Sunderland woman fined more than £30,000 for failing to do essential maintenance on her house

Sunderland City Council took action against Judith Lennox to force her to do essential maintenance on her house at The Oaks West in Hendon, Sunderland.
Sunderland City Council took action against Judith Lennox to force her to do essential maintenance on her house at The Oaks West in Hendon, Sunderland.

A woman has been fined more than £30,000 for failing to maintain her house.

Sunderland City Council took action against Judith Lennox to force her to do essential maintenance on her house at The Oaks West in Hendon, Sunderland.

Councillor Stuart Porthouse, Sunderland City Councils Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration.

Councillor Stuart Porthouse, Sunderland City Councils Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration.

Officials were concerned about the state of the roof of the property, and the garden.

"The garden was badly overgrown," Jim Wotherspoon, prosecuting, told Sunderland Magistrates' Court.

"That was tidied, but the roof and guttering is still in need of repair, as are the windows.

"It is a terraced property, and there is always concern in these circumstances about damage being caused to adjoining properties."

The court heard Lennox, 36, knew of the hearing, had not attended, or given any explanation for not being present.

Mr Wotherspoon said the original order to repair the property was made in February 2017.

Lennox was convicted of failing to comply with it in April of last year.

"The offence of failing to comply is punishable with a fine," added Mr Wotherspoon.

"The maximum fine is £100 for each day of non-compliance.

"In this case, that would date from last April, meaning in excess of 300 days."

Lennox, of The Oaks West, was convicted in her absence of failing to comply with a notice to improve land.

The magistrates ordered her to pay fine of £30,600, to reflect the 306 days that had elapsed since the conviction, within 28 days.

She was also ordered to pay £306 victim surcharge and an award of £373 for the council’s prosecution costs.

Councillor Stuart Porthouse, Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, said: "In 2018, the council served a remedial notice to the owner of this property.

"Magistrates then convicted the owner of a failure to comply with this notice in April 2018.

"Following that conviction, the failure to fully comply amounts to a continuing offence as set out in the Town and Country Planning Act.

"That offence carries a maximum penalty, on conviction, of £100 per day while scheduled works remain outstanding.

"Most householders and businesses take a duty of care and maintain their properties.

"Properties that are not maintained, as well as being unsightly and unneighbourly, can attract crime and anti-social behaviour.

"The council notes and welcomes the decision of the court."