A father and daughter who lied about the tenancy of a dangerously overcrowded and unlicensed HMO have lost their appeal against a £10,000 fine.
Brent Council officers discovered 19 people living at the 12-bedroom property in Manor Drive, Wembley, as well as in an annex and outbuilding. A First Tier Property Tribunal heard that Manuel Plaza Lorenzo was the registered owner while the annex was occupied by Manuel Ballesteros, who said he managed the property and collected the rent.
Lorenzo’s daughter, Maria Plaza Martin, said her father had asked her to become responsible for the council tax on the property on the basis that he could not, because he lived in Spain. She agreed to sign the tenancy agreement and pay the council tax - or channel its payment from her father.
The tribunal ruled that the agreement with her father created a valid lease and that she should have realised the need to secure an HMO licence. The judge ruled that the arrangement amounted to, “an attempt to tell lies about the real relationships relating to the property to evade the requirement (as they believed) for someone resident in this jurisdiction to pay council tax. The fact that the lies were not effective…and that they were not necessary as a matter of law, does not alter the nature of what the appellant and her father were trying to accomplish.”
The court also heard about a litany of safety defects including a lack of fire detection system and fire doors. The judge added: “The property was seriously overcrowded. Some rooms would never have been licensed for occupation had the property been licensed as an HMO. The very large number of occupiers crammed into this property with next to no fire safety provision were exposed to a high risk of very serious harm or death.”