Letting agents hit with £25,000 bill for running home of up to 27 people
PUBLISHED: 20:00 09 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:52 10 January 2020
A letting agent and two directors have been told to pay more than £25,000 for managing a four-bed home containing up to 27 people.
Jay and Ralph Bernard, directors of Masons Estates, had denied managing the property in Harland Street, Ipswich, as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) without a licence, but were convicted after a trial last month.
They also denied failing to respond to notices requiring information about the land, along with 17 Housing Act breaches, including failing to maintain a fire escape, but were convicted of all counts following prosecution by Ipswich Borough Council.
They and the St Helen's Street firm were sentenced at Suffolk Magistrates' Court on Thursday.
Prosecution followed the attendance of police and council at the address in November 2018.
Health inspectors found exposed wires from a missing smoke detector; lack of space for the occupants; poorly maintained water supply and drainage, unsafe sockets and filthy floors.
Meanwhile, scorch marks indicated electrics had overheated in a bathroom, where foul water leaked to the room below.
Bath water ran constantly in a second floor bathroom, while elsewhere, an internet modem was hard wired into a light fitting.
Outside, the garden contained clothes, rubbish, broken storage units, tyres and a caravan.
Magistrates found credible the evidence of a council officer who reported between 14 and 27 people had inhabited the property before a joint operation was carried out with police on November 21.
Joe Bird, prosecuting, described conditions as "squalid and dangerous".
Ian Persaud, mitigating, said neither director, nor the firm, had known about the state of the property, adding: "These cases normally concern defendants who knew something should have been done and failed to deal with it."
Mr Persaud said the property had altered beyond recognition in the seven weeks between the council's previous and final visit.
He had argued the directors and company were unaware of the situation until the day all occupants were evicted. Their status remains part of an ongoing investigation.
Masons Estates was fined £10,000 plus £7,847.80 costs; Jay Bernard was fined £3,500 plus £1,500 costs, and Ralph Bernard was fined £1,500 plus £500 costs.
All three will also have to pay a statutory £170 victim surcharge.