A rogue letting agent in Hertfordshire has been fined £72,000 after breaking almost every regulation in the book and continuing to operate an estate agency franchise despite the arrangement being cancelled two-and-a -half years ago.
Watford-based Muhammad Siddique (left) was found guilty of 15 offences dating back to 2017 while operating three illegal HMOs on the same road without the knowledge of their owners, despite being directed to rent them to single families.
Other offences included failing to upgrade the properties to meet fire safety and access laws including one house which did not have any smoke alarm. Inspectors found he had also breached several health and safety regulations and failed to provide gas and electrical safety certificates when asked.
But St Alban’s Magistrates’ Court also heard that Siddique had been a franchisee of estate agency chain Open House until 2016 when his franchise was terminated after the company became aware of his failure to stick to customer service and compliance procedures. Until then Siddique had operated a fully-branded high street branch in Watford (main picture).
But Siddique continued to trade in the area using the company’s branding.
“A number of unlawful and unethical practices came to our attention which were then reported to Watford Council,” says Alex Morrison, a director at Open House.
“We have been working closely with the council’s environmental health team to take action against Mr Siddique and we are extremely relieved that this rogue agent has now been convicted.”
Watford council worked with the landlords of the properties and Open House to achieve a successful prosecution of Siddique for the offences.