District Judge dismisses Improvement Notice prosecution under the Housing Act 2004

28 Jun 2019

Planning and Environment

Lepex Holdings Ltd and their managing agent Andlow Properties Ltd were prosecuted by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for failing to comply with Improvement Notices dating from 2015 relating to four self-contained flats in a block known as Chapman House (s.30 Housing Act 2004).

The Notices required (inter alia) thorough investigation of electrical installations, production of fire safety certificates, and installation of mechanical extract ventilation systems. The summons contained 15 charges against each company. The period for compliance with the Notices had been extended since the works under these Notices (and more generally) were considerable.

Following a trial at Stratford Magistrates Court in June 2019, DJ Clarke found the companies not guilty of all charges. The Defendants had instructed appropriately qualified experts to assess the electrical installations, produce the certificates, and install the MEV systems. The works which had been carried out (evidenced to the court by production of Schedules of Works, invoices, and correspondence) had met the requirements of the Notices.

In any event, the Defendants were entitled to rely on the advice of their experts when they concluded that the works had been carried out, or that a further certificate was not required. It was noted that the Council relied upon the non-expert views of Environmental Health Officers on technical matters following one visit to the premises, unsupported by any independent expert assessment. Ambiguities in the wording of the Notices and their requirements were also highlighted. The Defendants had therefore either complied with the Notices or had a reasonable excuse for non-compliance.

The case reveals the importance of carefully drafted Notices and the evidence required to prosecute for non-compliance on technical matters such as electrical installations and extract ventilation systems to deal with damp and mould in tenanted flats.

Asitha Ranatunga represented the Defendant companies instructed by Steven Ross of JPC law.