Family of 80-year-old landlord promise to pay fine and rectify faults in block of flats
PUBLISHED: 16:49 23 November 2020
The family of an 80-year-old property owner fined for failing to maintain a block of flats in Wisbech promised to take immediate steps to carry out repairs.
Paul Coulten was fined £4,550 for housing offences including having a non-working fire alarm system and defects to the fire doors of the flats he owns after his appeal was rejected.
His family say they have only become aware recently of the issues at the flats and are looking to get them fixed urgently and to bring in a managing agent to look after them.
Mr Coulten, a former Wisbech businessman, is in failing health and failed to tell family members about an ongoing legal battle with Fenland Council.
Mr Coulten’s wife said: “We want to put this behind us. We have some particularly good tenants in the flats – one I believe has been there for 20 years.”
She said her husband’s declining health and his unwillingness to share information had led to the problems that have happened over the past two years.
The flats had been created to provide low-cost housing for Wisbech people, she said, and she was keen to ensure any outstanding issues were dealt with as quickly as possible.
Mr Coulten converted a former warehouse into flats at the rear of his offices when he worked in Wisbech. He retired to live near Downham Market more than 20 years ago.
The council served five civil penalty notices on the property owner earlier this year for failing to rectify safety hazards at Alexandra Road flats he owns.
The notices were served under new powers granted to local authorities in 2017, which allow the council to issue penalties up to a maximum of £30,000 for certain housing offences as an alternative to prosecution.
The property owner appealed one of the penalty notices relating to defective windows, which was heard in September by the Eastern Residential Property First-tier Tribunal.
The tribunal has now published its findings and dismissed the appeal. Upholding the council’s action, the tribunal said the evidence was clear and the penalty of £4,550 was confirmed.
Fenland District Council’s private sector housing team first inspected the block of three flats in Wisbech in early 2018 and identified significant breaches of regulations including:
• Non-working fire alarm system and defects to the fire doors
• Building defects including damp, severely worn carpets on the stairs, insufficient heating, and inadequate security
• Defective, warped and rotting windows
The council served improvement notices requiring remedial works to the properties, but the work was not completed within the specified time scale or not to the standard required.
Consequently, the council issued five civil penalty notices for failing to comply with the improvement notices, totalling £8,852.
Councils can serve civil penalties for a number of offences under the Housing Act 2004 and are able to retain income from the fines to help meets the costs and expenses incurred from public sector housing enforcement.
Fenland District Council has served penalties for failure to comply with improvement notices and breaches of house of multiple occupation (HMO) regulations, including failure to licence a licensable HMO.
More recently tenants have also been fined for illegally sub-letting to others.
To date, the council has served 29 civil penalties ranging from fines of £500 to £30,000. All income received from fines is reinvested in improving the management and condition of housing in Fenland.
Cllr Samantha Hoy, Fenland District Council’s portfolio holder for housing, said: “Fenland District Council is committed to protecting residents from substandard and dangerous living conditions, supporting good and improving landlords and taking a robust stance against criminal landlords.”
“We will not hesitate to use legal powers to improve standards in the private rented sector and property owners who place the health and safety of tenants at risk can expect enforcement action to be taken against them.
“It’s also a warning to tenants that if they sublet, we can and will serve penalties on them as they are in effect the landlord.”
For landlord and tenant advice, contact the council’s private sector housing team on 01354 654321, email: email@example.com or visit: www.fenland.gov.uk/housing
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