ASBO bid against landlord after £28,000 fines for 'Dickensian squalor'
HOUSING chiefs are bidding to ban a rogue landlord from renting rooms to people on low incomes after a court heard some of his tenants lived in "Dickensian squalor".
Plymouth magistrates fined David McCabe £28,0000 for failing to clean up two of his homes and breaching regulations.
Now the city council has launched a pioneering legal application for an Anti-Social Behaviour Order which would stop him renting rooms to anyone on housing benefit.
The court heard most of McCabe's tenants were single men on benefits and some had "issues with alcohol".
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Council lawyer Helen Morris said the two houses in Stonehouse were "in a state of Dickensian squalor".
Mrs Morris said: "They did not meet modern housing standards. These are vulnerable tenants on very limited means.
"The council tried to work with him for many years and he is brought before court as a last resort." McCabe, aged 57, of Molesworth Road, Stoke, denied two allegations of failing to comply with improvement notices from the city council ordering him to carry out work at the homes in Wolsdon Street and Wyndham Street West.
He also pleaded not guilty to 26 counts of failing to comply with regulations on the homes, which had been converted to bedsits for five or six tenants, on March 1 this year.
But magistrates found him guilty and he was fined £1,000 on all 28 counts.
McCabe must also pay £4,500 towards the council's costs.
Mrs Morris said McCabe had been issued with improvement notices to repair and refurbish both of the properties.
But she added an inspection in March found 26 breaches of housing regulations.
They included inadequate fire alarms and fire-fighting equipment at each property.
Rear yards at both homes were cluttered with items including tyres, furniture and timber.
A shower in Wolsdon Street had dirty floors and a rotten skirting board and windows in the kitchen and living room were seized shut.
The court heard that an inspector found that the Wyndham Street West property had hall carpets covered in debris and dirty walls covered with patches of wallpaper.
McCabe, a landlord for 30 years, dismissed some of the council's complaints as "petty", saying officers had enlarged photographs of damage and dirt so they seemed much larger.
He said he could not be expected to be aware of minor problems unless tenants reported them.
McCabe blamed some of the problems on tenants doing their own makeshift repairs or deliberately causing damage.
He added: "I do not run a hotel or a hostel."
McCabe said most of the tenants were single men on housing benefit, some of whom had alcohol problems. He added he would provide a cooker and a fridge in their rooms but not always a bed.
A fresh hearing is to be held next month to hear the council's application for an ASBO, which is understood to be among the first of its kind in the country.
Cllr Chris Penberthy, the city council's cabinet member for Cooperatives and Community Development, said after the case: "We work with landlords and landlords' representatives and the majority do keep their properties in good order.
"They expect us to take action against poor landlords who undermine their reputation and that of the private rented sector generally."