Landlord faces £90k bill and has property shut down

Published Tuesday, 11th September 2018

Basement Kitchen full of items

The landlord of a notorious house of multiple occupation (HMO) in Southend, who subjected his tenants to insanitary and unsafe living conditions, will no longer be able to rent out his property.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s private sector housing team has led a successful prosecution against a Mr Robert Crow who owns and lets 19 Devereux Road in Southend, which has been the subject of a catalogue of complaints by tenants and neighbours over several years. He now faces a bill of nearly £90k for his offences.

Witnesses at the hearing at Basildon Magistrates Court on 3 September described water leaking through lights, a shared kitchen that was so cluttered and insanitary that it was unusable, bath and shower facilities that were caked in filth and tiny bedrooms hoarded with rubbish and tat. One man described how he would sleep on the floor of one of the rooms and would use the washing facilities at a homeless centre once a week to wash as there were no facilities at the property.

The court also heard that some prospective tenants at the property – many in desperate situations - had been promised that rooms would be cleared before they moved in only to find them strewn with Mr Crow’s personal possessions and in a filthy condition when they arrived.

The address has repeatedly been the subject of complaints of anti-social behaviour and was the scene of a stabbing in October 2017.

Magistrates found Mr Crow guilty of 18 offences relating to the dangerous, insanitary and substandard conditions of the property, which he shares with his tenants.

He was fined £36,000 (£2,000 for each offence), ordered to pay costs of £7,865.10 and a victim surcharge of £170. He was also served a Criminal Behaviour Order preventing anyone from entering the property other than himself and his immediate family. Breaching the order could result in up to two years’ imprisonment. The council’s enforcement team will continue to monitor the property to ensure these conditions are met.

This latest bill is on top of a court fine of £39,323.28k issued in May 2016 for failing to comply with a Prohibition Order served on one of the flats, failure to comply with Improvement Notices and various breeches of management regulations. Mr Crow was also ordered to pay costs of £4,028.28 and a victim surcharge of £120.

Cllr Tony Cox, cabinet member for adults and housing, welcomed the prosecution.

“This landlord has knowingly been putting his tenants at undue risk and failed to provide even the most basic standards of habitation,” he said.

“We have tried to work with the landlord to bring the property up to standard for several years but he has taken little to no action, yet continued to cash in his rent.

“Anyone who sees the photographs taken at this house would be rightly disgusted and would immediately understand why we have taken such firm action in this instance.

“The property was not fit to be rented out and this prosecution ensures that Mr Crow won’t be able to in future.

“The justifiably high price he is now paying for his reckless neglect should serve as a warning shot to other landlords who think it is acceptable to rent out severely substandard properties.”

The Council’s housing team is now working with the tenants of the property to help secure more appropriate accommodation.

New requirements of HMOs coming into effect

This decision comes at a time when Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is extending its work with HMOs as new powers come into force on 1 October. These powers will mean any HMO with five or more people will need to be licensed and meet set standards of accommodation.

These new requirements increase the reach of the council in trying to ensure others do not have to tolerate the type of irresponsible landlord behaviour exhibited by Mr Crow.