Complying with the myriad of laws and regulations that intrude upon residential lettings is a not a question of "I would have complied if only I had known".
Lettings is viewed as a commercial activity by the courts and the landlord is assumed either to be competent and familiar with the law himself or to employ competent agents. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, even for the "rookie" landlord and the law has real teeth - fines and imprisonment for some offences. The tenant on the other hand is regarded as a consumer and enjoys considerable consumer law protection, so many a landlord has felt that the courts favour the tenant in a dispute, when in reality the courts have been tasked by Parliament with ensuring that people cannot be removed by force from their home, poisoned by noxious gases, wrongly accused of damaging the property or have to endure disrepair.
Within this series, we will look at several common offences committed by landlords and the consequences they faced.
Gas appliances without an up-to-date safety certificate
A landlord was caught for failing to ensure that the gas fire in his rented property had been safety checked.
- The penalty? A £1,000 fine plus an additional £1,500 for legal costs.
In another case a landlord broke four separate gas safety laws including having ten defects with gas appliances, three classed as "immediately dangerous" and another three as "at risk." The defects involved two gas leaks and a defective open-flued gas fire in a room where the tenants and a baby slept. To make matters worse, the landlord had a fake, back-dated certificate from a gas engineer. Thankfully no-one died but they could have and when he got caught the punishment was harsh.
- The penalty? A 16-month prison sentence
Our Norwich based readers may remember the case a few years ago of a local Landlord who after finding himself in front of the authorities on a regular basis for multiple offences, was finally jailed for 2 and a half years when a fire nearly took the life of a 19 year student after she suffered 80% deep tissue burns all over her body. So whether you meant to or not, don't be a Billings