Rogue landlords handed hefty fine for hiding HMOs

A landlord couple have been fined £190,000 for concealing that six of their properties were rented out as HMOs, the Waltham Forest Echo reports.

Mohamed Lahrie, 55, and wife Shehara, 51, claimed they were renting six of their properties to a single tenant, which turned out to be their letting agent.

This meant they weren’t charged HMO licence fees and the homes weren’t inspected by London’s Waltham Forest Council.

Following a trail in April, district judge Andrew Sweet fined Mr Lahrie £126,500 and Mrs Lahrie £60,500 on Wednesday 29th September at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court.

Sweet said: “With all these cases there is an erosion in public confidence and that has a detrimental effect on society.

“It seems Mr and Mrs Lahrie have now accepted full responsibility, but all of this litigation would have been avoided some time ago had they taken the decision then that they have now.”

The couple were major landlords, owning 600 properties in East London via 28 companies.

One of the six homes was home to seven people across four tenancies.

Mohamed Lahrie’s lawyer defended his client by saying the financial benefit of not declaring these six HMOs was miniscule.

With one Leytonstone property the licence fee would have cost £1,000.

Lahrie’s lawyer said: “Mr Mohamed arrived in this country with little money in his pocket and built up a portfolio over two or three decades, through hard work with his wife.

“That property portfolio has been engaged in providing safe and fit homes for many of the residents of Waltham Forest and these six represent one percent of that portfolio. The financial benefit to him was miniscule.

“Mr Mohamed, as a result of this case, has sold his portfolio of properties – he has sold them all.”

Dean Underwood, council lawyer said: “The aim of the licensing regime is to protect the health and safety of those who occupy the most at-risk private premises, that is HMOs.”

The case was originally due to begin in 2017 but was delayed by a legal challenge from the landlord couple.

After appearing in court, Mohamed Lahrie told the Local Democracy Reporting Service “I have learned my lesson and I regret what I did”.

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