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Industry news


Huge fine for private landlord over fire safety failures


A record six-figure fine has been imposed on a Birmingham landlord after the city council discovered well over 30 fire safety issues in four properties she let as houses of multiple occupation. Lelia Amjadi, of Sutton Coldfield, was


Universal Credit is driving record numbers to foodbanks


previous year, as people struggled with the roll out of Universal Credit and other welfare reforms. Food parcels were given to an estimated 666,000 people in 2017/18, with 484,000 parcels going to children. In the past five years the number of food parcels given out by the Trust has risen by almost 50 per cent, up from 913,138 in 2013/14. In their latest annual report, the Trust identified a growing proportion of referrals to them for support was because benefit levels are not covering the cost of everyday essentials. The problem is worse for those people who have been on the new benefit system for longer. Food banks in areas where the full Universal Credit service has been in place for 12 months or more were four times as busy, recording an average 52 per cent increase in the number of three-day emergency food packages distributed. The Trust says many UC claimants came to food banks after long waits for benefit payments and administrative problems pushed them into debt, ill health and rent arrears. It is calling for an urgent inquiry into the administration of UC and an end to the benefits freeze, as well as more practical help for the poorest claimants.


T


UNACCEPTABLE The highest reason for referrals to the Trust was low income (28 per cent), followed by benefit delays (24 per cent) and changes in benefits, including sanctions (18 per cent). Debts run up in order to meet housing costs and energy bills accounted for


he country’s largest food bank network, the Trussell Trust gave out a record 1.3m food parcels last year, up 13 per cent on the


an increasing percentage of food bank referrals. “This is completely unacceptable. We need to move towards being a country where no one needs a food bank’s help, not a country where charity provision is the only defence from utter destitution,” said Emma Revie, the Trust’s Chief Executive. Research into the experiences of food bank users published by the Trust found a “significant scale” of poor benefits administration. Claimants reported they found the digital-only UC service hard to navigate, with little or no official support or financial assistance to help them cope or tide them over the six-week wait for their first payment. A lack of money meant some had been forced to give up a home internet connection or smartphone, making it harder for them to access the benefit. The report says: “Rather than acting as a service to ensure people do not face destitution, the evidence suggests that for people on the very lowest incomes … the poor functioning of universal credit can actually push people into a tide of bills, debts and, ultimately, lead them to a food bank. “People are falling through the cracks in a system not made to hold them. What little support available is primarily offered by the third sector, whose work is laudable, but cannot be a substitute for a real, nationwide safety net.” The Trust surveyed 284 users of 30 food banks in England, Scotland and Wales during February and March. Disabled people, claimants affected by chronic health conditions and families with dependent children were especially vulnerable to problems arising from the design or operation of UC. A Government spokesperson dismissed the findings due to the small survey size.


ordered by Birmingham Magistrates Court to pay a total of £182,315 – made up of an initial £85,000 fine, costs to the council at £22,975, a victim surcharge of £170, and financial compensation to 11 of the tenants totalling £22,000. Her company, Vertu Capital, was also found guilty of 21 offences relating to two HMO properties and was fined £52,000, plus a victim surcharge of £170. After the case Robert James, director of housing at Birmingham City Council said:


“We are delighted with the result. This is the largest fine that Birmingham has seen for these type of offences, and it sends out a strong message to all landlords that the council will use all its enforcement powers to ensure that tenants are protected from rogue landlords who neglect their responsibilities.”


The 35 offences were associated with four


properties Ms Amjadi owns in the Selly Oak and Edgbaston areas of Birmingham. They included the failure to obtain houses in multiple occupation licences and breaches under the HMO management regulations. The council became aware that Ms


Amjadi’s properties were being let without the appropriate licences in 2016. Numerous complaints were received from occupants and local residents regarding poor property maintenance. On inspection, 31 breaches of the HMO management regulations were found including missing fire blankets, inadequate or missing fire doors and smoke detectors hanging loose from ceilings.


www.housingmmonline.co.uk | HMM May 2018 | 15


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