Landlord cleared of HMO offences thanks to software
The boss of a property management firm who had to pay over £20,000 after he was found guilty of nine offences relating to an HMO has been acquitted thanks to bespoke software.
Landlord Cyril Thomas, who runs Platinum Crown Investments Ltd, was fined £1,000 for each offence and ordered to pay over £11,000 costs and a victim surcharge of £100 by Colchester Magistrates in December 2017.
Mr Thomas was completely vindicated by appeal judges at Chelmsford Crown Court last Friday and, as well as having the fines and financial penalties returned, has also had some of his legal costs refunded.
Speaking after the hearing, he said: "Naturally I'm delighted that Chelmsford Crown Court has decided to dismiss all nine charges brought against me by a few individuals within the council. It has been a costly, emotionally draining, and time consuming process for all involved.
“The judge stated that all charges were to be dismissed due to insufficient evidence from the council."
He said bespoke software enabled him to provide vital evidence in his defence and advised other landlords to invest in similar systems to "help them to stay on top of all the legal requirements that are now in place.”
He said: “The main reason for the dismissal was the fact that the council never had sufficient evidence to prosecute me in my personal name from the beginning but for whatever reason still decided to push the case forward.”
He said the outcome of the case posed questions about Colchester Borough Council's decision to prosecute.
He added: “This experience has helped make the business stronger and we're already helping a number of similar businesses with their business structures and property management software systems to help reduce the chances of others having to go through the struggles that we have had to endure.”
A spokesman for Colchester council said: “The earlier decision by Colchester Magistrates’ Court to judge Mr Thomas, rather than his company Platinum Crown Investments Ltd, had a key bearing on the case and means no party has been convicted for the breaches identified.
"However, the appeal was upheld on the basis that Mr Thomas, in his capacity as landlord, was not the person responsible – not that violations did not exist – and we therefore maintain that it was right to take the action we did against serious breaches of the regulations.
“While we will continue to work closely with local landlords and letting agents to improve standards of accommodation in the private rented sector, we remain committed in our duty to pursue legal action whenever accommodation is not being responsibly managed.”
Richard Truman, Head of Operations at Simple Landlords Insurance, added: “Technology is clearly changing how landlords run their businesses, keep their records, manage their systems and communicate with their tenants, agents, service providers, and other property professionals. Keeping up to date could help you future proof your business, and we’ve got a round-up of some of the top tech apps you could try today.”