A landlord and letting agency have been fined thousands of pounds after being found guilty of housing offences following a multi-agency operation carried out at two Luton properties last year.
On Tuesday (24 January) Adrian Simion, 30, formerly of Wolston Close, Luton, and lettings agent Altavon Property Management, were found guilty at Luton Magistrates’ Court of a series of management regulations breaches relating to the safety and running of illegal houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs).
Neither Simion nor the lettings agency attended the hearing but were convicted in their absence. The magistrates imposed fines totalling nearly £7,000 on Simion for two offences of failing to licence a HMO and nine separate management regulation breaches. He was ordered to pay £500 costs and £110 victim surcharge. For their part in Wolston Close, Altavon Property Management were fined £10,000 for failure to licence and then £2,500 for each of four management breaches, £500 costs and £120 victim surcharge.
The people found at the address were subsequently supported by Luton Borough Council which brought the prosecutions, together with the Romanian Embassy, Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Citizens Advice Luton and various charities.
Cllr Tom Shaw, Portfolio Holder for housing at Luton Borough Council said: “We hope that this prosecution sends a very strong message that we will act on information we receive especially if we suspect that people are being exploited.
“Our rogue landlord project, in partnership with the police, fire and rescue service and other organisations is taking action against these landlords who expect people to live in overcrowded and unsafe conditions. We will not hesitate to prosecute as part of driving up the standard of our housing in Luton.”
Superintendent David Cestaro, Bedfordshire Police lead for Modern Slavery, said: “While no offences under the Modern Slavery Act were identified from this particular operation, we have managed to safeguard people who were taken advantage of by being provided substandard living arrangements.
“We continue to ask members of the public, and professionals in public-facing roles, to trust their instincts and report anything which they believe could be a sign of someone being exploited, whether that be for labour, domestic servitude, sex or crime. We work hard with partners and businesses to raise awareness and educate our communities, as we need people to be vigilant and be confident in coming forward.”
If you have concerns about a property there is a full list of registered HMOs on the Council’s website www.luton.gov.uk/hmo. Residents can email HMO.Hotline@luton.gov.uk or call 01582 547222 in complete confidence.
Concerns over “beds in sheds” – situations where typically vulnerable tenants are crammed into sheds and charged exorbitant prices – can be raised by emailing PSecHousing@luton.gov.uk or calling 01582 548890.
If you have information about people being exploited, contact police on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.