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Council prosecutes landlord of Swalwell House used as brothel

Posted on Monday 14 August 2017

A Swalwell house was used as a brothel bringing misery to local residents, a court was told.

The owner and landlord licence holder of the house in Ridley Gardens has been fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £400 in costs after a prosecution by Gateshead Council.

In August last year a local resident complained to Gateshead Council’s private sector housing team that the house was being used as a brothel.  The police were called and found that the property was set up for sex work.  Several women were in the house when the police checked the premises.

The prosecution was brought after landlord Paul Hughes failed to comply with the conditions of his landlord licence issued in March 2014 under the Selective Licensing Scheme.  He owns and rents out a number of properties in the Swalwell area.

Officers from Gateshead Council attempted to make contact with Hughes between August 31 and September 20, 2016, by email and phone.  He was asked on several occasions to provide information about who was living at the address, to provide a copy of the tenancy agreement and proof that the tenants had been properly vetted and reference checked. He was also asked to give information about how he intended to deal with the matter.  Hughes did not provide this information until October 2016.

When interviewed by the council under caution in October, Hughes said that it was obvious that he had been provided with a false reference by the tenant and that he had been ‘duped’ in to offering her the property.  He did however admit that he didn’t carry out the necessary checks on the tenant and did not obtain proper references.

Hughes admitted that he had failed to properly complete his copy of the tenancy agreement, failed to carry out checks on the smoke alarms in the property and failed to provide an inventory of the items in the property.

Hughes pleaded guilty to failing to comply with the conditions of a licence issued under the Selective Licensing Scheme for the property.  He was found not guilty of knowingly allowing the house to be used as a brothel.

The council will now look to revoke all of Hughes’ landlord licences and the properties will be required to be managed by a reputable local managing agent.

Sentencing Hughes, District Judge Roger Elsey said:

"These offences carry an unlimited fine because they are serious offences.  All fines imposed are a punishment and are meant to be a deterrent to other landlords. You showed reckless disregard of your obligations as a landlord and this disregard led to misery for the residents of Ridley Gardens for some considerable period of time.

“You also didn't work with Gateshead Council in helping to resolve the matter in a timely fashion. These are all aggravating factors.”

Anneliese Hutchinson, service director for Development, Transport and Public Protection at Gateshead Council, said:

“The lives of local residents were blighted.  This case shows that we will take action to help protect people from this kind of unscrupulous activity.”