A buy-to-let landlord has been ordered to pay £60,000 for committing serious offences under The Housing Act 2004.
Regev Hazan, the landlord of the property in Ridley Gardens in Swalwell, Gateshead, was found guilty of failing to comply with an Improvement Notice and breaching the conditions of his landlord licence by failing to effectively manage his property.
The property was initially identified by Northumbria Police as a cannabis farm operated by a former tenant.
It later transpired that Hazan, who is based in London and owns 26 properties in Gateshead, had failed to obtain the required licence to operate as a private landlord in the area and he was instructed to apply for a licence.
He also ignored the council’s request to undertake a number of works to bring the property up to a rentable standard.
Further investigations suggested that the property was operating as an HMO and council officers provided Hazan with advice on how to better manage the property and encouraged him to attend training, which he declined.
As part of a further police-led investigation in July 2017, the property was inspected again and found to have multiple occupants, some without a tenancy agreement, and several serious hazards such as defective heating, lack of internal doors and lighting, lack of safety catches to windows and an inadequate fire detection system.
The landlord claimed that he was unaware of the number of tenants occupying his property or who they were.
Hazan was eventually charged with two offences under The Housing Act and appeared before a district judge at South Tyneside Magistrate's Court where he was fined £30,000 for failing to comply with the Improvement Notice, and a further £30,000 for being in breach of his landlord licence by failing to effectively manage his property.
He was also required to pay a victim surcharge of £120 and ordered to pay costs of £1,200.
In sentencing Hazan, District Judge Elsy described the offences as being “as serious as you can get”, and added that the property was barely fit for human habitation.
Cllr Malcolm Brain, Gateshead’s cabinet member for housing, said: “This was a huge fine, but the sentence was well-deserved.
“Whether Mr Hazan’s poor management of this property was intentional or it was simply as a result of his inadequacies as a property manager is irrelevant. What’s important is the fact he broke the law, repeatedly, and has been called to account.
“Landlord licensing schemes have proven to be very effective in reversing decline in areas of low demand and enabling those areas to grow and prosper once more.
“They are also a valuable tool in ensuring that unscrupulous landlords do not take advantage of poor and vulnerable individuals, and that they and their properties fulfil their proper legal responsibilities.
“It’s hoped that Mr Hazan has now learnt his lesson.”
Inspector Mick Robson of the Gateshead Neighbourhood Policing Team commented: “The occupants of this particular property were living in desolate conditions and their behaviour was ruining the lives of their neighbours through anti-social behaviour and criminal activity.
“Police will take action when they can but it is through work like Operation Vienna that we can work with the council to target those people who allow it to continue.
“Mr Hazan turned a blind eye to this behaviour. He was irresponsible, negligent and continued in the manner which he did because he could make the most money.
“Now he has been hit where it hurts the most - his pocket. This is a fantastic result and sends a clear message to landlords in our region that this type of behaviour won't be tolerated.”