Landlord Wins Appeal Against Criminal Housing Conviction

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A Colchester landlord has made a successful appeal against his conviction, being cleared of nine counts of breaching regulations regarding a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

Cyril Thomas, director of Platinum Crown Investment Ltd, was fined over £20,000 following his conviction. The appeal was heard against the conviction on the 17 August 2018. Thomas appealed the nine convictions and the appeal was heard at Chelmsford Crown Court.

The judges ruled in his favour and upheld the appeal, meaning that all nine charges were dropped and the landlord was refunded all fines paid to date. Thomas was also granted the right to have some of his legal costs refunded.

He was initially fined due to several alleged issues with his rental properties, such as poor heating, mould and poor ventilation. However, Thomas denied the charges.

He explained: ‘Naturally I’m delighted that Chelmsford Crown Court has decided to dismiss all nine 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 important for property managers and landlords to invest in systems that help them to stay on top of all the legal requirements that are now in place.’

Some issues were pointed out with the council’s case, including the fact that one of the alleged charges did not occur on the date that Environmental Health Officer Torben Wood initially claimed that they occurred on. The council therefore did not have sufficient evidence to prosecute the landlord. Furthermore, at least three of the alleged offences were due to tenant negligence, such as removing light bulbs from communal areas to place them in bedrooms.

Thomas continued: ‘The outcome of this case gives rise to questions surrounding the processes that were followed which led to CBC reaching a decision to attempt to place criminal convictions against me. For this reason, certain individuals may still have a case to answer to. I am currently taking advice on this matter. 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 example 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.’

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