The director of a property management firm has been found guilty of nine offences of breaching regulations relating to a house in multiple occupation, and will be sentenced next week, on the Wednesday before Christmas.
Colchester council brought the prosecution against Cyril Thomas, director of Platinum Crown Investments Ltd, based in the town. The HMO in question was owned by Thomas.
The prosecution is a result of inspections carried out by the council in December 2015 following a complaint from a resident who reported that they and five other residents had been left without power, light or heat during a weekend in November 2015.
The inspections revealed that the accommodation, a flat above the letting agency office in Colchester, had been poorly converted without Building Regulations approval.
As a result the fuse box for the electrics was inaccessible to the tenants and when the electrics tripped, the residents were left in the cold and the dark for two nights, despite their repeated attempts to contact the management company.
During the property inspections, council officers discovered that heating arrangements increased the risk of fire and defects to the building's escape route would have reduced the tenants' chances of escaping safely if a fire had occurred.
Despite receiving written and verbal guidance from the council following its visit in December 2015, Thomas did not take adequate steps to improve living conditions, such as replacing lightbulbs in the escape route, before it was re-inspected later that month.
Sentencing is due to take place on December 20.
Platinum Crown manager Cyril Thomas has subsequently told Letting Agent Today: “I am shocked and disappointed by the outcome of this case, and I am considering an appeal. I have launched a formal complaint over the way in which the council chose to act, given its stated policy of preferring to work with landlords and agents to achieve the best outcome for tenants.
“Many of the issues identified in this case were already being addressed by our property managers before the council’s first unaccompanied inspection.
“Subsequently, we promptly arranged a meeting with the council in order to better understand its feedback. We accept there were some issues with this property, which we immediately sought to resolve, but I was shocked when the council chose to pursue legal action. I was also surprised when the council took the somewhat unorthodox approach of pursuing me personally, rather than the lettings business.
“We take great pride in the services we provide. Platinum Crown has been effectively managing properties in and around Colchester and beyond for more than 10 years and has always strived to act in the best interests of its residents. I would like to stress that Platinum Crown takes its property management responsibilities extremely seriously and generally enjoys an excellent working relationship with Colchester Borough Council.”