Landlord fined £174,000 over ‘dangerous’ flats
NICHOLAS SUTTON was prosecuted over the Faiths Lane apartment block in Norwich, which was found to have fire safety and ‘cold and damp’ conditions on being inspected.
Evening News 24 reported on the decision against Mr Sutton at the Royal Courts of Justice’s upper tribunal, which was the final move in a series of cases that began in December 2017, when a tenant complained that his heating was broken and he was ‘constantly freezing’. As a result, Norwich City Council and Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service visited the block, and ‘raised concerns about the cold as well as fire safety’, with the news outlet also visiting and raising similar concerns in the block.
In January 2018, an engineer attended to inspect electrics, finding 528 defects in the 47 room block, with the council then handing Mr Sutton eight improvement notices that required defects to be repaired by the end of June 2018. However, on reinspecting the block in July 2018, they discovered that while ‘some work had been done’, five of the eight notices had not been met’, including those relating to fire safety and electrical hazards as well as ‘excess cold’.
As a consequence, the council accused Mr Sutton of breaching the Housing Act, ordering him and his company Faiths Lane Apartments Limited to pay £140,000 each, as well as banning tenants from living in the building. Mr Sutton and the company appealed the ban and penalties, calling them ‘excessive’, and at the upper tribunal, said he had been the ‘main loser’ out of the development, having ‘lost a fortune’.
While the tribunal reduced the penalties, Mr Sutton was ordered to pay £99,000 and the company £75,000, reporting that it found that ‘rather than improving’, conditions at the block ‘got worse during 2018 when the caretaker left’, its judgement adding: ‘We are satisfied that these substantial penalties […] are proportionate to the risks to which the large numbers of residents were exposed over a lengthy period.’
Norwich City Council called the judgement ‘ground-breaking’, with cabinet member for private sector housing Beth Jones commenting that landlords ‘who did not fulfil their responsibilities had no place in Norwich’.