A slum landlord is set to become the first in Britain to be given an ASBO banning him from renting out properties – after allowing tenants to live in “Dickensian squalor”.
David McCabe, 57, leased homes and bedsits which were strewn with rubbish and had dilapidated bathrooms.
The back gardens and yards were cluttered with tyres, furniture and timber and the carpets and walls were covered in dirt.
Floors of his properties were rotting and they had inadequate fire alarms and fire-fighting equipment, a court heard.
Some of the windows and doors of his homes were also seized shut, Plymouth Magistrates Court heard.
McCabe, of Plymouth, Devon, leased rooms in the homes to vulnerable people on benefits – many with alcohol problems, it was said.
But he provided only basic furniture – and sometimes not even a bed.
McCabe was fined £28,000 for 28 counts of breaching housing regulations and failing to clean up two of his homes, which he had split into six bedsits.
Plymouth City Council also launched a pioneering legal application for an Anti-Social Behaviour Order which would stop him renting rooms to anyone on housing benefit.
Speaking in court council lawyer Helen Morris said the two houses were “in a state of Dickensian squalor”.
She 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 denied two allegations of failing to comply with improvement notices from the city council ordering him to carry out work at the homes.
He also denied 26 counts of failing to comply with regulations on the homes, which had been converted to bedsits for five or six tenants.
But magistrates found him guilty on all 28 counts and he was fined #1,000 for each. 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.
McCabe, a landlord for 30 years, dismissed some of the 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 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 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.”