A bizarre fine imposed on a managing agent by a local authority appears to have been reversed because the council flouted its own policies.
The Ilford Recorder local newspaper has used a Freedom of Information request to discover that Redbridge Council allegedly flouted its own policies for a period in 2019, during which it imposed fines on some landlords and agents in the private rental sector.
Testimony from a senior officer in a 2019 court case reveals the council’s policy to try to resolve issues with landlords and agents “informally” before issuing a fine was ignored “for a few weeks” that year.
As part of the revelations, the newspaper discovered that a £5,000 fine was issued to Tizero, the property agent for an Ilford flat; it was allegedly unlicensed, despite being located inside the council’s selective licensing scheme boundary.
However, at a later tribunal hearing an appeal against the fine, a judge noted that Tizero’s director Michael Labinso was “merely helping his mother to manage the property and did not know that it needed to be licensed”.
He wrote: “Whilst it is important not to lose sight of the fact that an offence was committed, the circumstances are such that the offence was at the very mildest end of the scale.
“The council had discovered no other issues in relation to the property and had no evidence of any prejudice to the tenant and yet it served a notice of intent to impose a very significant financial penalty.”
The penalty was quashed at the tribunal.
The suggestion in the Ilford Recorder piece is that there may have been other instances of agents and landlords being penalised because the council’s policy of informal discussions was by-passed for a period.
A spokesperson for Redbridge Council told Letting Agent Today last evening: "Redbridge's property licensing scheme requires all private landlords within designated wards to obtain a licence to privately rent their property. The scheme helps the council to protect the health and safety of private renters and improve the quality of privately rented homes in the borough.
"Although disappointed with the outcome of the tribunal, we accept its findings. We are committed to working alongside landlords in the borough and our officers always make every effort to resolve issues of non-compliance before resorting to formal enforcement action."
You can see the article here and the tribunal hearing documentation for the Tizero case here.