Strange proceedings have been reported at Bristol Magistrate's Court after a landlord was fined �44,000 over serious fire safety issues at an HMO he operates.
Joe Sutera attended the court hearing but refused to identify himself saying he was '�a man' and that Joe Sutera had been '�lost at sea'. He was therefore fine 'in his absence' despite being in court.
The court, after hearing how Sutera had breached an Emergency Prohibition Order served by South Gloucestershire Council by continuing to let out a property on Eagle Drive in Patchway (main picture) where there were serious fire safety issues and where tenants' lives were being put at risk, imposed the huge fine.
The judge heard how Sutera had also failed to respond to a notice served by the team requiring him to provide his address and details of the property he rents and had consistently refused to provide his home address.
South Gloucestershire Council says his uncooperative attitude at court served to highlight the way he has hampered the investigations of its Private Sector Housing Team.
The case follows a visit by council inspectors at the property in 2022 after a tip-off from its tenants, where a high category 1 hazard for fire was established as there was the potential for serious injury or death to the occupants due to there being no safe escape route in the event of a fire.
The shared kitchen was in the middle of the main escape route of the property; there were no fire doors to any of the bedrooms and there were no working smoke alarms in the property.
'Our Private Sector Housing team always try to work with landlords to bring their properties up to standard, but where this informal approach fails, we will look to take enforcement action,'� says Councillor Leigh Ingham (pitured), cabinet member with responsibility for environmental health at South Gloucestershire Council.
'The level of the fine in this case serves as a serious warning to all landlords that they have a legal responsibility to protect their tenants and provide a safe and decent property for them to live in, and if they fail to do this, the council will take action.'�
Read more about HMO regulation.