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Prosecution - but no fine - over unlicensed buy to let properties

A council has taken a landlord to court for failing to licence his two buy to let properties under its selective licensing scheme - but there has been no fine issued and only the council’s costs and a victim surcharge has had to be paid.

Rotherham council took Simon Nicholls of Worksop to court but the landlord was given a conditional discharge at the Sheffield magistrates’ hearing. He was ordered to pay just £361.48 costs and a victim surcharge of £15.

The court was told that in December 2015 the council wrote to Nicholls, requesting information relating to the two properties he was letting out. Despite further contact in January and February this year, no application for a licence was received.

Nicholls, who pleaded guilty to the offence, told the court he was apologetic and informed them that he would be applying for his licences.

A council statement after the hearing claimed that the authority would not allow “irresponsible landlords to persist with their actions indefinitely” and that the case “should be a warning to other landlords.”

Letting Agent Today asked the council whether the case was worthwhile given the small return as a result of the prosecution. 

Karen Hanson, Rotherham Council’s Assistant Director for Community Safety and Street Scene, told LAT: “Each case is taken on its own merits and individual circumstances of landlords can be very different. In this case the defendant claimed he was not living at home following a divorce, as a result he had did not have knowledge of the issues surrounding the licensing of his properties. He also stated that he had properties in another area of Rotherham that did not fall under the jurisdiction of selective licensing and as a result thought his properties in Maltby did not need licensing.

“However the council takes a firm line on all selective licensing cases; we will give landlords fair opportunity to register with the scheme, along with the opportunity to pay monthly for their licenses; but if they do not register then we will prosecute. Inevitably, in some cases, this will cost the council money that is not recouped from costs awarded by the court, but this is a price we are prepared to pay to get the message across to those landlords who are failing to license.”

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