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Regulation & Law

Letting agent fined £11,500 over unlicensed rent-to-rent HMO

Dangers of unregulated rent-to-rent sector once again highlighted by case of property in Oxford.

Nigel Lewis

letting agent fined

A letting agent has been fined £11,500 for operating an unlicensed rent-to-rent HMO.

Oxford Magistrates Court heard that 34-year-old Benjamin Jacob-Smith of Pemberton Field in Essex had signed a £3,100-a-month rent-to-rent contract with an Oxford property owner in July 2019 and rented out the rooms separately via individual contracts to four people.

But in February last year it was discovered that Jacob-Smith, who operated the property (pictured) via a firm registered at Companies House but also has a property business in Essex, was operating the HMO without a licence following a visit from council housing officers.

Since 2011 Oxford has run a city-wide licensing scheme that requires all HMOs occupied by three or more people with shared amenities to be licenced.

In March the council announced that, from June onwards, its HMO scheme was being renewed for a further five years.

Safety regulations

Local media report that Jacob-Smith was also fined for breaking fire safety regulations at the illegal HMO including no fire blanket in the kitchen and a fault fire door.

During the hearing Jacob-Smith admitted all the offences and was fined £11,500 along with costs of £1,350, a lucky escape given the maximum penalty alone for non-compliance with the city’s HMO rules is £30,000.

Ian Wright, Head of Service for Regulatory Services and Community Safety at Oxford City Council, said: “We take the safety of tenants extremely seriously. This case shows that we will take action against those who are putting lives at risk.”

Read more about rent-to-rent.

May 3, 2021

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