HMO Regulations:

A Reading property agent, Martyn Russell, has been convicted of HMO failings and ordered to pay fines and court costs totalling almost £25,000.

Martyn Russell a property managing agent of Chapel Green, Wokingham had failed to maintain a fire alarm system in a four-storey house in multiple occupation (HMO).

Russell, who was managing the HMO, appeared before Reading Magistrates Court on 25th May 2018 facing a total of 31 charges.

Reading magistrates were told that officers from the Council’s Private Sector Housing Team had inspected the HMO in Russell Street, west Reading, following reports of disrepair they had received in August 2017.

The inspection revealed a main fire alarm system that was not working, leaving the tenants vulnerable had a fire occurred. In addition, other items of disrepair included inadequate fire doors in the property, hallways obstructed with miscellaneous items, fire extinguishers not being maintained, damaged electrical fittings, damage to an external door and an overgrown back yard.

Following the housing team’s report, requests to have the fire alarm system reinstated urgently took Russell three months to comply.

63 years-old Martyn Russell, operated his business through a limited company, Martyn Russell Property Services Limited, which was charged with 31 offences under the Licensing and Management of HMOs (Additional Provisions) Regulations 2007, which come under the Housing Act 2004.

Russell admitted to all 31 offences, reported by www.reading.co.uk, and his company, of which he is sole director, was fined a total of £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £936 and a victim surcharge of £170, totalling £16,106. Russell himself received fines totalling £7,500 plus costs of £445 and victim surcharge of £150, totalling £8,095.

Reading Magistrates said they considered the offences to be very serious, and especially those relating to the fire risks, and obstruction of the fire escape route, which was reflected in the severity of the fines.

Councillor John Ennis, Lead Councillor for Housing, said:

“There is no excuse for anyone responsible for a House in Multiple Occupation to have a fire alarm in place which is not working. There is even less excuse for that person to ignore repeated requests to fix the problem urgently.

“This appears to show a complete disregard for the safety of the tenants of this four-storey building, not to mention the shoddy condition of other parts of the property.  A majority of landlords and agents in the private rented sector in Reading are responsible and law abiding but it is reassuring to know the Council is there to tackle the minority who disregard the rules.”

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