Landlord faces bill of thousands after court action over home which put pregnant mum and children at risk

JosephBenedikt failed to carry out improvements, despite several requests from Sunderland City Council. Image copyright Google Maps.
JosephBenedikt failed to carry out improvements, despite several requests from Sunderland City Council. Image copyright Google Maps.

A private landlord has been fined after repeatedly refusing to carry out improvements on his cold and damp property.

Joseph Benedikt of Chardmore Road, London, was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £998 costs and a £200 victim surcharge by Sunderland Magistrates' Court.

The case was heard at Sunderland Magistrates' Court.

The case was heard at Sunderland Magistrates' Court.

The hearing followed an earlier guilty plea to non-compliance with an Improvement Notice relating to a property owned by him in Corporation Road, Hendon in Sunderland.

Sunderland City Council's private housing team first became involved in December 2010 following an inspection visit to the property as part of the selective licensing scheme, which was introduced in Hendon to ensure standards in the high number of rental properties in the area.

A schedule of works was sent to Benedikt, but the required repairs were not made, and after lying empty for a few months, a new tenant of the property made another complaint about the poor housing conditions in October 2014.

Another visit by the inspection team confirmed no remedial work had been carried out, and an Improvement Notice was served December 17, 2014.

This required repairs to structural damage and work to address the lack of insulation and adequate heating, which contributed to widespread damp and mould in the walls, ceilings and floors throughout the property.

Conditions at the property which included severe damp and extreme cold were considered to pose a serious health risk to the pregnant tenant and her two children, and Benedikt was given six months to make repairs and bring the property up to the required standards.

The landlord's appeal against the notice was dismissed by the independent Residential Property Tribunal in May 2015, who upheld the council's decision to serve the notice, and called for improvement works to be carried out by December 31, 2015.

A subsequent inspection visit after that date revealed work still had not been carried out and the latest tenant of the property was still living in substandard housing conditions.

Following the landlord’s failure to comply with the improvement notice the matter was taken forward for prosecution.

This decision took into account the fact that it had been five years since the landlord was first notified through the selective licensing scheme that work was required, and 18 months since the legal Improvement Notice was served during which time the property had been let to three separate tenants who all faced the same health risks associated with the severe damp and excess cold.

The council's portfolio holder for health, housing and adult services, Councillor Graeme Miller, said: "This prosecution is a demonstration of our willingness to take enforcement action against landlords whose rental properties fail to meet the required standards, and a reminder of what can happen if they fail to meet their legal responsibilities.

"It also shows what an important part the selective licensing scheme played in beginning the continuing process to improve private rented properties in Hendon.

"We always strive to work in partnership with private landlords and encourage them to join the accredited landlords' scheme.

"We can achieve so much more by providing people with standards of rented accommodation they deserve and landlords with the type of tenants who will respect their properties and contribute to the communities that they’re living in.”