Husband-and-wife landlords let HMO unfit for human habitation

Husband-and-wife landlords Robin and Susan Kirstein have been landed with a massive fine for letting a home that was deemed by a local council to be unfit for human habitation.

The couple, from Greenford in London, were sentenced at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on after each admitting a string of offences contravening the Housing Act and the Building Act.

The court heard the property failed to meet many basic safety requirements and was littered with hazards. Hillingdon council had served notice on the pair to remedy the breaches – however, they ignored warnings, despite visits from council inspectors.

The state of the building was so bad, a judge described it as ‘not fit for human habitation’.

Robin Kirstein had admitted 13 offences at a hearing back in April 2021 including poor management of the property, lack of adequate waste facilities, lack of fire precautions and failure to provide information.

Susan Kirstein admitted 17 offences last July including, poor management of the property, lack of adequate waste facilities, lack of fire precautions, failure to provide information, failure to carry out works to the property and failure to carry out drainage works to ensure sanitary conditions.

The court – sitting earlier this month – heard the property first came to the attention of the council following an inspection in July 2020. A leaking soil pipe was causing raw sewage to pool outside the front of the home, which in turn was causing outbreaks of flies inside the property and maggots outside the front door.

The property is a four-storey building with a shop on the ground floor and is used as an HMO. The upper floors contained three flats, one of those split across the upper two floors.

The court was told the inspection revealed some areas of the building had no lighting, no heating, several of the doors had no door handles, there were un-openable windows, mould, stairs with no handrails and broken smoke alarms.

A follow-up inspection in November 2020 showed the situation has not changed, and in fact had possibly worsened. A further inspection in March 2021 revealed that improvement notices served by the council requiring the multitude of hazards to be fixed, had not been complied with, despite having a deadline of January 1 last year.

A statement from the council says its officers had tried to engage with the landlords over several visits to the property. The landlords were asked to provide copies of their lease, tenancy agreements and details of the management arrangements for the property. Further requests were also made for gas and electrical certificates.

However the court heard the Kirsteins refused to provide this information.

At the hearing the pair were sentenced to a fine of £17,000 and ordered to pay Hillingdon council’s prosecution costs of over £10,000.

A council spokesperson says: “This couple showed scant regard for the welfare of tenants who should quite rightly have an expectation of living somewhere that meets decent standards.

“This property not only fell well below that mark but was riddled with hazards and dangers that could have proved disastrous.

“This sentencing serves as a warning to any rogue landlords that we’ll take tough measures to ensure homes in our borough are safe and suitable for the tenants.”

At the sentencing hearing, District Judge Wright described the pair as ‘in way over their heads‘ and having ‘turned a blind eye to their responsibilities‘ in part due to their poor financial management.

In reference to the leaking sewage, the judge added: “You had a responsibility not to leave tenants in the property that wasn’t fit for human habitation.”



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