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Letting agent fined for HMO breaches following fire

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  • 10/10/2019
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A letting agent based in Loughborough has been hit with a fine of £80,000 for failing to licence four houses of multiple occupation (HMOs).

 

Orange Living, which trades as Loc8me, admitted the four offences at Leicester Magistrates’ Court, in a case brought by Charnwood Borough Council.

Potential problems with one of the properties was flagged up with the council last year following a fire in the attic of a three-storey building.

The fire service had discovered a host of issues, including the fact that smoke detectors were battery powered only, with some batteries missing, the detector did not sound very loudly, and the lack of fire doors along the escape route.

 

Contacted about concerns

After an environmental health officer from the council visited, they were informed by an occupant that Loc8me’s maintenance team had been emailed twice in the days leading up to the fire about fire safety concerns, but with no response.

Tenants were not provided with a telephone number for the firm, having to rely on email or a WhatsApp group.

While the firm had applied for an HMO licence in October last year, it was incomplete so the property was not licensed. This was also the case with a number of other properties managed by Loc8me in the area.

The council said it had interviewed Raffaele Russo, one of the directors of Orange Living, who confirmed none of the four properties had a licence.

It said Russo stated the lack of HMO licensing was a clerical error and that the fire alarms had been tested on a number of occasions.

 

‘Significant responsibility’

The firm was fined £20,000 for each of the four unlicensed properties, and ordered to pay costs of £3,690.

Councillor Margaret Smidowicz, the council’s lead member for licensing, welcomed the fact the courts had taken the case seriously and said she hoped it sent a message to landlords that they had a “significant responsibility” to ensure their properties were safe to live in.

She added: “Licensing is there to ensure living and safety standards are met and we will not hesitate to take action and use the full force of the law to make sure those standards are being met.”

 

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