Tuesday, 23 October 2012

First local authority hits landlord with Proceeds of Crime Act

A Norwich landlord has been ordered to pay £40,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) after pleading guilty to nine breaches of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) regulations.

Norwich City Council, which brought the prosecution, has become the first local authority in the country to use POCA against a landlord who failed to comply with license conditions.

Joseph Howman let a house on Unthank Road as ten bedsits with shared bathrooms that posed a number of hazards to its tenants, Norwich Magistrates' Court heard last Friday.

In November 2010, Norwich City Council inspection officers who called on the property found that rooms had no heating, the main bathroom had no hot water, the communal bathrooms were dirty, the fire doors were in poor condition with many not working, and there were electrical hazards, including hanging wires and defective lighting.

On top of the POCA costs, Mr Howman, of Grosenvor Road, was fined £5,000 plus £135 victim surcharge and £8,500 costs, which brought his total bill to £53,500.

The £40,000 POCA bill will be divided up between various bodies. The money goes firstly to the Treasury, which keeps 50% of it. Of the remaining 50%, 12.5% goes to the courts to cover admin fees with the remaining 37.5% being split 50/50 between the investigating and the prosecuting authorities. In this case, Norwich City Council was both the investigating and the prosecuting authority so will receive the whole 37.5% (£15,000).

This is known as the Home Office Incentivisation Scheme, and is designed to encourage law enforcement agencies and local authorities to bring proceedings under the POCA.

Ellen Spencer, private sector housing officer, said: "Norwich City Council is committed to making sure private tenants live in safe houses which meet legal standards. In this case the landlord risked the safety of tenants by cutting corners and refusing to make improvements.

"We are pleased that the court recognised the serious nature of the offences and hope that this will send out a message that rogue landlords will not be tolerated in Norwich."

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