Property agent guilty of wilfully putting tenants at risk

31 July 2019

Southwark Council investigated a persistent offender’s nine properties in the Rotherhithe area and found them to be lacking in essential fire safety equipment. In addition, eight of the homes didn’t have a licence to be used as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) either.

It is interesting to note that Omar Patel’s nine HMOs look very nice, they are all town houses or flats, built in the 1980s, 90s or even more recently. Individuals in some of these properties were paying £950 per month and one boasted views over the water.

However, appearances can be deceptive; if you lived in one of Patel’s properties you might easily miss the lack of fire, heat and smoke detectors, the absence of secure fire doors and protected escape routes. All of which would normally alert you to, and protect you from, smoke inhalation and fire.

The council and the court were particularly troubled by Patel’s repeated negligence; his previous convictions in Newham make it clear that he knowingly endangered the lives of his tenants.

Southwark Council is committed to raising the standard of private rented sector accommodation and is doing all it can to make sure that its residents are safe. The council is hot on bringing unlawful private landlords to justice and has prosecuted eleven of them, in the last year alone. However, this is the first time it has taken a single management agency or landlord to court for this many HMOs.

At Camberwell Green Magistrate’s Court, Patel was sentenced to costs and fines of £18,117, for offences concerning seven properties, on 15 May. Offences relating to two further properties were heard at the same court, 29 July, where Patel was sentenced to costs and fines of £19,162. At this hearing District Judge Ezzat expressed disbelief at the scale of negligent profiteering from the property agent. This explains the significant costs for Patel.  The total costs and fines for Patel’s nine properties come to £37,279.

Without a licence, there is no way of knowing if a property is fit for human habitation.  A license for a five bedroom HMO costs a landlord £1 per room, per month. But, it means that the premises will be inspected by the council and that the agent or landlord will be given a deadline for the completion of any necessary work. There is also a limit to how many rooms, and people, the property is fit to house, one of Patel’s properties fell short of this regulation.

Cllr Victoria Mills, Cabinet Member for Finance, Performance and Brexit, said: “The council takes fire safety extremely seriously and our council homes are fire risk assessed and maintained to the highest standard. We hold all landlords and property managers in Southwark accountable to the same high degree.

“I hope that this result ensures that all landlords make sure that their properties are properly maintained and that all fire protection equipment is present and functioning. I would also encourage anyone who lives in an HMO, to let us know if they suspect that fire protection isn’t up to scratch.”

Southwark Council will monitor these nine addresses and take further action if Patel fails to make them safe.

Page last updated: 31 July 2019