Rogue Swindon landlord fined for running unlicensed Walcot HMO

A ROGUE landlord has been fined more than £4,000 for running an unlicensed house of multiple occupancy.

The house on Tudor Walk, Walcot, was occupied by Pavlos Chatzinopoulos, 55, and four other people who were not related to him.

The threshold for HMO licensing is five or more unrelated people sharing basic amenities such as bathrooms and kitchen.

Swindon Borough Council environment officers visited the property in 2019 after reports of an infectious disease that had been spreading in the area and discovered Chatzinopoulos was running a HMO without a licence.

The offence was reported in December 2019 but due to court delays because of Covid the case only went to trial last week.

It was revealed at Swindon Magistrates’ Court that, despite the two-year gap, Chatzinopolous has still not applied for the £1,050 licence.

Representing himself, Chatzinopolous constantly disputed the allegations, saying the law was “unfair” and that the court just wanted to “scrutinise landlords”.

Chatzinopolous accused the council of trying to make money by bringing the case to court, and stated that the occupants had no issues with house as there was plenty of room.

He also argued that although he lived at the address, he should not be included as an occupier because he was the landlord.

Chairman of the bench Christopher Mickelborough said it was a “fairly hopeless case”.

Mr Mickelborough added Mr Chatzinopolous had a “poor history of compliance, with a failure to respond to warnings to an offence which continues today”.

He said: “On the negative side, you ignored many warnings that a licence was required, but on the positive side, you have not tried to deceive us, but you have failed to understand the law.”

Chatzinopolous was ordered to pay at total of £4,352.80, including a victim surcharge of £123.

He was previously convicted in 2011 of failing to comply with a notice to reduce overcrowding and another of failing to carry out remedial work at the house.

On that occasion he was ordered to pay £2,500 costs and a surcharge of £15 to go to victims of crime.

He crammed complete strangers into tiny squalid rooms at the same address, while pocketing thousands of pounds in housing benefits.

Councillor Cathy Martyn, the cabinet member for housing and public safety, said: “I hope this sends a strong message to private landlords that, if they own a HMO, they must make sure it is properly licensed.

“When a HMO is not licensed, it is not registered with the council and that means our officers are not able to conduct regular checks on the condition of the property and ensure appropriate housing and management standards are being met.

“This landlord therefore put the health and safety of his tenants at risk and I am pleased we secured a successful prosecution and hope it deters any other landlords from failing to licence their properties in the future.

Coun Martyn added: “The total now payable by the landlord is in excess of £4,350, which could, at today’s rates, have licensed the property for more than 20 years.

“The safety of Swindon residents is of paramount importance to the council and we will take robust action to ensure that landlords do not financially benefit from acting in an unlawful manner and that people who are unsuitable to act as landlords are prevented from doing so.”

Operating a licensable HMO without a licence is an offence under section 72(1) of The Housing Act 2004.

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