Landlord ordered to repay £13k after running hotel as bedsits

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A woman has been ordered to repay more than £13,000 in rent after running a “hotel” as bedsits.

Michelle Ball, of Manchester Road, Southport, failed to appeal against the decision at a hearing held on February 12.

Despite its name, the Cresta Hotel in Southport was a three-storey house with five bedrooms let out with shared bathroom facilities and a communal kitchen, plus Ball’s basement flat.

Most residents were people in need of emergency accommodation sent there by Sefton’s homelessness service.

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Ball told the court she ran the Cresta Hotel between December 2003 and September 2018. She had no previous experience of running a hotel.

Ball said she had not obtained an HMO (house in multiple occupation) licence because she believed she ran a hotel.

She also said the homelessness service’s use of it meant the council was aware of how the building was occupied and had raised no objection.

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Unlike some landlords, Ball did not require a deposit and was content to accommodate tenants whose rent would be met by direct payments of universal credit.

Council officers inspected the Cresta in August 2018 and decided it was an HMO. Ball was prosecuted and in May 2019 fined £5,000 with costs of £1,466 and a £170 surcharge.

In May 2019, she was convicted of an offence under the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which then entitled Sefton to seek a rent repayment order to recover universal credit paid for all tenants placed there over 12 months.

Ball argued that she had been unable to run the Cresta at a profit and that this made it unreasonable to order her to repay what was, in effect, the gross income generated by the business.

However, Martin Rodger QC, Deputy Chamber President, said the first trial had not considered this loss to be an exceptional circumstance.

He also rejected the argument that Ball not being a professional landlord constituted an exceptional circumstance, and therefore there was no grounds for appeal.

Ball’s was ordered to repay £13,293.27.

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