The case of SBC v Isaac Odeniran went to Southend Magistrates Court on Friday 10th February 2012, Mr Isaac Odeniran of Parkmead, Loughton, was found guilty of failing to comply with an Improvement Notice and fined £4000 (out of a possible maximum fine of £5000). He was also ordered to pay the Council’s full costs (in excess of £4000) and a victim surcharge of £15. (By Paul Oatt)

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The facts are that an Improvement Notice under s.12 of the Housing Act 2004 was served upon Mr Isaac Odeniran, Director of Abundant Life housing Association during April 2011 in respect of disrepair within First Floor Flat 39A Gainsborough Drive Westcliff-On-Sea Essex SS0 9AH.  The appeal period of the Notice passed without an appeal being lodged with the Residential Property Tribunal.

In August 2011 I visited the property to inspect the level of compliance with the Notice. I noted that none of the works have commenced or been completed.  The requirement was that all works under notice be completed by 31st July 2011.

Originally the case was dealt with informally when the original occupier complained during September 2010, the matters of disrepair were bought to the attention of the landlord and a letter was received from Abundant Life Housing Association dated 11th October 2010 and signed by Ola Bakare a Senior Housing Officer stating that they will get their contractor to look into the works as soon as possible.

Despite this written promise, and having received a detailed schedule of repairs with explanatory notes and with full knowledge that there was a need for repairs to be carried out prior to any re-let     Mr Odeniran was found to have re-let the property to a new tenant without having addressed the issues, thus exposing a second family to the same hazards.

In brief the conditions in the property that led to the service of the improvement notice were as follows:

  • The windows to the front of the property were single glazed metal casements with cracked glass panes, and subframes rusted due to condensate run off.  The opening casements were ill fitting, difficult to open and close and fix the casement stays into their pins.  One opening casement in the living room could not be opened.  An occupier therefore had no control over heat escape from these windows in cold weather, and in hot weather would be unable to open and suitably ventilate, these were circumstances that help propagate mould growth.
  • The windows to the rear of the property were single glaze wooden casements all showing signs of disrepair in the form of rot to the frames cracked putties and loose joints.  The WC in the bathroom has been plumbed into hot water so flushing produces steam in an enclosed area, full of mould and peeling ceiling paper.
  • The inappropriately sited permanent openings in the form of cracked panes and loose joints around window frames, ill-fitting external doors, a hole around the gas flue at the point where it is routed through the rear wall, inadequate loft insulation all heightened the occurrence of draughts and discomfort, particularly as one of the ill fitting doors (the door out to the balcony) was in a sleeping area, used by the previous and the present occupiers as a child’s bedroom.
  • The presence of dampness and mould growth in sleeping areas meant that the risk of causing or exacerbating asthma and other respiratory illnesses due to the inhalation of spores would become extremely likely over a 12 month period.  The WC in the bathroom has been plumbed into hot water so flushing produces steam in an enclosed area, full of mould and peeling ceiling paper, of course there was also the danger of being scalded by hot water.

Taking all this into account and given the fact that there had been little progress over the past months it was felt that the opportunity to resolve the matter informally had not been taken by the landlord therefore the only way to resolve this matter now would be via enforcement under the Housing Act 2004 by means of the service of an improvement notice.

It was felt that the failure to comply with the Improvement Notice is a reflection of the landlords attitude towards the Local Authority, which appears to be simply to ignore the issue.  Given that the landlord is a portfolio landlord within the Town, and accredited under a London scheme, it is important that there is recognition that this Authority will use the powers available to ensure a better standard of accommodation is achieved for all the residents in the Borough.