MOHAMMED NASEER Zamir was prosecuted by Reading Borough Council (RBC) over the breaches at his house in multiple occupation (HMO) in the town.

Reading Chronicle reported on the prosecution of Mr Zamir after the council’s private sector housing team made several visits to his HMO in Short Street between October 2019 and February 2020. He had claimed the property consisted of two self contained flats, each one occupied by a single household, but the visits ‘revealed that each flat was in fact in multiple occupation’, while a series of breaches of HMO management regulations were identified by officers.

‘Serious security and fire safety concerns’ were found alongside ‘general disrepair’, with the means of escape from the property not being fire resistant and ‘in poor repair’, while fire precautions across the property were ‘not being maintained’, meaning that occupants were left ‘vulnerable to becoming trapped in the event of a fire’.

A series of other concerns consisted of socket outlets installed adjacent to shower cubicles, taped up electric cabling to a fridge freezer, other socket outlets suffering from ‘disrepair’, and no current gas certificate was supplied to the council when it made a request for one. Despite being given the chance to address issues ‘informally’, Mr Zamir failed to carry out the required work, with fire safety concerns ‘so serious’ that Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service joined the February inspection.

Mr Zami also failed to comply with RBC’s written requests for information about the property before the case was brought to Reading Magistrates Court in December 2020, with the court finding him guilty of failing to comply with the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and 13 charges of failing to comply with the HMO Management Regulations via The Housing Act 2004.

He was fined £66,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,480 and a victim surcharge of £181, with RBC stating that the prosecution was a ‘record attempt’ to ‘clamp down’ on HMO landlords ‘failing to reach required standards’, and RBC hoped that the case ‘will serve as a message to others’. The fine, it added, aims to send ‘a clear message to landlords in the borough that appropriate standards must be maintained’.

RBC also noted that its private sector housing team investigates disrepair complaints while enforcing HMO licensing for 1,296 HMOs in the borough, carrying out ‘routine inspections’ to ensure room sizes and amenities ‘are appropriate’ and assessing fire and other safety hazards. When ‘serious or persistent non-compliance’ is established, it ‘undertakes prosecutions’ but can issue fines of up to £30,000 per offence ‘for certain offences’, with nine issued to HMOs in 2019-2020 alone.

John Ennis, RBC lead member for housing, commented: ‘We are delighted that the hard work and diligence of the council’s housing team has led to the successful prosecution of a landlord who did not meet the required standard of accommodation we expect all residents of Reading to enjoy. More importantly, it serves as a stark warning to landlords all over the borough that they must do more to ensure they comply with the rules, or we will take action to protect their tenants.

‘Our Reading Rent with Confidence scheme is also helping by awarding gold, silver and bronze standards based on quality of accommodation and good management practices. Successful candidates are helped with the promotion of their properties and advice about regulatory matters. By providing good landlords with a market advantage and potential tenants with confidence, along with prosecuting substandard landlords, we are driving up living conditions for Reading’s residents.’