Camden lettings agency and landlord sentenced for licensing offence and sub-standard housing

A Camden lettings agency, whose sole director was recently made the subject of an anti-social behaviour injunction and banning order, and the landlord of a Camden property have been found guilty and sentenced for controlling an unlicensed House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in the borough and providing unsafe housing for its tenants.

Mr Mohammed Ali Abbas Rasool, 29, sole director of Blackstone Vertu Limited, and landlord and owner of the HMO, Ms Asrah Rasool, were found guilty at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court and sentenced on Wednesday 4 May 2022 for operating an unlicensed HMO at 11 Soane Court, St Pancras Way, London NW1 and breaches of HMO management regulations. The judge fined them £80,000 and £40,000 respectively and ordered them to pay nearly £15,000 in legal costs.

The Council had received a complaint in August 2020 from previous tenants of the property, complaining about its condition.

Investigations by the Council’s HMO Enforcement Team found that the property was occupied as an unlicensed HMO and was managed by Blackstone Vertu Limited.

The property was over-occupied, with seven tenants in five rooms, and was in a poor condition throughout, with significant fire safety hazards - including a lack of any working fire alarms or fire doors - posing a serious risk to the tenants.

Mr Rasool and a different company of which he was the director, had previously been prosecuted for similar offences.

The Council has recently obtained a banning order against Mr Rasool and various of his associates, which now prevents them from managing or being involved in the letting of any properties in England for five years.

Camden’s work to protect private renters is leading the way in London. The Council has registered over 46 enforcement cases on the Mayor of London’s Rogue Landlord Checker, secured the capital’s first ever rogue landlord banning order, and three of only four landlord banning orders issued in London.

Councillor Meric Apak, Cabinet Member for Better Homes

“Around a third of Camden residents rent from private landlords and they deserve to live in properly regulated, safe homes and to be treated fairly. The pandemic further highlighted the importance of the right to a home that is safe and secure.

“Most landlords are decent law-abiding people; however, for too long a minority have been able to let housing that is unsuitable while exploiting their tenants and woefully disregarding their wellbeing and safety.

“Our HMO licensing scheme and HMO enforcement team are continuing to improve standards in Camden’s private housing sector, empowering renters to take action and helping good landlords to run successful businesses.

“The legal action taken in this case was a necessary last resort. Our message to landlords and letting agents is that we are here to work with you; to provide advice and assistance first of all and to ensure you can meet your obligations.”

Councillor Meric Apak, Cabinet Member for Better Homes

The full breakdown of the fines imposed in this case is as follows:

Blackstone Vertu Limited:

s.72(1) Housing Act 2004 – managing or controlling an unlicensed HMO – £35,000

s.234(3) Housing Act 2004 – breaches of HMO management regulations - £45,000

Victim surcharge - £181

Ms Asrah Abbas Rasool:

s.72(1) Housing Act 2004 – managing or controlling an unlicensed HMO – £15,000

s.234(3) Housing Act 2004 – breaches of HMO management regulations - £25,000

Victim surcharge - £190

Costs of £14,993 for which the defendants are jointly and severally liable.