A LANDLORD who failed to disclose his criminal convictions and leased out a flat without an HMO licence has become the first person in Edinburgh to be banned from renting out properties.
Yousef Mohammed was previously fined £1000 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court for operating a house in multiple occupation (HMO) in the Grange without a licence.
Now Mohammed has been removed from the landlord register which makes it a criminal offence to rent out a property in the Capital. The move was welcomed today by property management firms who hoped it would be “the first of many warning shots across the bows of rogue landlords”.
The city council’s regulatory committee refused Mohammed’s application to operate a HMO at the flat in the south of the city. His name was removed from the landlord register when councillors decided he did not meet the “fit and proper person” criteria.
Councillors heard evidence that Mohammed had failed to adequately inform them about his criminal convictions, and defied previous decisions of the council by continuing to rent out properties while not holding a licence.
Councillor Gavin Barrie, convener of the regulatory committee, said: “Edinburgh is open for all landlords who manage their properties and ensure that they are in good condition and that tenants can be safe and secure.
“However, for those who don’t, the council will take firm action. I would encourage everyone seeking to rent privately to check the landlord register to ensure that their prospective landlord is registered.”
The committee decision, which was taken on June 22, was welcomed by Julie Grieve, managing director of Braemore Property Management, one of the largest letting firms in Edinburgh. She said: “Landlords really do have to pay attention to the council registration scheme now, as clearly something which has not really had any teeth previously is now being properly policed.
“Agents cannot register on behalf of a landlord, as they have to prove to the council that they are a fit and proper person.
“However, here at Braemore we have set up a reminder system to ensure that landlords don’t miss their three-year renewal date.
“We are delighted to see the council finally put some real resources into this registration scheme. It is our hope that they weed out the minority of landlords that give this sector a bad name as the majority want their tenants to have an enjoyable and safe experience whilst renting their property.”
Mohammed appeared at the sheriff court in December when he was found guilty of running an unlicensed HMO in September 2009 in the Grange area.
He blamed the failure to licence the property on an agent that had subsequently ceased trading, but was found guilty of deliberately attempting to evade the HMO licensing scheme. Mohammed, whose address was given as Moira Terrace, off Portobello Road, said he planned to appeal the verdict. He could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
APPLICANTS MUST BE ‘FIT AND PROPER’
ALMOST all private landlords must apply for registration with their local authority under powers brought into force in 2006.
The council must be satisfied that the landlord is a “fit and proper person” to let property before registering them.
The system is designed to make sure that anyone renting out a property meets minimum standards while removing the worst landlords from the sector.
Landlords of properties regulated by the Care Commission, used for holiday lets or occupied only by members of a religious order are among those exempt from the register. It also allows tenants and neighbours to identify and contact landlords of private rented property if there is a problem.
Complaints about landlords received by the council range from the unfair loss of deposits, failure to carry out repairs and the poor condition of a property, right through to abusive behaviour and illegal evictions.
In August 2011 the legal test for being a fit and proper person to hold an HMO licence, and to be on the landlord register, were made the same and the maximum fine for breaking the legalisation increased to £50,000 for both offences.