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Banned and fined! Notorious HMO had 'unsafe and insanitary' rooms

The landlord of an HMO who subjected his tenants to insanitary and unsafe living conditions has been told he will no longer be able to rent out his property.

Southend-on-Sea council has led a successful prosecution against Robert Crow who owns and lets a property in the town, which has been the subject of a catalogue of complaints by tenants and neighbours over several years. 

He now faces a bill of nearly £90,000 for his offences.

Witnesses at the hearing at Basildon Magistrates Court 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 Crow’s personal possessions and in a filthy condition when they arrived.

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

Magistrates found 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 - that’s £2,000 for each offence - and 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 and the council says its 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 £39,323.28 issued against Crow 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. 

Crow was also ordered to pay costs of £4,028.28 and a victim surcharge of £120.

A spokesman for the council says: “This landlord has knowingly been putting his tenants at undue risk and failed to provide even the most basic standards of habitation.

“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.”

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