Property guardian company, Camelot Guardian Management Company Ltd, also known as Camelot Europe, yesterday (28 March 2019), pleaded guilty to 15 offences at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court, including failure to licence a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), and 14 breaches of HMO management regulations in relation to the Old Rectory in Lexden, Colchester.
Camelot Europe, who provide property guardian services to owners of empty residential and commercial buildings, rented the Old Rectory, a former care home, to more than 30 individuals, meaning it met the criteria for a licensable HMO – yet a licence was not applied for.
In January 2018, one of the residents contacted Colchester Borough Council regarding the conditions at the Old Rectory. During investigations by the council’s Private Sector Housing Team, the facilities at the property were found to be inadequate and unsafe, including a faulty fire alarm system, blocked fire escapes and sealed doors. The residents shared one kitchen, several bathrooms with no hot water, and a blocked toilet. While Environmental Health Officers were inspecting the building, all the property guardians received an eviction notice from Camelot giving them 28 days to find alternative accommodation.
The investigation also revealed an electrical safety report which had identified a range of electrical defects that had not been rectified, and that gas safety checks had not been undertaken on several gas appliances.
All residents were offered housing advice from the council and several residents successfully applied for Rent Repayment Orders requiring Camelot to repay the rent that they paid whilst the property was being operated illegally without a licence.
Councillor Tina Bourne, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Communities, said: “Property guardian companies have a duty to licence HMOs and follow the regulations to protect residents. Camelot Europe’s failure to do so in relation to the Old Rectory in Lexden put the health and safety of more than 30 individuals at risk.
“We are committed to making Colchester an even better place to live and improving standards of accommodation in the private rented sector. So when we find that accommodation is not being responsibly managed, the council will always take whatever action is necessary to resolve this and keep residents safe in their homes.
“In this case, more than 30 residents paid a fee to Camelot so they could have a place to call home. In return, they were faced with unacceptable housing standards which affected their quality of life.”
Sentencing for these offences will take place at a Higher Fines Court on 8 August 2019.
For further information about Houses in Multiple Occupation, please visitwww.colchester.gov.uk/hmolicensing