HMO owner ‘didn’t know’ overcrowding was an offence

Raid reveals house had been licensed for five tenants but nine people were living there – amid a cockroach infestation.

Great Cheetham St East house

The owner of an HMO claimed not to know it was an offence to allow more people to live at the address than its licence stated.

Now she’s the first homeowner in Salford to be hit with a new housing ‘penalty notice’ for overcrowding – that penalty being £3,500.

Councils were given new powers from April this year under The Housing and Planning Act 2016 which introduced civil penalties of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution for certain offences under The Housing Act 2004.

Salford City Council housing officers used a warrant to enter the house in June after the lounge ceiling collapsed and a tenant complained of overcrowding.

The raid revealed the house had been licensed in 2015 for five tenants but nine people were living there – and it was infested with cockroaches.

The dining room had been converted into a bedroom and two men were sharing a room upstairs.

Seven of the tenants were claiming local housing allowance which was being paid directly to the managing agent.

One of the licensing conditions was that the licence itself should be on display in the property but that was not being done.

Other breaches of HMO regulations were also found which, along with the collapsed ceiling, may lead to further council action.

The owner was interviewed and said the property was fully managed by her agent and she had only looked at the licence after council officers visited the property.

She did not know it was an offence to allow more people to live there than the licence stated, nor that the licence should be displayed on the premises.

Nor had she given her managing agent a copy of the licence as he told her he had all the documents he needed.

Cllr Tracy Kelly, Salford Council lead member for housing and sustainable neighbourhoods, said homeowners who rented out property directly or through a managing agent needed to ‘check and double check’ that everything was being done properly.

“It’s the owners’ responsibility and the buck stops with them,” said Cllr Kelly.

“Licensing regulations exist to keep shared houses safe and in good condition for tenants and every single condition needs to be met – it’s a serious business and needs to be taken seriously,” she said.

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