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Landlord, Alex De Gabriele, fined £30k over unsafe properties
A landlord has been fined more than £30,000 after a fire at one of his central Watford properties led council officials to investigate how safe his other addresses were.
Alex De Gabriele was reported to Watford Borough Council by firefighters after they were called to a blaze at a property in Woodford Road in May.
Later that month environmental officers from the council to inspect the property and two others of De Gabriele’s on the road.
They found five rooms in each of two houses not damaged by fire had tenants living in them and that none of the properties were properly licensed.
Officers also discovered other problems such as fire alarms not working properly, faulty fire doors, broken landing lights and a fridge freezer and mattress obstructing landings.
De Gabriele, 41, from Chess Lane in Rickmansworth, appeared at Watford Magistrates Court on Monday and admitted eight offences under the Housing Act 2004 relating to the three properties in Woodford Road. He was fined a total of £30,202.16, and ordered to pay costs and a victim surcharge.
During the hearing, magistrates heard the faulty fire precautions had left his tenants at serious risk as the communal areas of the properties were not kept free from obstruction.
The court was also told the lack of action by the owner was due to financial motives despite the fact properties generated an annual income of over £72,000.
In De Gabriele’s defence the magistrates were told he had co-operated with the investigation and had no previous convictions.
Following the court case, Councillor Keith Crout, portfolio holder responsible for environmental health at Watford Borough Council said: "The risks of death or injury from a fire are higher in a HMO than a single family house.
"This is why councils are required to license these types of properties. It is vital that landlords operate these houses safely, for the welfare of their tenants. We have many excellent landlords in Watford but we will continue to tackle those people that make money from rent at the expense of tenants’ safety."
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