21 Jan 2016

Housing and Planning

Property management company receives large fine following council investigation

A property management company that houses vulnerable tenants has been fined £26,000 following an
investigation by Bristol City Council.

Alternative Housing was convicted of 13 separate breaches of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations, and yesterday (Wednesday) sentenced at Bristol Magistrates Court.

As well as the fine, they were ordered to pay £3,900 towards the council’s costs and a £120 victim surcharge.

In convicting the company, the Justices noted they had been allowed ample time to remedy the breaches and had failed to use the opportunity to deal with matters informally. 

Alternative Housing is a property management company that finds tenants and manages lettings on behalf of private landlords. The company is a registered charity and promotes itself as assisting some of the city’s most vulnerable tenants.

Officers from the council’s private sector housing team investigated problems with the maintenance and management of a number of properties on the company’s books and were concerned that the issues may extend to properties they managed elsewhere. 

Officers entered 67 Alcove Road, Fishponds, 14 Franklyn Street, St Pauls and 10 Whitehall Road, Easton under warrant in December 2014 believing that the company had been managing the properties in a way that affected the health, safety and well-being of the tenants.

As each of the properties was a House in Multiple Occupation they were subject to the requirements of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 (management regulations).

The conditions in Franklyn Street were so bad that a private housing officer took emergency action to get rid of the sewerage overflowing in the back yard and to make safe the “hotwired” electricity meter.

Alternative Housing was advised in writing of the breaches and served with statutory notices, requiring them to provide of information on the ownership, management and occupation of the properties.

On further inspection in February 2015 breaches of the management regulations at Alcove Road and Franklyn Street remained and the decision was taken to prosecute.

Failure to provide information relating to Whitehall Road had resulted in an earlier conviction for the company in November 2015.

In addition, the company was convicted of the same offence relating to another property in March 2015 and further breaches of the management regulation at another property in June 2015.

Councillor Brenda Massey, Assistant Mayor for people with responsibility for housing, said: “Vulnerable tenants are less likely to complain or raise concerns directly with the council and so targeted intervention became necessary at properties maintained or managed by Alternative Housing.

“This sentence reflects the poor conditions that were found in the properties which left vulnerable tenants in substandard accommodation in general disrepair, lacking a working fire detection system and safe electrical supply.

“Our work in the Stapleton Road discretionary licensing area has identified further need to intervene to protect vulnerable tenants.

“Officers from the Private Housing Team have undertaken a thorough investigation of poor operating practices of this agent and assisted in the improvement of conditions for tenants.”

As a result of this latest conviction, the council will now review whether Alternative Housing is fit and proper to manage any licensed properties.