Landlord hit with four-figure fine

Crime story

Crime story

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A London-based landlord was hit with a four-figure fine after she failed to install a fire alarm system or tackle problems with damp and excess cold at a St Helens property.

Criminal law solicitor Grace France was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay costs of £3,807 after failing to comply with a Formal Improvement Notice served by St Helens Council.

France, of Witton Road, Victoria, London, changed her plea to guilty during a trial at St Helens Magistrates’ Court last Wednesday (September 17).

District Judge Miriam Shelvey heard how the council had become concerned about conditions at a house in Prescot Road which had been converted into six bedsits.

Over a four-year period council officers repeatedly attempted to work with the defendant to help remedy a series of disrepair issues.

These included the lack of a proper fire alarm system and problems with damp and excess cold.

Yet even after serving two ‘Minded To’ notices – aimed at gaining a reasonable working relationship with the landlord – the necessary repair work failed to be completed and conditions grew worse.

A Formal Improvement Notice was then served in January 2013.

But, by the time it expired – in May 2013 – the work had still not been completed.

Even though several extensions to the notice period were agreed, a re-inspection in December 2013 revealed that little work had taken place – with conditions deteriorating further.

Throughout the process – until November 2013 – tenants had continued to occupy the bedsits.

Coun Richard McCauley, St Helens Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Housing, Planning and Community Safety, said: “This case shows that no one is above the law – and that we will take the appropriate action when necessary.

“Credit must go to the council officers who pursued this case with diligence and determination – and whose job it is to protect the rights of tenants across the borough.”