A company has been successfully prosecuted for putting lives at risk following a case brought by the city council’s housing enforcement team.
Patrick Oakes, managing director of Probuild Solutions Ltd, pleaded guilty at Norwich Magistrates Court on Wednesday 30 March to four charges against the company relating to overcrowding at a city property.
The charges, which also included failing to license a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and failing to provide adequate fire precautions to protect the occupiers of the HMO from injury, resulted in fines totalling £5,250, plus costs of £4,951 and a £120 victim surcharge.
Neighbours first alerted council officers to issues of accumulating rubbish and the number of people going in and out of the house on Beverley Road in April 2015.
An investigation by the city council’s private sector housing team found 12 men crowded into the three-bedroom property, with several people sleeping in a partially adapted loft space with no window.
The house had been rented by the London-based firm, Probuild Solutions Ltd, which supplies labour to the construction industry and was being used as a three-storey house in multiple occupation (HMO), which requires a HMO licence, yet no application to the council had been made.
There is also a set of duties imposed on the manager of the HMO, under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulation 2006, to ensure the property is properly managed. However, Probuild Solutions Ltd, as the HMO manager, did not comply with its duty to take safety measures to ensure there were adequate fire precautions in place.
Emergency action was taken by the council to improve the fire detection system at the property so as to provide early warning in the event of a fire and prevent imminent danger.
Paul Swanborough, the city council’s strategic housing manager, said: “Keeping our residents’ safe and ensuring all housing is of a good standard are top priorities for the council.
“This is an excellent example of the work being done to tackle landlords who operate outside the law and shows how the public can play a vital role in bringing such cases to our attention.
“All letting/management agents need to remain vigilant as issues around overcrowding and illegal subletting appear to be growing nationwide.
“This will help us improve conditions for those living in private accommodation and provide better regulation across the sector.”