Camden councillor told to pay more than £30,000 after admitting landlord failings

PUBLISHED: 17:26 21 January 2016 | UPDATED: 15:37 22 January 2016

Cllr Johnny Bucknell

Cllr Johnny Bucknell

© Nigel Sutton email

A Camden councillor has been ordered to cough up more than £30,000 after admitting he failed to carry out work to a home he rents out on time, after being taken to court by his own council.

The Primrose Hill home that Cllr Bucknell rented out to a tenantThe Primrose Hill home that Cllr Bucknell rented out to a tenant

Cllr Jonny Bucknell was hit with a £20,000 fine, and was told to pay £5,000 to the victim and £4,783.50 in costs, plus a £2,000 victim surcharge.

He had admitted not making required improvements to his property in Chamberlain Street in Primrose Hill, which he was renting out to a private tenant.

The Conservative former housing spokesman was first ordered to make improvements to the flat on August 22, 2014, but failed to comply with the improvement notice within the required period of time.

Highbury and Islington magistrates court heard today that the tenant had suffered ill health because of the freezing conditions in the property, which had no central heating.

District Judge Julia Newton said he had “displayed a contempt for his obligations” and “sought to blame others” for his failings.

She said the fact that he is a councillor with a background in engineering with “considerable experience” of dealing with housing issues made his failures as a landlord even more serious.

In his mitigation, Cllr Bucknell said that a series of contractors had let him down, and said the tenant could be “erratic” in reporting problems.

He revealed he had apologised to the tenant, and said that last year was a difficult time for his family.

After the hearing he said: “My family has been renting out empty flats for the best part of 100 years. We have always been hands-on and have been proud to have a very good relationship with our tenants.

“My experience in building matters has also meant that, as a councillor, I’ve been able to help local residents and council tenants on numerous occasions too.

“Last year was a difficult time for my family, as I’ve been supporting my wife as she undergoes treatment for cancer.

“I deeply regret this tenancy went badly wrong and I have already apologised to the tenant.

“In essence, I’ve been taken to court for failing to complete works to an empty property on time, while the tenant is living in another very well appointed flat.

“I’m working hard now to get the work done to the property and will ensure that this will never happen again.”

A spokesman for Camden Council said: “Camden only takes criminal proceedings after it has carefully considered the facts of each case and determines that it is in the public interest to do so. This is a decision which is ultimately taken by the council’s borough solicitor – in this particular case having taken specialist external advice.

“Mr Bucknell entered a plea of guilty and the court were informed of the relevant facts and heard full mitigation before passing sentence. It is hoped that the required improvement works on the property will be completed as soon as possible.”

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