A lettings agency from Luton has been fined over £11,000 for regulations breaches in its role advertising an unlicenced HMO later shut down by authorities.
Cash Property Management Ltd on Oak Road, Luton, was contracted to find tenants to live in the illegally-converted commercial building at 10 Midland Road in High Town.
45 people were later made homeless from the building after officers Luton Council and Beds Fire and Rescue Service inspected it on June 2, 2015 and passed a prohibiton order.
At Luton Magistrates Court yesterday, Cash Property Management’s director Safeel Ahmed, 21, and his stepmother Ashi Ahmed, 36, appeared for sentencing.
Others involved in the HMO, including property manager Mohammed Nadeem and landlords Qamar and Naveed Nazir were fined in March. An arrest warrant remains outstanding for David Peter Gaye and his company, DPG Business Solutions, who carried out the conversion.
In court, Cash Property Management pleaded guilty to telling two tenants that their £450 monthly rents included council tax.
Prosecutor Samantha McKeeman said: “This was a misleading action.
“Council tax was never paid by anybody at [10 Midland Road]. In fact, the premesis wasn’t registered as a residential property.”
Company director Mr Ahmed failed to respond to a request for information by Trading Standards after the conversion was uncovered. Misleading advertising was also made online with the company displaying the ARLA (Association of Residential Lettings Agents) logo when it was not a member.
Midland Road tenants’ deposits were also not placed in a secure deposits scheme.
“This is a professional lettings agency,” said Miss McKeeman. “They should have known the requirements.”
Jeffrey Lewis, defending, said Cash Property Management was set up and managed by Ashi Ahmed, despite her stepson Safeel Ahmed being listed as company director.
He said the pair acted on “false representations that they got from DPG” after being hired as lettings agents in December 2014.
Mr Lewis said: “They entered into what they believed would be a letting-only service. They were not going to manage the property, just simply find people to go in.
“They relied upon the landlord’s instruction that everything was covered. But with hindsight they realise they should not have relied on that. They should have made due diligence enquiries.
“Ashi Ahmed perceived all deposits would be handed over to the landlord. She had no reason to suspect.”
Mr Lewis said that mum-of-four Mrs Ahmed had founded the business less than a year earlier.
He added: “She says that she had another relative who had set up a company such as this.
“Unfortunately, it’s been a salutary experience for her because in its first year of trading it has caused her to be in this situation before a criminal court.”
Ashi Ahmed, of Mees Close, Luton, pleaded guilty to regulations breaches in using the ARLA logo when not permitted and failing to place tenants’ deposits in a secure scheme. She was ordered to pay £2,770 in total.
Safeel Ahmed, also of Mees Close, pleaded guilty to using the ARLA logo when not permitted and failing to supply information to Trading Standards. He was made to pay £922 in total.
Cash Property Management as a company pleaded guilty to five offences. This entailed misleading two tenants that council tax was included in their rent, failing to supply information to Trading Standards, using the ARLA logo when not permitted and failing to place tenants’ deposits in a secure scheme. It was ordered to pay £11,870 in total.