A man living in Spain has been left £2,000 worse off and with a criminal conviction after renting out his County Durham property without the appropriate licence.
Anthony Bellingham was prosecuted by Durham County Council for breaching the requirements of a licensing scheme which allows landlords and managing agents of private rented property to be regulated.
Selective licensing has been in place for the Wembley area of Easington Colliery since 2014 to ensure properties are managed appropriately.
Newton Aycliffe magistrates heard the council received information last May suggesting that a property within the licensing area at Hawthorn Street, which had been rented out under tenancy agreement since November 2017, had changed ownership. Bellingham, 57, was now the registered proprietor.
A letter was sent to the defendant, who lives at Vidreres near Lloret de Mar in Girona, advising him to apply for a licence within 28 days.
The court was told Bellingham phoned the council to say he was out of the country until the end of the August, resulting in him being e-mailed to allow him to apply while abroad.
Over the next two months, e-mails and letters were sent to the defendant, reminding him he needed a licence.
Magistrates were told Bellingham did not seek one and so was prosecuted for not having a licence.
The defendant did not attend the hearing or write to the court.
Magistrates fined Bellingham £1,500 and ordered him to pay £350 costs and a victim surcharge of £150.
Stuart Timmiss, the council’s head of development and housing, said: “Selective licensing transforms areas by improving the standard of housing for entire neighbourhoods. It leads to more reliable, longer term tenancies; higher quality and safer housing standards; reduced levels of homelessness; and increased property and rent values which in turn helps create greater community cohesion.
“It offers landlords help to deal with problem residents and access to a scheme through which they can vet prospective tenants. However, it only works if landlords cooperate.
“This case proves we will take the strongest possible action against landlords who do not hold licences and we hope the financial penalty and criminal conviction will serve as a warning to anyone who thinks they can operate without authorisation.”