An Essex landlord has been fined nearly £20,000 after renting a “death trap” to vulnerable tenants.
Alfred Katona, 75, of Westcliff, admitted a string of offences at Southend Magistrates’ Court.
The court heard he put the health and safety of four tenants at risk by allowing a converted Victorian house in Station Road, Westcliff, to deteriorate so badly social services had to move them out.
Despite having been a landlord for 30 years, Katona claimed he was oblivious to his legal obligations as a private landlord. The court heard electrical wiring in the property was a fire hazard, a fire escape in the basement was blocked by rubbish and padlocked shut, while corridors and hallways were also blocked. Smoke alarms in the property were defective and fire extinguishers not properly stored.
Inspectors from the council found bodged repairs throughout the three-storey property, including toilets and water tanks balanced on lumps of wood, ill-fitting skylights and a loose manhole cover, which let in rats.
Southend Council enforcement officer David Colwill said “Conditions were totally unacceptable and posed a significant threat to the safety of tenants. Landlords have a clear duty to inform themselves of the full extent of their responsibilities. As a result of intelligence gained, the remainder of Mr Katona’s property portfolio is now also subject to inspections.”
Katona admitted five offences under housing management regulations. He was fined £3,700 for each offence, and ordered to pay £1,005 costs and a £120 victim surcharge. This added up to a total of £19,625.
Katona apologised to the court, but blamed tenants for the poor condition of the property. He admitted he only carried out repairs if a tenant complained and claimed to have no knowledge of housing regulations.
After the hearing, one former tenant, who did not want to be named, told The Echo: “The place was the worst I have ever stayed in and he was a terrible landlord.”