Absentee landlord ordered to pay over £15,500 for unlicensed fire trap property
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A landlord who rented out unlicensed properties in Liverpool and breached an Emergency Prohibition Order has been fined.
Mr Mustafa Taghdi, who lives in Libya but also resides in Portsmouth, was sentenced at Liverpool Magistrates Court on Monday 18 September after pleading guilty to 17 charges including operating unlicensed properties and breaching an Emergency Prohibition Order on two separate occasions.
The property on Princes Road in Toxteth came to the council’s attention in October 2016 after intelligence was received that a house converted into flats was unlicensed.
Officers from the city council’s Landlord Licensing team visited the property but were so concerned about the lack of fire precautions that a referral was made to Environmental Health Officers from the Housing Enforcement Team. They attended on the 3 November 2016 and found that the means of escape was obstructed with domestic waste and furniture which would hinder swift exit in the event of a fire.
The property had no fire alarm system in place which meant there was no early warning in the event of a blaze, and fire escape signs led tenants up to a third floor fire escape which was locked, giving a false sense of safety, leading to potentially devastating consequences. This, coupled with the absence of any property management, meant that the officers had little choice but to shut it down immediately due to the imminent risk of serious harm to residents.
Mr Taghdi was contacted straight away and was advised that it was his responsibility to ensure that the building was vacated. Formal visits were made to the property on November 28 2016, 22 March 2017 and again on 22 August 2017 when officers assessed remedial works undertaken and found on each occasion residents were present and the property was occupied in breach of the Emergency Prohibition Order. Although some remedial work had started, it was not enough to revoke the Emergency Prohibition Order.
Sitting at Liverpool Magistrates, District Judge Wendy Lloyd criticised Mr Taghdi and described the lack of fire precautions as “shocking”. In her summing up she stated: “Distant landlords are not all bad but they must be vigilant and must not exploit tenants for profit but in reality although Mr Taghdi co-operated with the investigation, he did put his tenants at risk. The first breach of the Emergency Prohibition Order was bad enough but the second breach was greatly aggravated as there was no real fire protection and even though some work had been done, it was mere lip service and was in effect window dressing a dangerous situation. Mr Taghdi has chosen to take the risks he did as he was putting profit first, he doesn’t have to buy and rent out property in Liverpool.”
District Judge Lloyd concluded: “The Emergency Prohibition Breaches are the most important because of the safety issues, but that this reveals the importance of licensing in a large area like Liverpool.”
Liverpool’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Frank Hont, said: “This property posed a serious danger to the tenants and the fines here today reflect this. The absentee landlord committed these very serious offences putting the tenants in a position they should never had been in and we will robustly enforce against those non-compliant landlords who refuse to licence their properties comply with the legislation.”
Mr Taghidi was fined £6,500 for operating the unlicensed properties which were required to be licensed under the Landlord Licensing scheme, £2,000 for the first Breach of the Emergency Prohibition Order and £4,000 for the second breach. He was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £120 and the City Council’s full costs of £3,034.04, meaning a total bill of £15,654.04.