A man claiming not to be a landlord has been ordered to pay more than £7,000 for putting the lives of his friends, which also happened to be his tenants, at risk through a range of health and safety hazards.
Jose Francisco De Sousa, of Gooch Street in Swindon, appeared before Wiltshire Magistrates sitting at Swindon this week and pleaded guilty to three offences under the Housing Act 2004 applying to homes of multiple occupation (HMO).
The officers found a number of health and safety hazards, including three of the most serious Category 1, at the house which was occupied by De Sousa himself and more than three unrelated tenants.
The offences included failing to comply with a prohibition order not to use a ladder leading to bedroom occupied by a tenant on the second floor of 11 Gooch Street, failing to carry out remedial work to eliminate fire hazards and managing an unlicensed HMO.
Prosecuting on behalf of Swindon Borough Council, Phil Wirth told the court that Environmental Health officers from the council also found a number of other hazards, included overloading of electrical sockets, trailing of extension leads through the ceiling into the bathroom and damp and mould in the kitchen and bathroom.
But De Sousa, who represented himself in court, told the magistrates that he was not a landlord.
He explained to the bench that when friends came to England from his native Portugal and often had no job and nowhere to live, and so he provided them with accommodation in his house and only charged them about £100 a week to cover the electricity costs.
“I am not a professional landlord and I own no other properties,” he said, insisting that he had no idea that he required an HMO licence for allowing more than two people to stay with him in a house with more than two floors.
However, chairman of magistrates Gray Gilbert told De Sousa that he had been warned by the council about the potential offences.
“The reason the council goes to this trouble is that people do not want to read the headline ‘Fire in Gooch Street, six dead’ in the Swindon newspaper,” Gilbert said.
De Sousa was fined £2,000 for failing to comply with the improvement notice, £1,000 for not having a HMO licence and £500 for continuing to use the ladder to the loft conversion.
He was also ordered to pay Environmental Health costs of £1,445.25 and legal costs of £2,392, a total in fines and costs of £7,337.
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