Rogue landlords warned to expect stiffer penalties in wake of landmark ruling

Alistair Duncan

Alistair Duncan

A landmark court ruling against a Fife private landlord could have major implications for scores of other cases across the country, a solicitor has claimed.

Mohammed Murtaza from Kirkcaldy became the first private landlord to be disqualified by a Scottish court earlier this year.

Following his second conviction at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court, Murtaza was banned from renting out homes anywhere in Scotland for 12 months.

The landlord was found guilty of having breached both the Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004, and the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 on April 27 and was also given a £500 fine.

Now Alistair Duncan, head of the commercial property department at solicitors Miller Hendry, has suggested the fallout from the Fife case would have a knock-on effect elsewhere in Scotland.

“This case sends out a clear message to private landlords that councils and their partner agencies will take all appropriate action to protect tenants and improve property standards in the private sector,” he told The Courier.

“Landlords who flout the law and fail to comply with their legal obligations will now face court action and potentially hefty fines.”

Sheriff Jamie Gilchrist described the offence as a “flagrant breach of legislation” after it emerged it had not been Murtaza’s first conviction.

He had previously been convicted at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court in November 2014 due to his failure to comply with his private landlord duties under the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004.

He was also in breach of Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.

Murtaza was handed six convictions for the incidents as well as being forced to pay fines amounting to £540.

As a result of the convictions the rogue landlord was refused entry on to Fife’s landlord register in June 2015.

This rendered it a criminal offence for him to rent out any residential property in Fife, although it was a ruling he flouted by continuing to act as a private landlord.

Following the outcome of the case, Fife Council’s head of housing, John Mills, said: “A significant proportion of private landlords are of good character and comply with the law, however, there are some who act unlawfully.

“We work closely with our partner Services including; Private Housing Standards, Safer Communities, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Police Scotland to assist and support landlords to comply with the legislative requirements of being ‘fit and proper’ landlords.

“The outcome of this particular case sends a clear message to private landlords in Fife that the council will continue to take all appropriate action to protect tenants and improve property standards in the private sector.”