Landlord ordered to pay over £17,000 for 'failing to protect residents' health'

Solicitor Ian Persaud (left) and Francis Investments director Ralph Bernard outside magistrates' cou

Ipswich landlord and company director Ralph Bernard (right) has been ordered to pay more than £17,000 after the court case - Credit: Archant

An Ipswich landlord and the company he is the director of have been convicted and ordered to pay more than £17,000 for insufficient safety precautions. 

Francis Investments (East Anglia) Limited - whose registered office is in St Helen's Street, Ipswich - together with the company’s sole director - Ralph Bernard, of Valley View Drive, Ipswich, and who is the owner of the property in Starfield Close, Ipswich - were both convicted of a range of offences relating to the management of the house.

Earlier this year Bernard was also ordered to pay fines and legal costs of more than £50,000 after the council launched an investigation into his London Road property after firefighters called to an incident there in 2019 discovered a "range" of fire safety concerns in addition to an illegal basement flat.

The latest prosecution at Ipswich Magistrates' Court was a result of an investigation by Environmental Health Officers from Ipswich Borough Council’s Private Sector Housing team.

The property on Starfield Close was found to have insufficiencies throughout

The property on Starfield Close was found to have insufficiencies throughout - Credit: Ipswich Borough Council

It was established that a property owned by Ralph Bernard in Starfield Close was a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) that should have been licensed under the Housing Act 2004; that the property had insufficient fire safety precautions in place as the alarm system was completely inadequate; and that there also were not any fire doors anywhere in the property. 

The investigation also revealed several items of disrepair, which included poorly-installed electric light to the bathroom, missing baluster to the staircase, kitchen floor covering in poor condition, cooker did not function correctly and a poorly maintained garden with a dumped mattress

After the trial, Ipswich Magistrates returned guilty verdicts on all nine charges brought under the Housing Act 2004.

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These included the landlord and the company failing to licence an HMO and also failing in their duties to protect residents’ health, safety and well-being at the Starfield Close address.

Bernard was ordered to pay more than £17,000 in fines and legal costs.

Ipswich borough councillor Alasdair Ross, portfolio holder for community protection, said:  “Ipswich Borough Council expects all private landlords to meet their legal obligations for any Houses in Multiple Occupation that they rent out.

Alasdair Ross said it was reviewed every year. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Ipswich Borough Councillor Alasdair Ross

"We will enforce the law against the few who try and avoid the law and we will work to ensure private tenants live in safe and well-managed accommodation.”