The owner of a house believed to be occupied by multiple tenants has been successfully prosecuted by Ashford Borough Council for failing to co-operate with attempts by the authority to ensure that the quality of the accommodation meets acceptable standards.
Josh Basharart Ahmad was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £650 in legal costs and a victim surcharge of £170 after being found guilty at Canterbury Magistrates Court.
Lawyers for Ashford Council told magistrates that the property, 6 Canterbury Road in Ashford, came to the council’s attention as an empty property due to its condition located in a prominent position within the town. The authority wrote to the owner asking for his co-operation in bringing the house back into use.
Ownership of the property then changed hands twice between 2016-2018 and the council later discovered it had been refurbished and it was assumed the house was being used by a large number of people.
The new owner was Josh Basharat Ahmad, and in April 2019 the council wrote to him at his known addresses and visited his business to hand deliver a legal notice requiring him to provide information about the property, to co-operate with their enquiries and to meet to discuss the requirements for a potential HMO licence.
Magistrates were told that enquiries by council officers suggested the house in Canterbury Road had more than five occupants but unless this could be confirmed by the owner, the council was unable to issue a licence or take enforcement action.
Ahmad failed to respond to all attempts to establish the occupation of the house, who received the rent and who had an interest in the property, leaving the council with no option but to prosecute.
The charge was that on or around 2 May 2019 he failed to comply with a requirement of a notice served on him in pursuance of section 16 (1) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
Ahmad failed to attend court on 22 October so an application was made to prove the case in his absence. The application was granted and magistrates decided the case proved and he was found guilty. They imposed a fine of £5,000, ordered him to pay £650 towards the council’s legal costs and a victim surcharge of £170. He was given 28 days to pay in full.
Sharon Williams, head of housing at Ashford Borough Council, said:
“We have a responsibility to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our residents. We will not hesitate to take legal action against the owners of properties who flout the rules designed to safeguard their tenants.”
“Landlords of Houses in Multiple Occupation who fail to hold an appropriate licence or breach the terms of the licence, could face serious penalties, including hefty fines and criminal prosecution. I would urge all landlords to ensure they comply with the legislation.”
By Patrick Mooney, Editor