A buy-to-let landlord in Colchester has been fined for poor property management that left a family in Wimpole Road, CO1, living with roof leaks, rising damp and cold temperatures for more than a year.
In May, Colchester Borough Council served a Housing Act Improvement Notice requiring works to repair leaks, damp-proof and insulate the house, and repair an unsafe chimney.
However, the landlord, Simon Weir, who is also a director of Michaels Property Consultants Ltd, the company which was managing the rental property, refused to carry out the required works despite several warnings from the council.
Instead, he instructed his letting agent to serve the tenants, a mother and four children privately renting, who had first reported water leaks and dampness – affecting rooms on the ground floor – to the agent in autumn 2015, with an eviction notice, putting the family at risk of becoming homeless.
The agent claimed that works could not be done safely in an occupied property. However, no alternative accommodation was offered to the family by them. The repairs were not carried out within the four-month time limit of the notice and further legal investigation work resulted in the case going to Colchester Magistrates Court.
During the hearing, the tenant’s evidence revealed that it was so cold inside the property that the children had to be taken upstairs to bed at 6pm during the winter.
Because rain was pouring in through the loft hatch and soaking the light fittings, the mother was too afraid to turn on the upstairs light and was forced to take the children up to bed using the light from her mobile phone.
After hearing the evidence, the landlord was found guilty and issued with a fine of £5,000 and ordered to pay £3,700 in costs and a £170 victim surcharge.
Cllr Tina Bourne, portfolio holder for housing and communities, said: “We expect landlords and letting agents to follow their own industry guidance which requires them to let homes that are safe and deal quickly with any problems that arise.
“This case shows that the Council will not tolerate poor management practices or poor housing conditions that make residents' lives a misery and put them at risk of becoming homeless.”