The owner of a house believed to be occupied by multiple tenants has been prosecuted by a Kent council for failing to co-operate with the authority.
Josh Basharart Ahmad was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £650 in legal costs and a victim surcharge of £170 after being found guilty at Canterbury Magistrates Court.
Lawyers acting for Ashford council told magistrates that the property came to the authority's attention as an empty property due to its condition located in a prominent position within the town. The authority wrote to the owner asking for his co-operation in bringing the house back into use.
Ownership of the property then changed hands twice between 2016 and 2018 and the council later discovered it had been refurbished and it was assumed the house was being used by a large number of people, magistrates heard.
The new owner was Josh Basharat Ahmad, and in April 2019 the council wrote to him at his known addresses and visited his business to hand deliver a legal notice requiring him to provide information about the property, to co-operate with their enquiries and to meet to discuss the requirements for a potential HMO licence.
Magistrates were told that enquiries by council officers suggested that the house had more than five occupants but unless this could be confirmed by the owner, the council was unable to issue a licence nor take enforcement action.
Ahmad failed to respond to all attempts to establish the occupation of the house, who received the rent and who had an interest in the property.
The charge was that on or around 2 May 2019 he failed to comply with a requirement of a notice served on him in pursuance of section 16 (1) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
This requirement was detailed in a notice dated 11 April 2019 served on the defendant by Ashford council which gave him 21 days to provide information contained within the notice, information that was relevant to an examination or investigation taking place, contrary to section 16 (2) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
Ahmad did not attend court so an application was made to prove the case in his absence. The application was granted and magistrates decided the case proved and he was found guilty.
They imposed a fine of £5,000 and ordered him to pay £650 towards the council's legal costs. A victim surcharge of £170 was levied on the defendant and he was ordered to pay in full within 28 days.
The council says it will now “serve a further legal notice on Josh Basharart Ahmad requiring him to provide information about [the property] to co-operate with their enquiries and to meet to discuss the requirements for a potential HMO licence.”