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31 July 2014, 08:34 | Updated: 31 July 2014, 12:57
A landlord has been found guilty of failing to comply with safety regulations at a property in Hatfield.
Sarah Goldsmith is facing a total of £32,723 in fines and costs after being found guilty at Watford Magistrates' Court of multiple offences relating to the safety of tenants in a rented property in West View.
The 42 year old, who lives at the same address, pleaded guilty on Monday (28 July) to 20 offences presented to the court by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, in breach of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations.
The charges included several issues relating to fire safety at the property. There were no fire doors to any of the rooms, including the kitchen, and the fire extinguishers were out of date. The court also heard that gas and electric controls and meters were locked away and not accessible to the tenants, the only access being through the caretaker, and the heating only operated from 6pm-6am, even though the tenants' rents were inclusive of bills.
Other offences included failing to provide a Gas Safe Certificate, disrepair to most of the bedroom windows, disrepair to the external roof and severe damp and mould on the walls due to a blocked shower.
The Court imposed fines of £19,700 and ordered Ms Goldsmith to pay costs to the council of £12,773. A Victim Surcharge of £250 was also ordered.
The council is responsible for inspecting standards in private rented accommodation, including Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). An HMO is defined as a property where three or more unrelated people live together and share basic amenities.
Ms Goldsmith's property at West View is described as a 'High Risk HMO' due to its size (nine bedrooms) and high turnover of tenants who stay for short periods of time and do not know each other. This makes the property a higher risk, particularly in the event of fire.
Councillor Roger Trigg, Executive Member for Planning, Housing and Community said: "We are delighted with this outcome which is a great result. These offences related to fire safety and if not dealt with, could have led to serious injury and even death.
"To protect the safety of tenants in the borough, the council wants to work with private landlords and agents as much as possible. We regard prosecution as a last resort, but we would like to send out a clear message to landlords and agents who do not respond to the advice, information and support that we provide that we will take enforcement action against those who do not comply with the law."