A letting agent who rented out properties as HMOs without the landlord’s knowledge has been fined more than £70,000.
Muhammad Siddique of Francis Road, Watford, posed as a franchise of the Open House agent network. He was instructed to let three properties in the area to single families, but instead let the rooms individually, turning them into HMOs.
Siddique did not carry out any of the upgrade work required to protect tenants in HMOs from fire safety risks, with one of the properties failing to have a single working smoke detector.
When the council’s environmental health officers carried out inspections at the properties, a host of other issues were identified, including blocked and overflowing drains, dirty toilets and signs of damp.
Siddique refused to comply with requests from the council for gas and electrical safety certificates, as well as other information about the properties.
Siddique was found guilty of 15 separate offices by St. Albans Magistrates Court and fined a total of £72,090.65, including prosecution costs and a victim surcharge.
Alex Morrison, director at Open House Estate Agents, said that Siddique’s Open House franchise was terminated in 2016 due to his “repeated failure” to follow the firm’s customer care and compliance procedures.
He continued: “However, he has illegally continued to trade in the Watford area since then, using our brand, and a number of unlawful and unethical practices came to our attention which were then reported to Watford Council.
“We have been working closely with the Council’s environmental health team to take action against Mr Siddique and we are extremely relieved that this rogue agent has now been convicted.”