Landlord in court after failing to licence rental property in Easington

A landlord has been handed court charges in excess of £500 after he failed to licence a property he had been letting out for almost a year.

Durham County Council repeatedly reminded Martin Andrew Hunter of the legal requirement to register the property in James Street, Easington Colliery, prior to the court hearing.

Magistrates in Newton Aycliffe heard that James Street falls within the Wembley area of Easington Colliery, which was designated as a selective licensing area by the local authority in 2014 under the Housing Act 2004.

Aimed at improving conditions for tenants, landlords and nearby residents, the regulation requires people who rent, manage or control properties within the area to apply for a licence.

Hunter, of Thornfield, Much Hoole, Preston, bought the property in March 2017, and was sent an application form shortly after this, followed by a reminder letter on 20 July of that year.

Christopher Riley, prosecuting, said the council was aware the property was rented out on 27 July for £395 per month, and sent Hunter seven further reminder notifications.

On 13 February, a form was submitted but it was missing vital documents, including criminal disclosure records, proof of address, an electrical report and a management contract.

Hunter was informed his application form was incomplete the next day but the council received no further information. Council tax records confirmed the property had been occupied from 27 July to the present day yielding a rental income of more than £3,500.

Hunter was excused from attending the hearing but his solicitor, Kevin Ross, entered a guilty plea on his behalf.

The court heard that work commitments outside of the area had hampered the 49-year-old’s efforts to complete the application. He was fined £138 and was ordered to pay court costs of £400 and a victim surcharge of £30.

Speaking after the hearing, Cllr Kevin Shaw, Cabinet member for strategic housing and assets at Durham County Council, said: “Selective licensing is in place to protect, support and improve the lives of landlords, tenants and local residents.

“It not only leads to more reliable long term tenancies and higher quality and safer homes, but can increase property and rental values, reduce the number of empty houses, prevent homelessness and create more pleasant communities with less litter and anti-social behaviour.

“It is a legal requirement for landlords to secure a licence and this conviction shows that Durham County Council and the courts will take action against those who fail to comply.”