Council officers forced a way into an illegal HMO to find fire-safety breaches so bad they needed an immediate fire service response.
The raid exposed a rogue landlord letting properties in a state that a judge said were worthy of a prison sentence he didn’t have the powers to pass.
Instead, at Birmingham Magistrates Court, George Lindsay, 55, from Erdington, Birmingham, was ordered to pay a near £20k fine.
Lindsay admitted failing to obtain a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence and 13 breaches of HMO Management Regulations.
A district judge, sitting at Birmingham Magistrates Court, also requested that HMRC reviews Lindsay’s financial records.
Passing sentence, the judge said “Scrooge was a philanthropist” compared to Lindsay and confirmed he would have sent Lindsay to prison if his sentencing powers would have allowed him to do so.
Even the property’s communal bath had been taped up to prevent a leak (pictured).
The court heard how council officers worked with police to initially gain access to one of the three properties Lindsay owns.
On inspection, the officers were so concerned about the lack of fire precautions they contacted West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS).
Evidence outlined how almost all of the smoke detectors were missing from the house, putting the lives of the 10 people – including four children – who lived there in danger.
WMFS oversaw the immediate installation of a working fire-alarm system.
Other offences included Lindsay’s failure to license one of his properties, scorched electrical fittings, missing and inadequate fire doors, mattresses blocking fire escape routes, and a failure to provide gas and electrical test certificates.
Leaks from a roof into a bedroom occupied by an adult and three children were found at another property, while another tenant had no kitchen facilities and was being forced instead to use a halogen heater placed on its side.
Officers also found a missing shower head, which meant at least nine people had to share one bathroom.
Speaking after the case, Robert James, acting director for neighbourhoods at Birmingham city council, said: “In the middle of a national housing crisis, it’s absolutely disgraceful that landlords, like Lindsay, are taking advantage of people in this unscrupulous way.
“When the council is made aware of properties like these, we’ll do all that we can to pursue rogue landlords and to ensure that tenants are kept safe and their rights to decent housing are upheld.
“HMO properties can be a great means to providing affordable housing, and we’ll continue to work closely with the landlords who provide a fantastic service. However, we must ensure that standards are upheld so that citizens in Birmingham get the housing which they deserve.”
Lindsay was prosecuted for three properties, all of which are in Erdington.
Birmingham city council previously prosecuted Lindsay in February 2010 for failure to license two of these properties.
Since that prosecution, Birmingham city council says its officers have repeatedly tried to persuade Lindsay to license his property, offering him advice and guidance – but were “wilfully ignored”.
Lindsay has been a landlord of 20 years, with four rented properties.
The full list of his offences reads:
- Failure to obtain an HMO license
- Multiple missing smoke detectors
- Missing and inadequate fire doors
- Scorched electrical light fittings
- Mattresses, a fridge freezer, and washing machines located in escape routes which are meant to be kept clear of any items
- Multiple areas of missing ceiling plaster within all three properties
- Leaks from a roof into a bedroom occupied by an adult and three children
- Failure to provide gas and electrical test certificates for his properties within seven days and over eight months later they have not been supplied
- A communal bath was taped up presumably to stop a leak from it
- One tenant had no kitchen facilities and was cooking on a halogen heater placed on its side
- Missing head to a communal shower meaning that at least 9 people were sharing one shower
- Switch on consumer unit taped over
- Rubbish in the front and rear gardens
- Blocked drains