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Landlord must pay £20,000 court bill after Echo exposed him
6:10am Monday 16th December 2013 in Echo News
A ROGUE landlord exposed by the Echo for renting a death trap former hotel to vulnerable tenants has been ordered to pay nearly £20,000 in fines and costs.
Alfred Katona, 75, of ChadwickRoad, Westcliff, was sentence after admitting a string of offences at Southend Magistrates’ Court.
The court heard he put the health and safety of four tenants at risk by allowing a converted Victorian house in Station Road, Westcliff, to deteriorate so badly social services had to move them out.
Despite renting out several properties in Westcliff for about 30 years, Katona claimed he was oblivious to his legal obligations as a private landlord.
Speaking after the hearing, Southend Council enforcement officer David Colwill said “Conditions were totally unacceptable and posed a significant threat to the safety of tenants.
“Landlords have a clear duty to inform themselves of the full extent of their responsibilities.
“As a result of intelligence gained, the remainder of Mr Katona’s property portfolio is now also subject to inspections.”
The court heard electrical wiring in the property was so badly installed and maintained it was a fire hazard.
A fire escape in the basement was rammed full of junk and padlocked shut, while corridors and hallways were also blocked.
Smoke alarms were defective and fire extinguishers were not properly stored.
Inspectors found bodged repairs throughout the three-storey property, including toilets and water tanks balanced on lumps of wood, ill-fitting skylights and a loose manhole cover, which let in rats.
Katona admitted five offences under housing management regulations.
Magistrates wanted to impose the maximum £25,000 fine on him, but reduced this, as he pleaded guilty early, saving court time.
They voiced particular concern about the padlocked fire escape, problems with fire extinguishers, poor electrical wiring near a shower and damaged electrical sockets.
Katona was fined £3,700 for each offence, and ordered to pay £1,005 costs and a £120 victim surcharge. He was ordered to pay the total sum – £19,625 – more or less there and then.
Katona apologised to the court, but blamed tenants for the poor condition of the property. He admitted he only carried out repairs if a tenant complained and claimed to have no knowledge of housing regulations.
After the hearing, one former tenant, who did not want to be named, said: “The place was the worst I have ever stayed in and he was a terrible landlord.”
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