03 Nov 2016

Housing and Planning

Property management company receives large fine following council investigation

*Photographs can be found at the bottom of this release.

A property management company that houses vulnerable tenants has been ordered to pay fines and costs of more than £16,000 following an investigation by Bristol City Council.

At Bristol Magistrates Court yesterday (Nov 2)  Alternative Housing were sentenced in their absence, after being found guilty of six separate breaches of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006, all offences under section 234 of the Housing Act 2004.

Alternative Housing is a property management company that arrange lets and manage properties on behalf of private landlords in the city. The company is a registered charity and is responsible for housing some very vulnerable tenants.

Council officers working in the Stapleton Road licensing area identified problems with the maintenance and management of a number of properties managed by the company. There was a concern that the issues may extend to properties outside of the area.

Alternative Housing was housing tenants who due to their vulnerability were less likely to complain and raise concerns with the council. It was felt that a targeted approach to investigations was justified to identify and resolve failures in the management and maintenance by Alternative Housing and improve conditions for the tenants.

In December 2014 officers from Bristol City Council’s private housing team, assisted by Neighbourhood Police, visited three properties managed by Alternative Housing. At the same time Trading Standards carried out an inspection of Alternative Housing’s office.

The inspections identified that all the properties were Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and in each house breaches were found under the management regulations.

In January 2016 Bristol City Council successfully prosecuted Alternative Housing for these offences.

In addition, the conditions at one of the properties in Franklyn Street were so poor that an Emergency Remedial Action was deemed necessary to resolve serious hazards. These included food safety, personal hygiene, entry by intruders, excess cold, and unsafe surfaces. A further legal notice was served upon the owner, under the Building Act, requiring work to be done repair the rain water drains.

Officers returned to Franklyn Street in December 2015 and February 2016 and found the conditions had deteriorated further with the drains blocked discharging sewage into the back yard. The waste pipe to the kitchen sink was disconnected so the waste was pouring into a bucket. In addition there were other items of poor repair, missing smoke detectors, dampness in the bedrooms, a lack of cooking facilities and no gas available to provide heating and hot water. 

After the inspections Alternative Housing were written to and informed of the inspections and the conditions found. Improvements were not made quickly, and the council decided to prosecute the charity for the breaches found.

Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet Member for Homes and Communities, said: “These fines reflect the poor conditions that were found in the properties. The problems were not addressed, leaving vulnerable tenants in substandard accommodation without the assurance of a working fire detection system, safe electrical supplies and with general disrepair.  

“This agent was supposed to be providing suitable accommodation, support and care to some of the most vulnerable people in the city. They have shown that they have a complete disregard for the wellbeing of their tenants. Landlords often employ agents to carry out the management of their properties on their behalf and need the reassurance that these agents are operating within the requirements of the law.

"Charitable status is no protection from providing residents with decent accommodation, the council will be even handed in ensuring that people live within housing which meets the legal standards.”