to act as required, or at all, he had behaved unreasonably.
Zaman was fined £3,334 and he also has to pay the council's costs of £1,260.09, a surcharge of £120.00, and a criminal court charge of £150.00, making a total amount payable of £4,864.09.
Councillor Dr Heather Mercer, executive member for customer services, said: “The council cares about its residents and prohibition orders under the Housing Act are only served when there is a high risk to the health and safety of occupants.
“The owner of the flat ignored the officers and continued to place his staff in danger. The level of the fine and the comments made by the court shows that they take this type of offence seriously and supports the stance taken by our private sector housing team in pursuing formal action.”