After a long running dispute with Colchester Borough Council HMO landlord Cyril Thomas, Director of Platinum Crown Investments Limited was acquitted of all nine housing charges relating to a house in multiple occupation in Colchester.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Thomas said:
“Naturally I’m delighted that Chelmsford Crown Court has decided to dismiss all 9 charges brought against me by a few individuals within the council. It has been a costly, emotionally draining, and time consuming process for all involved. The judge stated that all charges were to be dismissed due to insufficient evidence from the council.
One of the main reasons why I was able to successfully defend myself was that over the last several years I had invested significantly in bespoke software systems that enabled me to provide the necessary evidence when required. It is an important lesson for all property managers and landlords to invest in good systems that help them to stay on top of all the legal requirements that are now in place.
My defence barrister Archie Maddan pointed out several issues where the council’s case fell down. One of the alleged charges even failed to state what Mr Thomas was actually being pursued for conviction on. Several of the other alleged charges did not occur on the date that Environmental Health Officer, Torben Wood, initially claimed. They were not even considered by the judge to be offences that warranted a charge. The overriding reason for the dismissal was the fact that the council had not produced sufficient evidence to prosecute Mr Thomas in his personal name, but for whatever reason it still decided to push on with the case.
Mr Maddan had identified that at least three of the alleged offences were actually due to tenant negligence. Such negligence included tenants purportedly removing light bulbs from communal areas to place them in their bedrooms and leaving bicycles in communal fire escapes despite written warnings from Platinum Crown.
Mr Thomas says that the outcome of this case gives rise to questions surrounding the processes that were followed leading to Chelmsford Council’s decision to attempt to pursue criminal convictions against Mr Thomas personally. For this reason, Mr Thomas says he is currently taking advice on whether to take the matter further.
Mr Thomas says that:
“We’re pleased to have continued positive relations with majority of the council’s Environmental Health officers. Over the last decade I have had constructive relationships with them and aim to continue to do so. Private sector landlords and councils need to work together to address the housing issues present in today’s society, but this can only be achieved if there is trust between both parties.
“Whilst we don’t claim to be perfect, Platinum Crown understands that being a large provider of HMO rooms in Colchester places extra responsibility on us to be a positive exemplar to other landlords and property businesses in the area.
“This experience has helped make the business stronger and we’re already helping a number of similar businesses with their business structures and property management software systems to help reduce the chances of others having to go through the struggles that we have had to endure. “I’m grateful for the considerable amount of support we’ve received during these difficult years from the local community, friends, and family.”
The judge ordered that a full refund should be issued in relation to any amount of the initial £20,000 fine that was levied against Mr Thomas and also confirmed his right to make an application to have some of his legal fees refunded.