Agency fine horror stories: how you can avoid becoming a victim

Jonty Shepheard

By Jonty Shepheard

04 May 2023

This isn’t Camp Crystal Lake and there’s no man in a hockey mask chasing after you, but agency fines for non-compliance with building standards are just as scary and, unlike Jason Voorhees, very real.

We’re taking a look at some of the biggest fines letting agencies have faced in recent years, and what they could’ve done to save themselves. No axe murderers – promise.

£20,000 for a flooded garden

On the chillingly appropriate date of October 31st last year, The Property Ombudsman (TPO) published a series of case studies on agencies they’d found to be in the wrong.

The biggest offender was an agency which took an “ask no questions” approach to a property they were selling, which had a flooded garden at the time the vendor showed it to the agent.

Once the buyer moved in, they discovered the flooding problem wasn’t a one-off, but in fact a persistent and known problem that both the agency had failed to disclose because of their own failure to ask the vendor about it.

TPO decided that the agent was at fault and awarded the buyer a massive sum of £20,000 in order to raise the garden and install a drainage system.

The lesson for agents to learn here is obvious: when you see something that doesn’t look right, ask the vendor and probe as deep as you can to keep to the bottom of it. A property that seems like an asset to your business can end up being a huge liability and cost you tens of thousands if you aren’t vigilant.


Fire risks, electrical safety violations and a £25,000 fine

Sometimes it’s one thing, other times it’s a multitude of violations all at once. One West Northamptonshire case saw a £25,800 fine handed out to the managing agency of a four-person HMO when, upon the investigation of a tampered-with electricity meter, the council found many more problems.

Not only was the damaged meter seriously endangering the safety of the residents, the property seemed to be a disaster waiting to happen; the fire doors and smoke alarms had been badly neglected as well.

Whether the agent knowingly neglected the property or didn’t realise just how badly a series of small problems were piling up, the result was a whopping big fine.

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A £28,000 fine for an unlicensed HMO

Unlicensed HMOs are getting hit with big fines. Last October in Wales, a landlord, their letting agent and the director of the lettings agency were fined a combined £28,000 for operating an unlicensed HMO.

The agent was fined £10,000 for operating an unlicensed HMO in which five tenants were living. The director was fined £12,000 for the same violation, as well as operating without a Rent Smart Wales License.

Chris Bithell, the Flintshire cabinet member for planning, public health and public protection, said that this massive fine “reflects Flintshire’s commitment to ensuring homes in the private rented sector are properly managed.”


A £12,000 fine for another unlicensed HMO

In April 2023, an agency was levelled with a £12,000 fine over another unlicensed HMO, in Barking and Dagenham.

It was found previously that two separate families were sharing the property, including kitchen and bathroom facilities. The landlord didn’t have an HMO licence despite warnings the previous year that they would be in violation of the law for not having one.

Both the landlord and the property management company were slapped with huge fines over the violation. A spokesperson for the council said: “This particular landlord and property management company failed to follow the rules and completely ignored requests from our officers. They’re now paying the price with a huge fine.”

Keeping your HMOs up to date with licensing is one of the most important ways that you must stay compliant. The last few years have seen councils handing out massive fines over missing HMO licences, so learn from the mistakes of others and don’t let a forgotten form wreak havoc on your business.


Agency fines could double this year

Compliance platform Kamma has projected that fines levelled at rogue landlords and agents could double in London in 2023, to £2 million compared to the £1 million in fines issued last year.

With enforcement up by 50% and record numbers of fines every month, it’s more important than ever that you don’t let compliance tasks slip by you.

With Fixflo’s set-and-forget system, you can attach compliance tasks to every property you manage. Reminders about upcoming due dates and alerts for overdue tasks mean you won’t be at risk of massive compliance fines. Book your demo now.

Repairs & maintenancetaking up too much of your time? get a free demo


This article is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions related to issues in this article, we strongly advise contacting a legal professional.
These blog posts are the work of Fixflo and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. In summary, you are welcome to re-publish any of these blog posts but are asked to attribute Fixflo with an appropriate link to Access to this blog is allowed only subject to the acceptance of these terms.

Jonty Shepheard

By Jonty Shepheard

04 May 2023

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