Bexhill landlord fined for renting unlicensed apartments

A landlord has been fined after setting up unlicensed apartments in Bexhill.

Rother District Council (RDC) said Ryan Antony Otto, director of Otto Investments Ltd of Regent Street London, was fined by Hastings Magistrate’s Court for failing to licence a house in multiple occupation and failing to comply with two Improvement Notices issued by RDC.

Mr Otto, 42, converted a two-bedroom house in Barrack Road into five bedsits and charged tenants between £370 to £470 a month.

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A council spokesman said: “In 2018, the landlord was told he must apply for a House of Multiple Occupancy licence for the property as it had five tenants, but his application was refused because the council deemed that he was not a fit and proper person.

A sleeping area at the property. Picture from Rother District Council

“Mr Otto was advised to reduce the number of tenants or find another person to manage the property but failed to do so.

“Following a complaint from a tenant about the condition of the property in March 2021, RDC officers inspected the property and served notices requiring Mr Otto to make repairs and improvement to areas including a unfit toilet/shower article and electrical installation that had not been inspected and tested.”

Mr Otto was fined £6,000 for running an unlicensed HMO and £6,000 for two breaches of Rother District Council’s improvement notices at Hastings Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (June 14).

He was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £190 and cover the council’s costs of £3,705, the council said.

The toilet and shower at the property. Picture from Rother District Council

Cllr Terry Byrne, the district council’s portfolio holder for housing, said: “This prosecution is a good result for private tenants in Rother and for the council.

“It clearly shows that our officers have the expertise and the will to pursue and prosecute private landlords who offer unsafe and sub-standard accommodation for rent on the private market.

“We are committed to raising standards in this sector and have several schemes to help landlords achieve these. We always prefer to work with landlords but, if we do not get the required level of co-operation, we will prosecute.”

Tenants of unlicensed HMOs may be able to reclaim their rent by applying for rent repayment orders. Tenants can contact Citizens Advice for more information.