Fraudulent documents

A landlord has been given a prison sentence for submitting forged documents to Barking and Dagenham Council who were investigating an HMO breach. 

An Essex landlord was reported to Barking and Dagenham Council for converting a 3 bedroom house into a HMO. During their investigation the council enforcement officers discovered that the property had been converted without planning permission. 

In responding to the allegations, the landlord attempted to claim that he was immune from prosecution because the property had been converted more than 10 years ago. To support his statement the landlord provided tenancy agreements, an estate agents letter and a sworn affidavit which suggested that the property was being used as an HMO property as far back as 2008. 

Enforcement officers began investigating the documents including contacting the estate agent that ‘supplied’ the letter the landlord was relying on. The officers determined that the documents were fraudulent and upon further investigation discovered that the landlord had other HMO properties which did not have planning permission. The landlord again supplied documents which also suggested that these further properties had been converted into HMO properties more than 10 years ago. The council commenced criminal proceedings.

The landlord was found guilty on two counts of perverting the course of justice and three counts of using forged documents and given a 16 months prison sentence. 

Comment

This is again an example of local authorities investigating and prosecuting landlords who fail to apply for HMO licenses. This is a hot topic for local authorities and the government so attempting to cut corners is not advised. Simply supplying a document will not be enough to make things go away.

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