Council uses Interim Managements Orders to take possession of properties from unscrupulous landlord

25 June 2019
Waltham Forest Town Hall
  • Landlord hit with £24,000 in fines for failing to make required improvements
  • Sub-standard properties could endanger tenants’ safety
  • Council working to ensure residents have decent roof over their heads

A landlord who rented out unsafe, sub-standard homes has been hit with hefty fines totalling £24,000 and had the management of his properties taken over by Waltham Forest Council after he was deemed not to be a ‘fit and proper person’ to hold a property licence in the borough.

The properties have been taken under the control of the council using Interim Management Order (IMO) powers, under the Housing Act 2004, which mean that tenants’ rent will be paid to the council and used to fund repairs to bring the property up to a reasonable standard until an appropriate managing agent can be appointed.

Mr. Huseyin Ustek, 53, of Enfield, North London had let out two adjacent two-bedroom flats on Lea Bridge Road. When council inspectors visited the properties in November 2017 they served Improvement Notices after finding serious hazards including the absence of a proper heating system, defective electrical sockets, inadequate and substandard fire alarms, and windows in a state of serious disrepair.

Another home owned by Mr Ustek, on Flempton Road, was not licensed under the council’s private rented property licensing scheme, which places obligations on the landlord in relation to the proper letting and management of homes that they rent out in in Waltham Forest.

The council served Mr. Ustek with two fines of £12,000 each for failing to comply with the Improvement Notices on 3 July 2018 and took possession of all his properties after he failed to appoint a suitable third party to manage them.
 
At a hearing at the Property Tribunal in early 2019 Mr Ustek claimed that he had been out of the country and had not received the Improvement Notices or notification of the fines. He also attempted to shift blame onto the tenants, saying they had not paid rent for six months and that he had started repossession proceedings, a claim that was found to be untrue at the hearing.

Dismissing Mr Ustek’s appeal and confirming the fines imposed, the Property Tribunal said that the council had taken ‘all necessary steps […] to ensure receipt of the notices of intention, improvement, and financial penalty’.

All three properties were made subject to an Interim Management Order (IMO) to ensure that the tenants of the properties were able to live in a safe and clean environment.

Cllr Louise Mitchell, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “A landlord cannot attempt to hide behind claims they have not received notices when improvements are required. If he claimed not to receive notices from the council via email or post, how would his tenants reach him in the case of an emergency? A landlord who cannot be reached in an emergency, who lets their properties dangerously deteriorate, and who ignores Improvement Notices cannot possibly be considered a fit and proper person to hold a property licence in Waltham Forest.

“Landlords have a responsibility to tenants to provide a safe and clean property which provides a decent roof over their heads. A responsible landlord will be happy to meet these requirements. But we will act with the full force of the law against those who - through incompetence, recklessness, or sheer laziness - are not prepared to meet them and endanger their tenants.”

Property licensing in Waltham Forest

Since 2015, the council has operated a borough wide private rented property licensing scheme. Anyone who wishes to rent a property out in the borough must register and ensure their property meets the required standards to provide a decent roof over residents’ heads. It is necessary to provide detailed information about the property, the applicant, the owner, the manager and the occupants of the property.

A failure to license an address is a criminal offence. The council may take prosecution proceedings or impose a financial penalty of up to £30,000.

In Spring 2019 the council consulted residents and landlords on a new property licensing scheme for a five-year term from 2020 when the current scheme ends.

What is an Interim Management Order?

Interim Management Orders (IMOs) allow councils in the UK to use powers under the Housing Act 2004 to take possession of properties away from landlords who do not meet the necessary standards.

A local authority may make an Interim Management Order (IMO) to ensure that immediate steps are taken to protect the health, safety or welfare of occupiers and neighbours, and any other steps are taken to ensure the proper management of the house pending further action.

A local authority must make an IMO where the property is an HMO (house of multiple occupancy)  that should be licensed or a property that requires a Selective Licence but there is no reasonable prospect of it being licensed, or the property is manifestly unsafe.

The council is also legally obliged to publish a register of licensed rental properties. You can see the register by visiting this page.