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Landlord Fined Nearly Half a Million for Hazardous, Damp-Ridden HMO

In a landmark ruling at Westminster Magistrate Court, a well-known rogue landlord and his company Blackstone Properties Management Ltd have been fined a hefty £480,000. The penalty comes after they were convicted of letting out a 22-bedroom House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) afflicted with severe dampness—so severe that mushrooms were found growing on the upper floors.

Mohamed Ali Rasool, the director of the firm, was found guilty of compromising tenant safety by offering a property plagued with fire hazards and damp conditions. The case unfolded following a tenant’s complaint in 2020, prompting Kensington & Chelsea Council to initiate an investigation. The council’s probe revealed that Rasool had been operating the HMO on the prestigious Hyde Park Gate without a proper licence.

In spite of several warnings to regularise his operations, Rasool failed to obtain the necessary licence, leading to a coordinated early morning operation with the Metropolitan Police and the London Fire Brigade in 2021.

The inspection unearthed alarming safety breaches: damaged fire doors, insufficient fire separation in living areas, compromised fire protection in the boiler room, and obstructed fire alarms. Electrical sockets were found in a dangerous state, either burnt out or loosely hanging.

Housing conditions were also dire, with pervasive dampness and mould, decayed single-glazed windows, and tenants resorting to cooking on camping stoves due to the absence of suitable kitchen facilities.

Councillor Cem Kemahli, Kensington & Chelsea’s lead member for planning and public realm, issued a stern warning to landlords and agents operating substandard accommodations, stating: “If you are offering poor quality accommodation, we will find you and we will come after you.”

He further stressed the commitment to improving housing standards, saying: “Our landlord licensing schemes are seeking out the bad operators to ensure safer homes for everyone and a fairer market for good operators.”

This is not Rasool’s first encounter with housing authorities. In February 2022, Camden Council imposed a banning order on him and three associates for the management of an unlicensed and hazardous property in Kilburn. Moreover, in 2021, Rasool was subject to the first Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) injunction against a landlord for harassment and illegal eviction attempts.