Exposed electrics - just one of the reasons Mr Ippolito has been deregistered as a landlord
A rogue South Ayrshire landlord who rented out private accommodation that failed to meet required safety standards and could potentially have put lives at risk has today (2 March) been banned from operating as a landlord by South Ayrshire Council.
The action – which confirms Leonardo Ippolito, from Ayr, is not considered a fit and proper person to be registered as a private landlord – is the first of its kind taken by the Council.
It follows decisions by the Council's Regulatory Panel to revoke his registration in November 2013 and to refuse a new application for registration in August 2014 – decisions which were based on the conditions of the properties Mr Ippolito rented out.
Mr Ippolito had appealed both decisions. However, at Ayr Sheriff Court today, he submitted an undertaking that he had exhausted his right of appeal and agreed not to pursue any further action. This means it becomes a criminal offence for him to operate as a landlord once he has discharged his duties to end his tenancies.
This brings to an end several years' attempts by Council officers to ensure Mr Ippolito's numerous rented properties – with up to 14 rented out at any one time – met all legal and safety requirements.
Inspections of the properties – which are mainly located within Ayr town centre – identified a number of serious risks and concerns, including:
- A flat in High Street, Ayr – rented out to a couple with a small child – with bars on the windows of the child's bedroom and bathroom, which could have obstructed a safe evacuation in the event of a fire. There was also evidence of a previous fire in the property, with soot covering the boiler.
- A flat in Dalblair Road, Ayr – rented out to the father of a toddler who lived with him part of the week – with water coming through a light socket and a first floor bedroom door leading to a sheer drop down to ground level.
- A property in Coylton with an open trench around the property and exposed electrics.
In addition, inspections also found:
- No valid gas safety certificates at any of the properties.
- Inadequate smoke alarm provision in more than half the properties.
- Almost half the properties were below the tolerable standard, which means they were unacceptable as living accommodation.
- Every property was in need of maintenance and repair.
Following these inspections, Council officers instructed Mr Ippolito – who has three convictions for operating unlicensed Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) – to carry out the necessary works to bring the properties up to the required standard as soon as possible. However, he failed to do so and steps were taken to revoke his registration.
In considering his new application for landlord registration, members of the Regulatory Panel also gave Mr Ippolito the opportunity to bring his properties up to required standards before making a final decision, but again he failed to do so.
Councillor Philip Saxton, South Ayrshire Council's Portfolio Holder for Housing and Customer First, said: "The removal of Mr Ippolito from the Register of Landlords brings to an end a long and arduous process that would have been completely unnecessary if he had only conducted himself as a fit and proper landlord – as the majority are – rather than continuing to operate these houses of horror.
"He was given many chances to take action and operate as he should, but he chose to put profit above anything else and that decision has now well and truly come home to roost. We cannot and will not tolerate landlords who take advantage of some of the most vulnerable members of our communities to make a quick buck and I want that message to be heard loud and clear.
"The private rental sector is an important part of our housing market. Tenants and residents need to have confidence that the private properties they rent will be safe and provide the right standard of accommodation.
"We have around 5,000 private landlords in South Ayrshire and we know the vast majority operate within the required standards to provide good quality, safe and secure rental accommodation that gives people a real home.
"Mr Ippolito's properties clearly did not and we can only be thankful that no one was seriously hurt or injured as a result of the conditions they were forced to live in.
"We will be contacting all of Mr Ippolito's tenants to discuss their housing options with them to ensure they get the standard of home and the quality of life they deserve."